In the absence of Olympic medallists, Lovlina Borgohain and M. C. Mary Kom, the National women’s championships at the St. Joseph’s International School in Hisar witnessed the emergence of several talented boxers who might go on to become the future stars of Indian boxing.
With the important multi-disciplinary events like the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games scheduled next year and the Paris Olympics slated in 2024, the up-and-coming women boxers hold a lot of promise for the country in these marquee events.
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If boxing manages to survive the International Olympic Committee’s wrath and stays in Paris 2024, then — as the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) rightly understands — India has a better chance of claiming a few Olympic medals in women’s boxing. The IOC’s stress on greater gender equality is likely to push for more women’s weight categories in Paris. It will effectively increase the chances of women boxers in the mega event.
With women’s high performance director Raffaele Bergamasco quitting and head coach Mohammed Ali Qamar on his way out, the camp is likely to be guided by a new set of coaches for some of the biggest assignments over the next three years.
With the BFI staging competitions in 12 weight categories (48kg, 50kg, 52kg, 54kg, 57kg, 60kg, 63kg, 66kg, 70kg, 75kg, 81kg and +81kg) instead of 10, following the revamp in weights by the International Boxing Association (AIBA), there was a bigger scope to see more boxers in action.
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Some of the young boxers — two-time World youth champion Nitu (who outsmarted Worlds silver medallist Manju Rani in the 48kg final), reigning World youth champion Arundhati Choudhary (70kg), World youth medallists Anamika (50kg), Babyrojisana Chanu (54kg) and Sanamacha Chanu (75kg) — who shone at previous World youth championships proved their worth at the elite event.
New faces who had been faring decently in age group events emerged from the meet. They include Parveen (63kg), Renu (who stunned two-time World Youth winner and Asian bronze medallist Sakshi Chaudhary in the Haryana state trials and Worlds medallist Jamuna Boro in the 54kg semifinals in the Nationals), Minakshi (52kg), Sanjeeta (50kg) and Anjali Tushir (66kg).
Rookie Jaisime Lamboria, who made her mark by bagging a bronze medal in the Asian championships earlier this year, made the biggest upset of the event as she shocked Olympian and World championships medallist Simranjit Kaur in a 60kg semifinal bout.
All these youngsters underlined their graduation to the top tier through their eye-catching performances.
Nikhat Zareen – Special arrangement
The growing competition at the domestic level due to the continuous inflow of talented girls is a good sign for women’s boxing in India as it will enhance quality within the country and help India field stronger boxers in various elite international events.
There was further good news for women’s boxing as a Services scout was seen doing groundwork for recruiting young women boxers. If Services, which has produced many top-class boxers and international medal winners in men’s boxing, finds it feasible and raises a team of women boxers, then the path-breaking move will be a huge boost for the sport. It will complement the new progressive development of allowing women’s entry into the National Defence Academy and other defence posts which were traditionally taken up by only men.
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Until now, women boxers have been getting jobs primarily in the Railways, which took the overall team title in Hisar, and different police services. Jobs to women boxers in defence organisations will expand Services’ already significant footprint in the overall ecosystem of Indian sports, which is aiming at reaching greater heights in the Olympics.
Even though the BFI has decided that the gold medal winners of the National championships will represent the country at the upcoming World championships in Istanbul, Turkey, some exceptions cannot be ruled out. With the BFI thinking of giving Lovlina a slot in the World championships team, it will be interesting to see whether it changes its mind to give the promising Arundhati a chance and conducts a trial to decide who goes on to compete in 70kg.
The National championships was a platform for some experienced boxers to get into the groove again.
Nikhat Zareen worked hard for three months to shake off the lockdown rust and win the 52kg title as well as the Best Boxer award.
World championships medallists Sonia Lather (57kg), Saweety Boora (75kg) and Olympian Pooja Rani Bohra (81kg) took the gold medals to stake their claims for future big events. It was a real test for Asian champion Pooja, who was a little out of touch after the Tokyo Olympics, but relied on her grit and experience to get a satisfactory result. She needs to work harder to make her mark in the World championships.
Pooja Rani – Special arrangement
Like in the men’s section, the BFI chose the finalists in each weight category for the National camp, which would be held in Delhi till December 20. It held trials between the bronze medallists and members of second rung teams of top three finishers — Railways, Haryana and All India Police — of the last edition to select the other two boxers for the camp in each weight.
The well-organised event at the St. Joseph’s school was a shot in the arm for the BFI, which found an eager host in boxer-turned-entrepreneur Anil Mann. The successful conduct of the National championships has strengthened the possibility of Hisar becoming a regular venue on the BFI calendar.