Bengaluru Brawlers, languishing the bottom of the table, sprang the biggest of surprises in the Big Bout Indian Boxing League with a 4-3 victory over the fancied Punjab Panthers in the 11th match at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in New Delhi on Friday night.

They made the most of the opening that Punjab Panthers offered them through their weakened line-up.

With Anamika (51kg) and skipper Simranjit Kaur (60kg) giving the Bengaluru Brawlers a great start by winning the women’s bouts, the team from the south were well served by Dinesh Dagar who won for the first time in four Big Bout ties, and Pawan Kumar Narwal (75kg) in picking up their maiden win in four matches.

Having logged 12 points in their earlier matches, Punjab Panthers opted to field four Big Bout debutants in their penultimate league match. They rested the likes of skipper MC Mary Kom, Uzbek star Abdulmalik Khalakov and Manoj Kumar against Bengaluru Brawlers who had won only six points from three earlier matches.

Anamika, the World Youth Championships silver medallist, made capital of the opportunity to secure a win as she did not have to face the legendary MC Mary Kom in the women’s 51kg bout. Against southpaw Darshana Doot, who appeared rusty, she showcased her superior technical skills to overcome the height and reach advantage that her rival started with.

She used her speed and aggressive approach to force Darshana Doot, a National Youth Championship 54kg gold medal winner in 2016, to backpedal a lot in the opening round. Though the Punjab Panthers boxer made a comeback of sorts in the second round, finding the gap in Anamika’s defence, the dapper Bengaluru Brawler pugilist ran out a comfortable winner.

Punjab Panthers’ PL Prasad was confidence personified in posting a unanimous points verdict over Ashish Insah to help his team draw level 1-1. It was in soaking in the pressure of having to earn a crucial point for his team that Prasad, the Armyman from Visakhapatnam, stood out. He moved deftly and landed punches to ensure that he would always be ahead.

Dinesh Dagar got familiar with the taste of victory by scoring a split decision over Big Bout debutant Yashpal who replaced the experienced Manoj Kumar in the Panthers’ line-up. Skipper Simranjit Kaur extended her run of wins to four in as many starts by defeating an enthusiastic Manisha, preferred by the Panthers ahead of South Asian Games champion Sonia Lather. On her part, Manisha did well to harry Simranjit Kaur consistently with a left hook that fetched her points.

With a lot depending on him, Pawan Kumar Narwal earned his maiden Big Bout win with a split 4-1 verdict over former national champion, southpaw Rakesh Kumar in the penultimate bout. The manner in which he balanced attack with defence was impressive and he imposed a standing count in the second round with a combination of punches to swing the balance decisively in his favour.

However, despite the defeat in the match, Punjab Panthers returned to the second place on the charts through victories for Ankit who beat his fellow-Big Bout debutant Suraj Singh in the 57kg battle and Naveen Kumar who vanquished Harshpreet in the 91kg battle that closed the night. Panthers have 15 points from four matches behind Gujarat Giants (17 points from four).

Odisha Warriors (13 points from four matches) are ahead of NE Rhinos and Bombay Bullets, who have 11 points each, but both have fought three matches and will fancy their chances of making it to the semifinals. Bengaluru Brawlers, with a total of 10 points from 10 matches, will need to win their final match against Gujarat Giants.