KATHMANDU, April 28: Laxman Shumsher Thapa, a renowned figure in Nepali boxing passed away Thursday night of heart attack. He was 68. His death came at crucial time for Nepal Boxing Association (NBA) with two factions claiming to be the legitimate governing body of Nepali boxing.
Thapa who was suffering from kidney failure for the last five years, was relentlessly involved in reconciling the two factions led by Rabi Raj Thapa and Rajiv Shrestha until the very last. Thapa is credited with establishing the first ever boxing institute in the country, Kamal Pokhari Boxing Club, about 51 years ago.
“His demise is the end of an era. There is no history of Nepali boxing without late Thapa,” said Rabi Raj Thapa, who had competed in Nepal´s first official international boxing tournament during the Quaid-e-Azam International Centenary Celebration Boxing Championship in Pakistan in 1976.
It was the same year that Nepali boxing got international recognition, according to former NBA vice president Manju Jung Thapa. NBA was established in 1974 just two years before being affiliated with International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA).
But long before that, Thapa took boxing - a sports limited exclusively to nobility in Nepal - to the masses in 1961.
His contribution to Nepali boxing does not end there as he was the one to assemble all the raw talents of Nepal to forge an alliance, train them and form a strong base for boxing in the country.
Sources close to the founder of Nepali boxing say it was Thapa who recognized the talents of Nepal´s legendary boxer Suresh Singh Ale and convinced him to join his club after Ale had left the Indian Army, where he learnt boxing.
“He united all the talented players. Ale would have wasted his skills had Laxman Shumsher Thapa not inspired him to enter the ring,” added Rabi Raj Thapa. “Whenever I go for international conferences, our foreign counterparts ask about Laxman Shunsher Thapa. It´s not because of power but it´s all about his popularity.”
It was his student Umesh Maskey who secured Nepal´s first boxing medal at the international level. “We won bronze during the Ninth Asian Boxing Championship held in India in 1980. I still remember the date,” late Thapa had told Republica a few weeks ago.
He had organized Nepal´s first international boxing tournament at the City Hall in 1971 during which players from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Argentina participated.
“He used to finance foreign players from his personal funds,” recalls Manju Jung Thapa, who was late Thapa´s friend as well as pupil.
Born and brought up in a well to do family of Kathmandu, Thapa had all the resources and enthusiasm to open the boxing club in the backyard of his own home at Kamal Pokhari.
It was the family environment that nurtured the talents of Thapa as a boxer. He learnt the art of boxing from his father and uncle who used to practice boxing and wrestling at their home, says Thapa´s widow Naina Thapa. He later took his skills to the masses at a young age and was involved with the sport throughout his life.
Ironically, he never played competitive matches. “How could he fight his own students?” his better half had questioned this scribe when Thapa was still alive. “He was above all of them. He was respected by them,” she said about her husband, who was an international Refree-Judge and the president of NBA for two terms. It was his students who made him immortal.
“There isn´t any famous boxer in Nepal who is not linked with Laxman Shumsher Thapa or Kamal Pokhari Boxing Club,” added Manju Jung Thapa.
Naina Thapa says her husband didn´t undertake any job because he was passionately involved in coaching. “Boxing was his first wife. He didn´t bother about us. I had to bear all the responsibilities of the family,” she said.
“Lately, he was busy resolving the conflict within NBA. I used to tell him not to attend the meetings because of his poor health but he never listened to me,” she added.
Rabi Raj Thapa recalled Thapa as saying it didn´t matter who led NBA, whether it be him or Rajiv Shrestha, but the organization should remain intact and united.
Thapa was admitted to Sahid Ganga Lal Heart Centre on Wednesday after complaining of uneasiness. He passed away undergoing treatment the following day.
Thapa is survived by wife, a daughter and a son. Thapa´s body will be kept at the National Sports Council for his well wishers to pay their last respects before his final rites. The family members are awaiting the arrival of his son Bishal, a captain in the Nepal Army currently serving as United Nations peacekeepers in Sudan.