India's Nishant Dev won the biggest medal of his career so far, with a unanimous 5-0 win over Jorge Cuellar of Cuba in the 71kg quarterfinals of the 2023 Men's Boxing World Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Wednesday.
Nishant will face Kazakhstan's Aslanbek Shymbergenov, who won silver at the 2018 Asian Games, in the semifinal on Friday.
Reaching the semifinal has assured him of his first World Championship medal, after narrowly missing out when he lost at the quarterfinal stage in his debut World Championships - a breakthrough tournament for the southpaw boxer. This is also a special victory after his comeback from surgery earlier this year, after an unfortunate injury in early 2022 stopped his momentum from the 2021 Worlds.
In the opening round, both boxers were trying to gain advantage, however, Nishant was solid with his defence. The Cuban boxer upped the ante as the round progressed but couldn't land his punches. Nishant got the timing of his punches right and comfortably won the round 5-0.
Cuellar had to win the second round to keep his hopes alive but once again struggled to make contact with his punches. Nishant's counter-attacking strategy worked again as he made most of his left hooks. He won the round 4-1.
All Nishant had to do in the final round was to concentrate on his defence. Cuellar went hard but didn't make much of an impact. As the bout ended, the Indian team outside the ring confidently celebrated.
The result was beyond doubt as Nishant won the bout 5-0.
Historical outing for team ���� at the #MWCHs ����
- Boxing Federation (@BFI_official) May 10, 2023
"It's a great feeling to win a match against a Cuban boxer by a unanimous verdict. Our strategy was to create pressure on the opponent from the first round and stay strong mentally during the whole bout. I will take this positive mindset in the next round as well to reach the final. Securing a bronze medal at the World Championships is great but I will be back to India with a gold medal," Nishant said after the match.
Nishant has had a fairly strong tournament so far. He started off with a win over 2021 World Championships bronze medallist Sarkhan Aliyev of Azerbaijan. Against South Korea's Lee Sangmin, he secured a unanimous 5-0 win showing his technical versatility. In the pre-quarters, he scored India's first RSC win, against Nidal Foqahaa of Palestine. He was barely in the ring for under two minutes when the referee stopped the contest after the Indian's heavy blows knocked down his opponent.
Nishant has had an interesting journey into the Indian boxing circles. He had impressed former high-performance director of Indian boxing Santiago Nieva so that despite losing in the quarter-final at his first Senior National Championships in Baddi in 2019, he joined the Indian camp.
In 2021, he went on to win the gold medal at the National Championships and then represented India at the World Championships. It was his first international tournament as he had not even competed at Junior or Youth level internationally before this. His fearless boxing stood out as he first defeated Hungary's nine-time National Champion Laszlo Kozak in the first round before outclassing two time Olympian Merven Clair of Mauritius in the second round and then beat Mexico's Marco Alvarez Verde before bowing out in the quarter-finals.
In 2022 an old injury from when he had dislocated his right shoulder in 2010, resurfaced. The rod that was put in his shoulder got infected and he had to undergo surgery in March and was in rehab for most of the year.
In 2023, he came back strongly to retain his title at the National Boxing Championships in Hisar in January 2023 and then make his way into the Indian squad for the Worlds.
Road to Semifinal
Round-of-64: Nishant Dev 5-0 Sarkhan Aliyev of Azerbaijan
Round-of-32: Nishant Dev 5-0 Lee Sangmin of South Korea
Round-of-16: Nishant Dev RSC Nidal Foqahaa of Palestine
Quarterfinal: Nishant Dev 5-0 Jorge Cuellar