Women’s Boxing World Champion: India eyes strong performance at home

India will have high hopes from Nikhat Zareen and Lovlina Borgohain when they go into the World Championships starting here on Thursday with the intention of putting up a strong performance in line with their rising status in women’s boxing. World champion Nikhat and Olympic bronze medalist Lovlina will lead the 12-member Indian team in the absence of six-time boxing champion MC Mary Kom, who is recovering from a left knee injury. Both the boxers will be looking to establish their footing in new weight categories as the Paris Olympics draws closer.

World number four boxer Nikhat has reduced her weight from 52 kg to 50 kg. He had won the title in the 52kg category in Turkey last year. Lovlina, on the other hand, has moved up from 69kg welterweight to 75kg middleweight as both her preferred weight categories have been dropped for the 2024 Paris Olympics. This will be the second international tournament for Nikhat in the 50kg category. He won the Commonwealth Games gold in the light fly weight category but the competition at the Birmingham Games was not as tough.

However, this will not happen here. Being an Olympic weight class, Nikhat will have to face some top boxers to make it to the podium. Lovlina, a two-time World Championship bronze medallist, won the Asian Championships in the 75kg category but is still adjusting to her new weight category. “The focus is on improving my punching power as my opponents will be stronger than in the 69kg category,” Lovlina told PTI.

Also eyeing Commonwealth Games champion Neetu Ghanghas (48kg) and last season’s bronze medalist Manisha Mon (57kg). Sakshi Chowdhary (52kg), Preeti (54kg), Shashi Chopra (63kg), Sanamcha Chanu (70kg) are also expected to do well. This is the third time that India is hosting this prestigious tournament. But boycotts by several countries, a conflict between the International Boxing Association (IBA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and a court case have taken the sheen off the tournament.

More than 10 countries, including the US, Britain and Ireland, pulled out of the tournament after the IBA, headed by Russia’s Umar Kremlev, allowed boxers from Russia and Belarus to compete under their own flags, contrary to IOC recommendations. Also the ongoing tussle between the two world bodies has created a lot of confusion as the IOA said it will be in charge of the 2024 Paris Olympic qualifiers and not the IBA which is suspended since 2019. But the IBA announced that they will hold a qualification tournament and the men’s and women’s world championships will be the main qualifiers this year.

Kremlev clarified on Tuesday that the IOC would remain in charge of qualifying events and that the two bodies needed to cooperate and coordinate. However, he insisted that all qualification tournaments should be managed by the IBA. Indian national champions Manju Rani (48kg), Shiksha Narwal (54kg) and Poonam Poonia (60kg) have moved court for not qualifying for the World Championships under the new selection policy of the Boxing Federation of India (BFI). Due to which another controversy arose in the national camp.

Under the new policy, the boxers were assessed for three weeks on various parameters where Neetu, Preeti and Jasmine Lamboria beat them to make it to the team of the tournament. The Delhi High Court eventually refused to interfere in the issue. More than 300 boxers from 65 countries will participate in the 13th edition of the championship. The gold winner of the competition will be given a prize money of one lakh dollars while the silver medalists will get 50 thousand dollars. Both the bronze medal winners will be given 25-25 thousand dollars. India had won three medals including one gold in the last tournament.

The Indian team will be hoping to match their 2006 performance at home when the boxers won eight medals, including four gold. The team is as follows: Neetu Ghanghas (48kg), Nikhat Zareen (50kg), Sakshi Chowdhary (52kg), Preeti (54kg), Manisha Mon (57kg), Jasmine Lamboria (60kg), Shashi Chopra (63kg) kg), Manju Bamboriya (66kg), Sanamcha Chanu (70kg), Lovlina Borgohain (75kg), Sweety Boora (81kg) and Nupur Sheoran (81kg+).

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