Commonwealth Games 2022 selection meet unveils the good, bad and ugly side of sport: | Sunday Observer
Fists of fury as boxers return

Commonwealth Games 2022 selection meet unveils the good, bad and ugly side of sport:

5 December, 2021
Army’s Bandula Rajakaruna (blue) lands a body blow on Navy’s DLPR Kumara in the light welter weight final during the selection meet at the Royal MAS Arena (Pix by Sulochana Gamage)
Army’s Bandula Rajakaruna (blue) lands a body blow on Navy’s DLPR Kumara in the light welter weight final during the selection meet at the Royal MAS Arena (Pix by Sulochana Gamage)

The first selection boxing meet for the 2022 Commonwealth Games produced thunder and lightning as pugilists unleashed their fury as the pugilists returned in all their glory after months of hibernation caused by the pandemic.

Boxing competitions have been limited to selection trials this year ahead of international competitions but the three-day event at the Royal MAS Arena was a virtual national tournament with the cream of Sri Lanka’s pugilists determined to showcase their skills to catch the eye of the selectors.

The rivalry was intense and fierce though the quality ebbed and flowed from the sublime to the depths of despair on occasions. Fighting instincts were more visible than technical excellence with brawn prevailing over brain in choice of tactics with old habits dying hard in their eagerness to finish their opponent with a deadly blow. This could also be attributed to the lack of competition for nearly two years with their training being confined to mere sparring sessions. Understandably they were not punching like sharpshooters but made up for it by showing tons of determination and courage while their fitness levels were amazingly at peak despite months of inactivity.

“There is room for improvement if they are to win medals at international level. But there is great potential and hope for the future,” said the chairman of the national boxing selection committee, retired Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya whose insistence of investing on youth was vindicated by the performance of teenager Pasindu Umayanga Mihiran who caused the biggest upset at the meet.

The 19-year-old schoolboy making his debut at a senior competition scored a stunning victory against top-ranked light fly (49kg) weight in the country, Army’s Sajeewa Nuwan. The Sri Lanka youth international ran circles around his experienced adversary to outpoint 29-year-old Nuwan who carried away the Best Boxer’s prize at last year’s Nationals. “I lost my cool and patience,” said Nuwan who was flustered by the speed and dazzling footwork of Mihiran, a product of Vidyaratena University College, Horana.

But it came at a cost for Mihiran who suffered a hairline fracture of his right hand and could not take further part in the meet after his heroics on the first day. “It will take at least one and half months for him to recover from this injury,” said his coach Amila Aravinda.

However, Mihiran displayed enough potential to be selected as the number one choice in the light fly weight class in which four boxers have been chosen. Nuwan for his part is also still in recovery mode after suffering a technical knockout against a Belarus fighter at the AIBA World Boxing Championship in October.

“We will have to conduct more trials especially in the closely contested lower weight categories,” said Jayasuriya.

BASL president Dian Gomes confirmed that this selection trial is to pick a pool for the Commonwealth Games. “We will have more national level tournaments to assess their performance and select the best boxers for next year’s Games,” he said.

The national selectors have picked a pool of 13 men and six women based on their performances at this meet where the decisions as per recent practice were not publicly announced during the finals containing 12 bouts which produced plenty of fireworks.

Sri Lanka’s leading women’s pugilist Keshani Hansika who looked lean and hungry for success after shedding weight to drop down to the fly (51kg) weight category received a walk-over in the final. Lack of competition locally has stunted her progress in the international arena, with most of her local opponents skipping her weight to avoid facing her.

Although the standard of women’s boxing in the country has been viewed with cynicism, the trio of Hansika, Nadeeka Ranasinghe and Sajeewani Cooray who are just past 30 seem to be in the peak of their careers.

Ranasinghe, the Best Boxer in two consecutive Nationals, has apparently made giant strides since her uneventful debut at the Asian Women’s Championship in Dubai this year. Boxing from a wide stance, she oozed with confidence displaying great agility and sharp punching skills uncoiling with a spring in her step to pepper her tough rival from the Army, Sanduni Priyadarshani, with stinging right crosses to assert her authority in the fly (51kg) weight contest.

Five-time national champion Cooray used her trademark right uppercut to dominate her Army rival Tharindi Dasunika in a thrilling bantam weight (57kg) final with ease. Leading Aircraftwoman Cooray is viewed as an uncut gem which needs to be polished by adding jabs and hooks to her arsenal to complement her devastating right uppercut.

Two boxers with aspirations of turning professional Tharindu Madusanka and Niraj Wijewardena gave mixed performances but were guilty of being penalised for hitting foul blows. Madusanka who made his professional debut in the second edition of the ‘Countdown to the Middle East Crown’ series in Dubai, gave a composed performance against seasoned Police campaigner Gayan Rathnasiri in the Light heavy (81kg) weight final. Madusanka, a former Kingswoodian, was cautioned twice for using the elbow and on several occasions for hitting with an open glove as he ‘bowled’ right crosses.

Wijewardena, who is set to make his debut in the Dubai event on December 10, had trouble cutting the distance against his taller adversary from the Navy, Indika Ariyarathne, in the Middle (75kg) weight final. He was also cautioned several times for ‘bowling’ with his right as he tried to nail his opponent with wild punches.

Ariyarathne paid the price for taunting his opponent and clowning around by dropping his hands when he was caught by a right cross in the second round landing on the ropes which cushioned the effect of the punch to bounce back after a count.

However, Army’s V. Niklas who won by a knockout against Air Force’s Dilshan surprisingly made the cut despite showing the ugly side of boxing in the welter (69kg) weight final. A strongly built lad from Killinochchi, Niklas had enough firepower to dominate his rival who was floored with a barrage of punches in the second round. But Niklas was guilty of hitting his rival who had slid to the canvas with an uppercut and got away with just a caution. He is the number one choice in his weight class despite his ungentlemanly blow.

Army’s Bandara Rajakaruna showed the good side of boxing during his Light welter (64kg) weight bout against Navy’s Kumara. In a no-holds barred contest both boxers went hammer and tongs at each other in the opening round. Kumara plunged through the ropes in the second round by a mixture of a push and slip. Rajakaruna in a magnanimous gesture also helped in lifting his fallen rival in stark contrast to the previous contest.

Army’s Wimukthi Kumara showed great composure to outpoint his southpaw rival from the Navy, Adikari, stunning him for a standing ‘eight’ count in the second round of the Light (60kg) weight final.

A classic contest between two southpaws in the bantam (56kg) weight final saw Army’s Rukmal Prasanna prevailing over Kingswood BC’s Nuwan Jinadasa catching him with a right hook in the second round.

The 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Ishan Bandara defeated Lasindu Eranda in the semifinals but was overlooked for selection in the national pool after featuring in a virtual exhibition flyweight bout against his Army mate Piyal Dharmasena who got the nod of the selectors.

Pool for the Commonwealth Games 2022


Light Fly (49kg) weight: GPU Mihiran (Vidyaratena University College), SMKS Bandara (Flexi), MPG Sajeewa Nuwan (Army), AC Bandara (Air Force)

Fly (52kg) weight: RMP Dharmasena (Army), KVL Eranda (VUC)

Bantam (56kg) weight: PAR Prasanna (Army)

Light (60kg) weight: NBAJ Vimukthi Kumara (Army)

Light Welter (64kg) weight: RWMSB Rajakaruna (Army), DLPR Kumara (Navy)

Welter (69kg) weight: V Niklas (Army)

Middle (75kg) weight: WMGKGI Ariyarathna (Navy)

Light Heavy (81kg) weight: TR Madhusanka (Kingswood BC)


Light Fly (48kg) weight: RAN Pushpakumari (VUC), HS Priyadarshani (Army)

Fly (51kg) weight: KAK Hansika (VUC)

Bantam (57kg) weight: MPSS Cooray (Air Force), MGMT Dasunika (Army)

Light (60kg) weight: WWAK Thiwanka (Air Force)