Selection drama, hat-trick of RSCs - Nitu Ghanghas' route to World Champion title
"She has made up for last year's loss in the quarter-finals. I knew she will get the gold for the country," Nitu Ghanghas' father told The Bridge.
New Delhi: There were emotions, celebrations, and satisfaction when Nitu Ghangas lifted her hands after defeating Lutsaikhan Altantsetseg of Mongolia to claim the gold medal in front of her home crowd at the Boxing World Championships at Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium here today.
What followed next was a tight hug to national coach Bhaskar Bhatt before an emotional Nitu was lifted by her coach Parmanika Borah, who has worked with her since her youth days.
In a bout that was filled with drama with boxers tumbling down, Nitu came out triumphant to dazzle the packed crowd, who were on top of their voice at the K.D. Jadhav Hall.
Just one week before the 2023 Women's Boxing World Championships started, Nitu's selection in the Indian squad was challenged in Delhi High Court by the 48kg category National Champion Manju Rani.
Selected for the Indian squad under the new evaluation system at the national camp, Nitu's selection raised eyebrows as Manju Rani questioned why the CWG champion was preferred despite not playing the Nationals.
But Nitu just silenced all the noise with a straight jab as she does to her opponents.
"I am not letting the outside noise affect me. I am focused on the positives and very much prepared for World Championships. Everyone has the right to talk about their problems but I am focused on winning at World Championships," Ghaghas had told The Bridge days before winning the gold at World Championships.
Carrying expectations and legacy at Worlds
There are no two ways about the immense potential and talent Nitu Ghanghas possesses. In Hindi, there is a famous proverb that goes 'Poot ke paon paalne me dikh jaate hai (You can figure out the future of a kid when they are in the birth crib)'.
It was evident when Nitu started dominating the international circuit at the youth level. The boxer from Bhiwani won back-to-back gold medals at Boxing Youth World Championships in 2017 and 2018.
When she was announced as the 48kg boxer for Worlds in New Delhi, Nitu had questions to answer, expectations to fulfill, and a legacy to carry forward.
Nitu started as she should have started, dominating the first few bouts on the go. In the first three rounds, Nitu won by Referee Stops Count (RSC) as the opponents were unable to withstand her clinical punches and the hunger to win.
"I just play my natural game. I know that the more dominant I am, the more opponents feel the pressure," Nitu had told the media after winning her first bout.
But as the tournament reached the crucial stage of the semi-finals, Nitu met a familiar opponent in form of Alua Balkibekova of Kazakhstan, who had denied her a medal last year at the Istanbul World Championships.
But with revenge in her mind, Nitu showed immense maturity and changed her playing style. The out-and-out aggression took a back seat as she waited to observe her opponent and forced her to make mistakes and then counter-attacked her way to the finals.
"I have changed my game now. Earlier, I used to keep attacking but now I change my game according to the opponent," Nitu told the media after her semi-final win.
Grand Celebration Awaits for World Champion
Hailing from the Cuba of India - Bhiwani, Nitu's city has seen such celebrations before.
Having trained at the same boxing academy where India's first Olympic medalist boxer Vijender Singh honed his skills, Nitu comes from the generation which has seen boxers from Bhiwani dominate the ring.
It made sense that Vijender Singh was also present there witnessing the domination of her junior from the neighborhood.
"Nitu choti bhale hai, lekin usme fight bhot hai (Nitu might be small but she has a lot of fight in her). I had always known she will do great for the country, first the CWG medal and now World Champion, Olympics medal is not far away," her coach Jagdish Kumar told The Bridge in the aftermath of her historic win on Saturday.
Nitu's father Jai Bhagwan, who quit his job for Nitu's training always knew that she is made for bigger stages.
"We are very happy. She has made up for last year's loss in the quarter-finals. I knew she will get the gold for the country. I don't think there is any doubt about her triumph," an ecstatic Jai told The Bridge.
"We will make it a grand celebration, flowers will be showered on her. More than 1000 vehicles will go to receive Nitu as she has made all of us proud," he concluded as the noise of dhol and firecrackers lit up the background.
With everything that went on in the past few weeks, Nitu has counterpunched everything coming her way to becoming the World Champion.