Riding on impressive performances, star Indian pugilists Lovlina Borgohain, Nitu Ghanghas, Nikhat Zareen and Saweety Boora registered thumping victories to confirm four medals for the hosts at the Mahindra IBA Women’s World Boxing Championships by advancing to the semi-finals at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex here on Wednesday.
Continuing her rich vein of form, Lovlina (75kg) added a third World Championships medal to her kitty with an emphatic 5-0 win against last year’s World Championships bronze medallist Rady Gramane of Mozambique. The 25 year old Indian played at the top of her game and displayed a spectacular combination of attack and defence to send her opponent packing by unanimous decision.
“The coaches had told me how to play today and it worked successfully as I was able to fight well. I feel comfortable in this weight category and I have adapted to it well with my performances in competitions going well. Today’s medal is very important for me but I don’t want to settle for bronze as it is going to be crucial for the upcoming Asian Games as well,” said Lovlina after the bout.
Lovlina will take to the ring for a high profile clash against the 2018 World Champion and two-time Olympics medallist Li Qian of China in the semi-finals.
Earlier in the day, the 2022 Commonwealth Games champion Nitu (48kg) made it a hat trick of Referee Stops Contest (RSC) wins after securing a scintillating win against the two-time Worlds bronze medallist Madoka Wada of Japan with the RSC verdict in the second round of the bout. With an attacking approach from the word go, the 22 year old hardly had to break a sweat against the veteran Japenese and was in complete control of the bout.
“I have been able to apply 100% apply of my practice in the ring so far and going into the next match I feel good I have won all my three bouts by RSC. She (Madoka) is a southpaw just like me and as this was my first time in the tournament facing a southpaw, I had to pay complete attention and attack. I was on the counter from the first round but I feel like I should have played a bit more attacking and I will try to do that in my next bout. (After the defeat in last edition’s quarters) I felt that since is the tournament happening in India this year with the home support constantly backing us, I won’t let the medal slip away this time,” said Nitu after the bout.
The Indian will now take on the reigning Asian champion and last year’s World Championships silver medallist Alua Balkibekova of Kazakhstan in what will be a rematch of last year’s World Championships quarter finals.
Following Nitu’s victory, Nikhat (50kg) successfully continued her title defence by recording a hard-fought 5-2 win on points after the bout was reviewed against the two-time World Championships bronze medallist Chuthamat Raksat of Thailand. Both pugilists were at the top of their game and gave it their all to emerge victorious in this bout that went right down the wire. However it was the 26 year old Indian who utilized her superior technical ability to edge out her Thai opponent and come out on top with the win.
"Yes, today's bout was stressful but I won by a split decision so I am really happy that I secured a medal for my country, and going forward I'll win the gold medal too. My strategy today was to win in the first 2 rounds and then play around in the last. I won the 2 rounds but from 3:2 in each so in the last round, I aimed to play from a long range but there was a lot of clinching so my body got a little tired. All the bouts I have had till now were powerful but for me, it's been a good experience to keep moving forward and defeating them so hopefully I will keep moving forward like this and fight for my country." said Nikhat after the bout.
Nikhat will face Rio Olympics bronze medallist Ingrit Valencia of Colombia in the semi-finals.
Contrary to Nikhat, the three-time Asian medallist Saweety (81kg) recorded a dominating 5-0 win against the 2018 World Championships bronze medallist Viktoria Kebikava of Belarus. In what was her first match of the tournament, the experienced pugilist from Haryana was extremely confident throughout the bout and landed strong, accurate punches to seal the win. She will be going up against Emma-Sue Greentree of Australia in her next bout.
Having secured four medals, India have bettered their record from the previous World Championships edition where they had clinched three medals.
Meanwhile, the two-time World Youth champion Sakshi Chaudhary (52kg), the 2022 World Championships bronze medallists Manisha Moun (57kg) and Jaismine Lamboria (60kg) as well as Nupur Sheoran (+81kg) went down fighting in the quarter finals despite their best efforts.
In a thrilling battle of the heavyweights, the 2016 World Champion Valentina Khalzova (75kg) of Kazakhstan defeated five time Worlds medallist Elif Guneri of Turkey 4-0 on points after the bout was reviewed. The 2020 Olympics bronze medallist Irma Testa (57kg) of Italy and the 2018 Asian Games champion Oh Yeonji (60kg) also progressed to the semi-finals with identical 5-0 victories.
The on-going prestigious event is witnessing the participation of 324 boxers, including several Olympic medallists, from 65 countries fighting for the titles in the 12 weight categories. The tournament has a massive prize pool of INR 20 crore.