Malshani, the SLAF’s boxing sensation | Sunday Observer

Malshani, the SLAF’s boxing sensation

3 July, 2022

Repeatedly recollecting my memories on Muhammad Ali’s trademark personality that was very much in display during the Arsenio Hall show, an American syndicated late-night talk show despite his Parkinson had set in a little bit during that period, I initiated a conversation with Aircraftwoman Lokuge Ishara Nishadi Malshani, a pugilist of the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) who bagged the gold medal at the Novices Boxing Tournament conducted by the Boxing Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) this year.

The novices boxing tournament, a green pasture for upcoming young boxers concluded on Friday, the 24th of June 2022. The tournament, held at Royal Mas Arena, Colombo 7 included 12 weight categories for men and women respectively.

Boxing is generally considered as one of the most popular and toughest sports that demands the best from boxers. Among many other competitors, SLAF’s Malshani was the most sought after boxer who had an amazing energy that brought her into the limelight. At 22, she is unquestionably one of the gritty and sturdy fighters to ever lace up a pair of gloves. Her charming will and the gamut of determined endurance gave a glimpse into the complex and amazing world of boxing.

Male dominated

She is the epitome of grace and strength for a pugilist; she scares her opponent, as she is whole all by herself. She boxes with a flair and aptitude; a player with a natural bent.... Malshani is a metaphor that no longer compromises with sheer femininity in a predominantly male dominated game of boxing.

Research indicates that over the past five decades, the rates of participation of women in the field of sports have soared, including the challenging and male dominated sport of boxing. It is noted that female pugilists transgress gender norms and supposed to be the best metaphor that threatens the misconceptions of masculinity and femininity which position women as vulnerable while highlighting the male physical superiority as a form of justification for male dominance.

Proving and emphasising its well celebrated excellence in making equal opportunities available for its employees, the SLAF raises this 22-year-old young and poised boxer whose tough and resilient nature robbed the eyes of the boxing enthusiasts who had flocked to have a glimpse on her victorious match that decorated herself with a gold medal in the women’s under 51 kg weight category at the recently concluded Novices boxing tournament.

Malshani punches the air with vigour, her eyes are narrowed, and the chest puffed up. She keeps every other thing at bay except her goal by which she is obsessed.

When she is on the rampage in the ring, she doesn’t care about the world around her. Wherever she is, she may punch away to an imaginary beat, her persona suggesting that no one dares mess with her.

Boxing is invariably her passport to a better life.

The SLAF has long been a hub, offering greener pastures for its young and upcoming boxers, and it ensures the comfort of a dwelling place for its professional pugilists. It is an area where an umbrella of pugilists are nurtured.


Boxing is a synonym for Malshani. Born in 2000 in Makadura in the Matara district as the eldest of a family of two children, Malshani used to dream about becoming a boxer, ever since she was a child during which she would even envision herself being in the limelight.

Following her direct joining with the boxing pool of the SLAF, she adopted a new dream, becoming a professional boxer on one fine day. “My joining with the air force’s boxing pool is just like an era that is dubbed as if I am reintroduced into boxing: the training that I receive at the pool is of immense benefit that simultaneously makes me utterly confident and stable in my selected field of sport”, Malshani shared. As she fondly noted, boxing gives her a sense of satisfaction; most significantly, it makes her hopes durable where she instantly falls in love with the time spent within the ring.

Narandeniya National College, Matara, is her alma mater where she learned to be a boxer. The year 2013 during which she started boxing, while still schooling brought her an abundance of new hopes. In retrospect, she remarked that she bagged the gold and the bronze medals in the age category of 42-43 kg at the schoolgirls and boys boxing meet, held in 2013 and 2015 respectively.

The silver medal was her garland at the Youth Championship, in 2018 in the age category of 42-43 kg where she was adjudicated the best loser. The year 2019 marked another decisive period in Malshani’s life where she retained the prestigious titles of the most outstanding boxer and the gold medallist in the provincial meet, 2019 in the age category of 42-43 kg.

Silver medal

The same year, Malshani shone with the silver medal while being the best loser in the Novices boxing tournament in the age category of 42-43 kg. She won the junior national gold medal and the silver medal in the 2019 intermediate meet in the age category of 42-43 kg. Her first hand experience in an international competition was in the under-22 Asian championship, in Uzbekistan where she garlanded herself with the bronze medal in the weight category of 52 kg for which her participation was facilitated by the sports club of her alma mater.

She said, “I often immensely relish my decision to join the SLAF boxing pool in April this year which gave me a window of opportunities in elevating my boxing carrier into a greater height”. The current pool of female talent in the SLAF’s boxing is ripe for a chance at the best time with fighters on the rise.

The skill level and talent base are all well placed there; it is just a matter of providing opportunities. The light is primed to grow brighter in the pool. Malshani admired the attitude of Air Marshall Sudarshana Pathirana, Commander of the SLAF for eagerness to bring about a significant and worthwhile change not merely to have boxers in the SLAF but to bring about trailblazers.

Under the command of Air Marshall Pathirana, the SLAF has elevated the women’s presence in combat sports by making ample opportunities available for women boxers to shape up their personality where there is no status-quo; every boxer is equally treated.

Malshani noted that the gifts such as strength, decisiveness and logic are just as feminine as intuition and emotional connection where she values and uses all her gifts. She is so ambitious.

“You no longer need to be apologetic for your femaleness and femininity. I am indebted to Air Marshall Pathirana for having created a well secured and protected environment where the best training and the much needed facilities are given in abundance. I often enjoy being under the safe shelter of the SLAF for which I fondly call my second home.”

She says that the ring is her citadel, and she shapes the modest boxer in her into a warrior within the ring. Watching the legendary Muhammad Ali in all his glory during which he played, she too would be spoken of with her reverence for the time to come.

“I am well geared and rather optimistic in winning a gold medal in the Asian championship. Bringing fame and honour to the SLAF and the island at large is my utmost goal. I simply don’t dream but instead I follow them and work tirelessly to achieve them. Representing my country in the Olympics has been my long felt desire and I often tell myself that it’s right within me and just round the corner,” she declared.

One day she discovered that she was strong, fierce, and full of fire. She could not hold her back, because her passion for boxing burned brighter than her fears. “Boxing is after all my piece of cake”, she remarked. Her talent flows as abundantly as her courage; the well trained and skilled boxer in her essence is a gift to the country.

Malshani carries a word of appreciation for Air Commodore Indika Wickramasinghe, chairman of the SLAF boxing pool and its secretary Wing Commander Mahesh Kothalawala among and all the officials in the SLAF sports Council, coaches, and her supportive parents.

It is quite fascinating to see that this young lady from the South who was mildly interested in boxing is now obsessed with boxing.