London-based Bangladeshi Al Safwan Uddin clinched first place in the men's 60kg weight category in the 29th National Senior Men's Boxing Championship after beating Mohammad Rakib Sheikh of Bangladesh Ansar in the final battle at Muhammad Ali Boxing Stadium in Dhaka Saturday.
Gregory Hazda, Khorshed Alam and Mohammad Al Amin of Bangladesh Army retained top spot in their respective events - 49kg, 56kg and 64kg weight category - while Sohel Chakma, Abdur Rahim, Arif Hossain, Suruj Bangali and Jewel Ahmed finished first in the 52kg, 69kg, 75kg, 81kg and 91kg category respectively.
In the women's event, Saki Akter retained the title of 60kg weight category while Sahara Yeasmin, Farzana Johra and Umme Shamima Akter won 49kg, 52kg and 56kg weight events respectively. Bangladesh Army earned a total of six gold medals to become team champion while Bangladesh Ansar bagged five golds to emerge as the runner-up.
Safwan was at the centre of attention on the concluding day of the three-day tournament after becoming the first expatriate boxer to participate in the National Boxing Championship and reaching the final on debut. Like the semi-final, the England-born boxer won the final after a close fight against Rakib, who finished joint third in the 56kg weight category in the last edition. Last edition’s winner Mohammad Nadim Hossain didn't participate in the event this time around.
The technique, fitness and familiarity with modern boxing facilities separated Safwan from the majority of the local boxers who participated in the tournament. Bangladesh Amateur Boxing Federation general secretary MA Kuddus Khan added another aspect, "The important thing that makes him (Safwan) different is that he is very clean. He has stronger foundation than our players. Qualified coaches and modern equipments are available to him. We are very hopeful and will knock him before every national and international event in future."
Safwan's father Joblu Uddin told Dhaka Tribune that he would always try to bring his son to each and every single competition in Bangladesh. He also revealed the beneficiary side of Safwan's triumph in Dhaka. "If he improves his performance he will get higher-level training facilities. He can train with the national level boxers in the UK. His coach will make the arrangements," said Joblu.
Safwan has been playing and training at Edmonton Eagle Boxing Club for the last six years under coaches Costakis Evangelou and Julian Tobierre. Joblu informed that they will move to Sylhet Sunday and stay there for two more weeks before flying back to London in the first week of March.
Meanwhile, former Asian Boxing Confederation judge Sultan Uddin Ahmed, who was the most senior jury during the three-day event, told Dhaka Tribune, "Considering playing in new place and environment here, he played really well. He has a good style of playing and was adjudged the best player of the tournament."
Sultan, who worked as an international jury from 1985 to 2011, added, "The quality of our best boxers is almost the same. It was a close fight in both of his last two games. Despite having better facility abroad, he had to face tough competition here."