While India's seasoned boxers are in Castellon, Spain to take part at the Boxam International Tournament following a long hiatus imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the young guns of Indian boxing had a fruitful outing last week in 72nd Strandja Memorial Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria. India returned with two medals from the tournament and a bag full of experience of fighting after a year-long gap.
One of the brightest spots in the tournament was female boxer Jyoti Gulia, who asserted her power as she outwitted two-time world champion boxer Nazym Kyzaibay of Kazakhstan. Jyoti showcased a scintillating performance before outpunching the experienced Kyzaibay by 3-2 and reached the quarters. Though, she conceded a defeat in her next round, it was a productive outing for her, belives Jyoti.
In an exclusive interview with The Bridge, she said, "The Strandja Boxing Tournament was quite a tough one, with some of the best boxers around the world participating. Even the Olympic medallist had participated. Though my journey fell short in the quarters, the opportunity to fight against many senior boxers than me has given me enough confidence."
The 2017 World Youth champion Haryana pugilist Jyoti was clever with her footwork and showed great attacking display in her 51kg bout against Kyzaibay, who is a gold-winner from the 2014 and 2016 senior world championships. "Obviously, there was an added pressure of facing a world champion, but in the ring, I only felt like winning. It is only after beating champions, we become champions. I was very confident in the ring. I was not scared." quipped Jyoti.
She believes it was her constant punching and aggressiveness that had helped her to upstaged Kyzaibay. After bowing out against Romania's Perijoc Lacramioara in her quarterfinals, Jyoti said, "This tournament has been a learning experience for me, and my coach and I are satisfied with my result which will shape the course of action in the upcoming boxing tournaments."
At only 20, Jyoti Gulia has a long career waiting ahead of her. Starting with 48kg, Jyoti moved into the 51kg category because it is an Olympic weight category. She is also a successor of the legendary Mary Kom, the six-time world champion pugilist who also competes in the same category. Considering the Strandja Memorial to be only the third tournament of her career as a senior boxer, this was quite an impressive showcase by Gulia. Besides, the one-year gap during the pandemic was an added factor that might take some time to yield a medal success.
Jyoti Gulia, upstaged two-time world champion boxer Nazym Kyzaibay of Kazakhstan.
The Haryana lass had to sneak off for practice her boxing since started playing the sport in 2012. It was her father Maman Singh, who didn't allow her to box. She trained with Sudhir Hooda, coach-cum-sarpanch of the Rurki village near Rohtak while lying to her parents of going to her friend's house. In about four months, she was ready to take part in state boxing championships and that is when she had to reveal to her parents that she is into boxing.
The first medal came soon after — at the 2013 PYKKA nationals. She won two gold medals in the next two editions and became the national school champion in 46kg. In January 2017, she became the national youth champion in 48 Kg followed by a gold medal in Serbia and bronze in Ahmet Comert Championship in Turkey, and support from her parents followed. 2017 was also the biggest year for her when she won the gold medal in 51kg at the AIBA World Women’s Youth Championships where she beat Russia’s Ekaterina Molchanova in the final.
Her success dictated her form and in 2018, she made her entry into the senior camp following her participation at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The rigorous training in the camp paid of when she became the national champion in her weight category in 2019 by defeating Ritu Grewal in the final.
With age by her side, Jyoti eyes good progress to the 2024 Olympics in Paris. However, she has a busy schedule ahead where she has to prove her might in the 2021 Asian and World Boxing Championships, followed by the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games in 2022.