There will be no shortage of inspiration for the Indian women boxers at the upcoming 2019 AIBA World’s Women’s Boxing Championships that gets underway at Ulan-Ude, Russia from October 3–13. The best-ever medal haul (1 silver and 1 bronze) of our men pugilists at the recent 2019 AIBA World’s Men’s Boxing Championship also held in Russia, will be enough to keep our women boxers adequately pumped up to dish out a power-packed performance at the marquee event.
The hopes of the 10-member Indian women’s boxing contingent will rest largely on iconic six-time World Championship gold medallist MC Mary Kom, who will look to shut her critics, who haven’t quite taken kindly to her ‘selection trial exemption’ for the 2019 World Championship. The 36-year-old Manipuri stalwart will be keen to ensure flyweight category (51-kg) is her rightful weight class and accentuate that she is India’s best bet in this category ahead of the Olympic qualifiers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It’s not that Mary Kom is new to the 51-kg weight class – she had won gold and bronze respectively in this category at the 2014 and 2010 Asian Games. The only slight concern is that the star boxer hasn’t played much in the 51-kg category in any of the major tourneys such as the 2018 Commonwealth Games, 2018 2018 Asian Games, 2018 AIBA World’s Women’s Boxing Championship.
Mary even skipped the 2019 Asian Championship. Raffaele Bergamasco, the High Performance Director of the Indian women’s boxing team, said Mary is all geared up for the World Championship but it will not be easy for her:
Bergamasco, who took charge as High Performance Director of the Indian women’s boxing team in December 2017, believes the Indian team will stay focussed on improving their game ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. “It’s not easy to predict the number of medals our girls can win but surely they (girls) will be out there to compete in the best manner possible and brace up for the Tokyo Olympics.”
Lightweight (60-kg) boxer L Sarita Devi will be determined to end her 11-year medal drought in lightweight category at the World Championship since last winning a bronze in 52-kg category at the 2008 edition – she had won the gold in the same weight class in the 2006 edition when it was held in India for the first time, following up on her silver medal haul in 54-kg category in the 2005 edition. Sarita had got the better of 2018 World Championship bronze medallist Simranjit Kaur in the World Championship trials and showed that although she is ageing she has the game to make a podium finish in Russia.
Two-time World Championship bronze medallist (she had won bronze medals in 2010 and 2012 editions) Kavita Chahal is making a comeback in the heavyweight category (+81-kg) at the age of 34 after becoming a mother – this sturdy Haryana pugilist will be looking to cement her spot in this category after losing the spot to Seema Punia, who had represented the country in this weight class at the 2016 and 2018 World Championship.
Saweety Boora also lends so much experience to the Indian squad. She will be boxing in the middleweight category (75-kg) – a same weight class where she had featured at the 2018 World Championship and bowed out in the second round. She has bundles of experience (this is her fourth World Championship) and will be keen to revive memories of the 2014 World Championship, where she had won the silver in the light heavyweight category (81-kg). Saweety came a cropper at the 2016 World Championship and lost in the 81-kg quarterfinals. She had pipped Asian Championship gold medallist Pooja Rani in the trials, which is a fair indicator that she is in a rich vein of form.
Neeraj, who will be making her World Championship debut, has made a strong presence in the featherweight category (57-kg) – she had demolished the World Championship-playing aspirations of Asian Championship silver medallist Manish Moun in the trials – interestingly, Manisha had earlier outboxed Sonia Chahal, who had won consecutive silver medals in the 2016 and 2018 World Championships.
Welterweight (69-kg) boxer Lovlina Borgohain – the only boxer apart from Mary Kom to be given a trial exemption for the World Championship – will be keyed up to improve on her bronze medal effort at the 2018 World Championship.
The Indian contingent features four other debutants – bantamweight boxer Jamuna Boro (54-kg) is highly promising having won gold medals at the 2019 India Open and President’s Cup in Indonesia. But the biggest surprise was the Madhya Pradesh girl Manju Bomboriya, who will feature in the light welterweight category (64-kg) after prevailing over the much-fancied Assam boxer Ankushita Boro in the trials. Two other debutants – Manju Rani will fight in the light flyweight category (48-kg), while young Chandigarh girl Nandini will compete in the light heavyweight category (81-kg).
The Indian women boxers’ best-ever medal haul came about at the 2006 World Championship held in India, where they won 8 medals – 4 gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze. It is pertinent to mention that India stands third in the overall medal-winning tally in the World Championship, bagging 32 medals – 9 gold, 7 silver and 16 bronze) with only Russia and China ahead of them. What would gladden many Indian hearts is that our medal haul is ahead of nations like USA, Kazakhstan, England, Canada and North Korea.
The 2019 AIBA World’s Women’s Boxing Championship will be one great opportunity for our women boxers to make a ‘big performance’ statement close on the heels of the resounding World Championship display of our men boxers.
Squad: Manju Rani (48kg), Mary Kom (51kg), Jamuna Boro (54kg), Neeraj (57kg), Sarita Devi (60kg), Manju Bomboriya (64kg), Lovlina Borgohain (69kg), Saweety Boora (75kg), Nandini (81kg), Kavita Chahal (+81kg).