India's women pugilists are ready to throw some big punches at the AIBA World Women's Boxing Championships 2019 in Ulan Ude, Russia. The tournament that begins on Thursday, however, won't see any of the Indians in action on the opening day. There will be no shortage of inspiration for the Indian women boxers who will be aiming to better the record of men's best-ever medal haul (1 silver and 1 bronze) at the recently-concluded 2019 AIBA World’s Men’s.
The Indian brigade will be led by none other than Mary Kom, the most decorated boxer in the history of World Championships with six world titles under her belt. MC Mary Kom will look to shut her critics, who haven’t quite taken kindly to her ‘selection trial exemption’ for the 2019 World Championship. Mary, who claimed a historic sixth World Championships gold last year in Delhi (48kg), moved up a weight class after AIBA revised Olympic weight categories earlier this year. Since her pet 48 kg no more remains an Olympic weight category, she will be fighting in the 51kg category.
Mary is, however, not new in the 51kg category. Her Olympics bronze in London 2012 came in the 51kg category. Mary Kom was on Wednesday seeded third and handed a bye into the pre-quarterfinals. She will begin her campaign on October 8. The 36-year-old Manipuri has been an ambassador of the sport not just in India but also the world over. However, there is a minor blemish in her magnificent record -- the lack of a world title in the 51kg category.
Mary will face Thailand's Jutamas Jitpong, who was a professional boxer till 2018 with 5-2 win-loss record in professional boxing. Recently, she returned to amateur and had won bronze at the Thailand Open in 2019. In the quarters, Mary is likely to face England's Tori-Ellis Willetts, who is a silver medallist in England National Championship 2019.
Former champion and Mary Kom's contemporary L Sarita Devi (60kg) is another one to watch out for after she defeated last edition's bronze-winner and a much younger Simranjit Kaur in the trials. Sarita seeded fourth, has also got a bye but into the round of 32. Outside the ring, the eight-time Asian medallist is in the running to become a member of the International Boxing Association's (AIBA) first-ever athletes commission, the voting for which will take place during the mega-event here. She is expected to make the panel as there hasn't been any other nomination from the Asian bloc.
In all, five Indians got first-round byes into different stages depending on the size of the draw.
Previous edition's bronze-medallist Lovlina Borgohain is the lone Indian boxer who returns to the world championship in the same weight category (69 kg). Borgohain, an India Open gold-medallist, has been seeded third and given a bye into the pre-quarterfinals. In Round of 16, she will face either Brbados's Kimberly Gittens who is a big name in Carribean region and was the bronze medalist in CAC Games 2018 in 64kg or Morocco's Oumayma Bel Ahbib who is bronze medalist in African Games 2019. In the quarters, she is likely to meet Poland's Karolina Koszewska, who is a gold medalist at the European Games 2019.
India Open gold-medallists Neeraj (57kg) and Jamuna Boro (54kg) are among the five boxers, who will be making their debuts at the big event and can be expected to create a flutter. Neeraj, a former national champion, has got a bye into the round of 32.
In light-welterweight 64 kg, Manju Bombariya will face Italy's fourth-seeded Angela Carini in Round 16. Angela is a European Championship 2019 silver medalist in 69kg; she is also world rank 7 in 69kg weight. If progresses to quarters, Manju will face either of USA's Ravven Brown, who is a USA national champion in 2018 or Columbia's Paola Calderon who got the 5th position in Pan-American Games 2019 in 69kg
In the 75kg category, former Asian champion Saweety Boora will be keenly watched. She was a silver-medallist in the 2014 edition of the marquee tournament. Saweety will face Mangolia's experienced boxer Munkhbat Myagmarjargal who is playing for a long time but has seen no success. If Saweety progress into round 16, she will be up for a tough challenge against second-seeded Ireland's Lauren Price, who is the Commonwealth Games 2018 gold medalists as well as European Games 2019 gold medalist.
In the 48kg category, which Mary Kom made her own, Strandja Cup silver-medallist Manju Rani will be fighting it out this time. A debutant at the world championship, Rani, got a bye into the pre-quarterfinals.
Among the veterans, former Asian medallist Kavita Chahal (+81kg) is in the quarterfinals due to the small size of the draw and will need just one win to be assured of a podium finish at the big event, where she has won two bronze medals in the past.
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 Squad: Manju Rani (48kg), M C 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).
The Women’s World Boxing Championships 2019 can be live-streamed on AIBA’s YouTube channel. Stay tuned to TheBridge.in for regular updates.