India couldn’t have asked for a better opening to their medal aspirations at home as five-time world champion M.C. Mary Kom not only provided the best start but also led four of her compatriots into the medal round at the 10th AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships at the packed JD Jhadav Hall here today.
Thus the Indian boxers ensured at least four medals in the Worlds, already the best ever in recent times, as Lovlina Borgohan, Sonia and Simranjit Kaur joined the Indian icon to pack a punch.
After a day’s rest tomorrow, some of them will get engaged in the semifinals on Thursday while the rest on Friday.
India had its reverses, too, when Manisha Moun, Bhagyabati Kachari, Pinki Rani Jangra and Seema Pooina made their exits after failing to overcome early jitters. The day also saw two top-seeds—Olympic medallist Mira Potkonen from Finland and Italy’s Alessia Mesiano, the defending world champion, losing to lesser known pugilists in Light (60 kg) and Feather (57 kg) categories, respectively.
The Manipuri, with patience being her virtue, outsmarted Yu Wu from China 5:0 in the Light Fly (48 kg) class. With the crowd rooting for Mary, the tactical boxer didn’t try to dominate in the beginning up tackled the first-timer at the Worlds nicely, before upping the ante in the second and third rounds for the unanimous decision. Her lethal rights, when combined with the lefts and the jabs opened up the avenues for her to send down the blows on target areas.
Mary will be meeting North Korean Mi Hyang Kim, who won 5:0 against South Korean Chorong Bak, in the semifinals on Thursday. The Indian had beaten the North Korean in the final of the Asian Championships last November.
“The World Championships are always tough,” said the 35-year-old. “And the Chinese always come up with new faces. I won’t say it was very easy or very tough. I planned my strategy well and fought accordingly,” said Mary.
On her next opponent, the Manipuri said “she (North Korean) could be coming with some plans against me because I had beaten her last year. But I am prepared for it.”
Lovlina Borgohan was next in line and she accounted for Aussie Kaye Frances Scott in Welter class (69 kg) with the second unanimous decision of the day for India. The Assamese was as explosive as one expected her to be. The 21-year-old rookie, who came ran into a nice form early this year in Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) and Silesian (Poland) events, took her time before going broke. The Aussie was straightaway on the back foot even as the Indian piled on her agony. She continued the trend in the last two rounds and impressed the judges who almost gave a clear verdict (27-30, 28-29, 27-30, 27-30, 27-30).
Lovlina said she had a perfect plan against the Aussie and “I executed them really well. I am happy.”
On her opponent in the semis, the Assamese said that she got to watch her videos to plan her strategy. “I had met her (Taipei’s Chen Nien-Chin), once before and I lost the bout. I will have to prepare well for Thursday’s semi-finals,” she said.
In the evening, Sonia added substance when she beat Colombia’s Yeni Castenada in Feather class. The split verdict (4:1) in favaour of the Indian was on the cards as Sonia punched her way up, starting with left jabs and increasing the pace to unsettle her rival in the very first two rounds. In the third, momentarily the Colombian attacked to earn the attention of the judges and that justified the split verdict.
Simranjit Kaur, another Indian debutant at the Worlds, was not as impressive as she was in her earlier rounds. Yet, the Indian scored a 3:1 verdict against Amy Sara Broadhurst from Ireland. The two boxers had more clinches and midair action than actually hitting the target areas. This prompted all except one judge give full points to the Indian. The pedestrian quarterfinals failed to arouse the kind of interests which other bouts did.
An obviously happy Simranjit said: “I took my time to study before I got into action. I had some good blows against her and what mattered to me was reaching the medal round,” said the Ludhiana girl.
Earlier the aggressive Manisha Moun failed learn from Mary Kom’s patience and lost to Bulgaria’s Stoyka Zhelyazkova Petrova (4:1) going in favour of the Bulgarian, while Bhagyabati Kachari lost to Colombian Jessica Sinisterra, in a split verdict (2:3). Pinki lost to a superior North Korean Mi Choi Pang, the latter winning 5:0. In the last bout of the day, Seema could not sustain the pace and guile of Yang Xiaoli from China, losing the quarterfinals 5:0.
The 28-year-old Chinese, who is a back-to-back gold winner at Jeju (2014) and Astana (2016), looked to be the pugilist to beat. But the Indian, in her first round in the +81 class, failed to measure up to the demanding bout.
“I thought I did my best, but her (Petrova’s) experience carried the day. I was not as good in the first but did well in the last two rounds. It was my first outing and the experience I gained will help me in the future,” said the 20-year-old Manisha, who had beat reigning world champion Dina Zholaman of Kazakhstan the other evening, mixing caution with aggression.
Bhagyabati did admit to her folly of relaxing in the first round which cost her berth in the medal round. Indeed, she was slow to start with while the Colombian was at her attacking best. The Indian did manage to trade off blows in the second and, mostly, in the third to make amends. But it was too little and too late as the decision as the marginally better Jessica won (28-29, 28-29, 30-27, 29-28, 28-29). In fact, only one judge awarded full points to the Colombian.
“I didn’t box well in the first. I covered up a lot of ground in the second and third, but my opponent did really well and deserved to be the winner,” said Bhagyabati.
Pinki was up against Jakarta Asian Games silver meallist North Korean, whose reach and speed is too well known. As expected, 24-year-old Pang was aggressive and landed her punches on target areas. The Indian, pushed to the ropes, came back partially in the second showing her intent. In fact, she managed a few blows which could have brought the judges into focus. Her open guard and the distance she maintained were of no avail as the speedy Pang made the Indian nervy on more occasions than one. As expected, the North Korean’s superiority prevailed in the Fly (51 kg) quarterfinals. She will take on USA’s Virgina Fuchs, the only American boxer so far to enter the medal round.
A disappointed Pinki admitted that the tall North Korean had better trade-offs. “She used her height to great advantage. She also had the knack to come against me and I was not up to the mark,” said the CWG bronze medal winner.
Among the foreign participants, Thailand’s Sudaporn Seesondee reached the medal round beating Finland’s Mira Potkonen, the top-seed here. The only Olympics medallist from Finaland, she was expected to go up to the final but it was disappointing to see her bowing out of the championships as the Thai won the quarterfinals in a split vereict (4:1).
The Thai, who was the great hope in Jakarta Asian Games, had finished fifth and it was a disappointment for her country, which has rich boxing traditions. Today, she made amends to send the bronze medal winner from Astana packing to bring some cheers to her countrymen.