New Delhi: Star Indian pugilists Nitu Ghanghas, Nikhat Zareen, Lovlina Borgohain and Saweety Boora produced monumental displays to reach the finals of the IBA Women’s World Boxing Championship as the hosts dominated proceedings at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex here on Thursday.
With three consecutive Referee Stops Contest (RSC) wins under her belt, Nitu (48kg) continued her remarkable run at the tournament against the reigning Asian champion Alua Balkibekova of Kazakhstan with a hard-earned 5-2 win on points after the bout was reviewed. Having suffered a defeated against the Kazakh in the quarterfinals of the last World Championships, the 22-year-old Indian had a point to prove this time round.
Both pugilists were neck-and-neck in all three rounds and while Balkibekova kept Nitu throughout the bout, the 2022 Commonwealth Games champion kept her cool to get the better of her opponent. The southpaw smartly landed accurate punches and showcased immense grit to reach the finals of the competition for the very first time.
“There was some pressure before the bout as I had lost to her (Balkibekova) last year and did not want to repeat that again. I knew I had to play with my mind and keep some patience today as I would lose the bout if I got puzzled even a little. The coaches had told me to not give her distance as she will start playing her game from long range so I made sure to play from close range. This win has given me a lot of confidence and I will definitely do well in the finals as well,” commented Nitu after her bout.
Nitu will now take on the 2022 Asian Championships bronze medallist Lutsaikhan Altantsetseg of Mongolia in the final on Saturday.
Contrary to Nitu’s fiercely-contested bout, Nikhat (50kg) had an easy day at the office as she continued her quest for back-to-back World Championships gold medals by outpunching the veteran Rio Olympics bronze medallist Ingrit Valencia of Colombia and securing a 5-0 win. Being at the top of her game, the 26-year-old star pugilist utilised her quick movement and stellar strength to control the bout from the word go.
She maintained her composure going into the next few rounds and dominated the bout, giving her Colombian opponent no chance to make a comeback and sealing the win by unanimous decision.
“Out of all the matches in the competition, I feel like today’s bout was my best performance. My game gets better as I continue playing against more technical boxers and having played against Ingrit earlier, I had an idea of how to play today. After the first two rounds, my strategy was to play from distance and not let her attack while also containing her attacks when she started to get aggressive. There’s only one match to go now which I hopefully win and defend my title,” said Nikhat after the bout.
Nikhat will now face the two-time Asian champion Nguyen Thi Tam of Vietnam in the final on Sunday.
Later in the day, in what was a clash between two highly decorated pugilists, the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Lovlina (75kg) reached her maiden World Championships final after ousting the 2018 World Champion Li Qian of China with a 4:1 victory on points after the bout was reviewed.
The bout kept going back and forth with the Assam-born pugilist grinding hard to prevail by 3:2 in the first round before her Chinese opponent made a comeback to win in the second by 2:3.
Despite both pugilists going at it hammer and tongs, it was the 25-year-old Indian, who shifted gears impressively and sealed the win with a supreme attacking display in the final round. Lovlina will face the two-time Commonwealth Games medallist Caitlin Parker of Australia in the final on Sunday.
Wrapping up India’s dominance in the semifinals, three-time Asian medallist Saweety (81kg) put up a stellar performance to beat Emma-Sue Greentree of Australia 4-3 on points after the bout was reviewed. Being at her attacking best, the dynamic pugilist from Hisar utilized her vast experience and strength to triumph over her opponent in the fiercely contested bout. She will now go up against the 2018 World Champion Wang Lina of China in the final on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Irma Testa (57kg) of Italy won 5:0 against Zidani Amina of France to reach her second consecutive World Championships final. The Italian will square off against Kazakhstan’s Karina Ibragimova who stunned the two-time World Champion Lin-Yu Ting of Chinese Taipei in her semifinal bout.
The Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Beatriz Iasmin Ferreira of Brazil (60kg) also secured her berth in the final after defeating the 2018 Asian Games champion Oh Yeonji of South Korea by unanimous decision.