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Goonga

School: Kaloowala
Height: 6’ 1”
Weight: 245 pounds

Goonga shocked the wrestling fraternity when he became the only person to defeat Imam Baksh, the formidable younger brother of the Great Gama.

From his childhood, Goonga’s father groomed him for greatness. At his son’s 5th birthday celebrations, this aspiring father sent a special in¬vitation to the famous brothers, Gama and Imam Baksh, to join the occasion. They came and were persuaded by Goonga’s father (via Pandit Chunni Lal, a notable Hindu pahelwan and future teacher of the boy) to pray for his son’s success in wrestling equal to their own. The bro¬thers obliged and prayed for the child’s future prosperity. They could not have known then that the deaf boy they had just blessed would, in the years to come, pose one of the most serious challenges to their family’s dominance in the sport.

The first shock came in 1918 when the 19-year-old Goonga defeated Gama’s brother-in-law Gama Kalloowala. Two further contests returned the same result. Worse was to follow in 1924; a promoter, Haji Billa, organised a bout at Minto Park in Lahore between Goonga and the newly-crowned champion of India, Imam Baksh (he had received the title from Gama). Goonga belonged to the Kot¬wala School of wrestling and Imam to the Kaloowala. Despite the wish of the wrestling patriarch, Us¬tad Nur-ud-din Pahelwan that there should be no direct clash between the two schools, this historic bout was to break that centuries-old tradition.

Spe¬cial train services were laid on for spectators who poured in from Am¬ritsar, Gujranwala and Multan. Imam Baksh was the clear favourite—15 years senior and at the pinnacle of his career—but he also had everything to lose. In front of a stunned audience, Goonga shattered Imam Baksh’s untarnished career bycomfortably pinning him in 19 minutes.

A true champion, Imam Baksh bounced back and defeated Goonga in their next two meetings; their last match in 1935 was drawn. By then, Goonga was past his prime. In 1936, he lost a match to a German named Edmond Kraemar. In sharp contrast, the German suffered a rough defeat at the hands of Imam Baksh who pinned him in under a minute.

Goonga died in 1944 in a bus accident while travelling from Sialkot to Lahore to referee a match.

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