Women’s boxing worlds: Preeti stuns top seed, Nitu and Manju also in last 16
Three Indian boxers progressed to the last 16 stage of the Women’s World Boxing Championships at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Stadium on Saturday
There were questions regarding her selection for the Women’s World Boxing Championships. Preeti though gave a fitting reply to her detractors as she stunned the top seed and world silver medallist Perijoc Lacramiora of Romania in the 54kg division to reach the pre-quarters at the IG Stadium here on Saturday.
The 19-year-old, who is making her debut in the premier tournament, was brimming with confidence as she fought with controlled aggression to negotiate a close encounter, winning through split decision. Preeti spent some nervous moments as the bout was reviewed following the split verdict. All 3-2 split decisions are going through the bout review system. As Preeti’s hand was raised, the spectators in the arena let out a roar.
It was an intense fight with plenty of action. Preeti won the first round but lost the second as the Romanian bounced back, engaging her in close boxing. With the match on the edge, Preeti came out more attacking. She kept herself busy in the third round, throwing accurate punches and defending well. She did well to maintain distance and not allow a rushing Perijoc to catch her by slipping within the firing range. Light on her feet, Preeti was impressive with her technique and movement.
She acknowledged that it was a high-pressure bout for her but said she was well prepared.
“She is a very good boxer. She has won silver in the last world championships and she is the top seed. I saw her movements and drew up my gameplan. It was in my mind that I have to prove myself. I am no less than anyone. I want to become a champion,” Preeti said.
“The first round was in my favour. I did not drop my intensity in the second, but she won 3-2. In the last round, I changed my strategy, and as the coaches told me I was playing a counter game. She was attacking upfront, so I had to counter her. I was taking a step back to evade her punches and then went for my attack,” she explained.
The boxer from Bhiwani, Haryana took up the sport only in 2017 but has impressed at the international level in a short period.
“She was inspired by her uncle Vinod Kumar, who was a national level boxer and is now a coach. She trains under him,” said Preeti’s father Somveer. He is with the Haryana Police and was present to watch her bout along with her coach and the trainees of his academy.
The 54kg being an Olympic weight division for Paris 2024, the competition is tough as it is packed with world medallists. In the next round, Preeti will face another world championships silver medallist, Jitpong Jutamas of Thailand, who has moved up from flyweight to bantamweight.
Preeti, who has won bronze at the Asian championships, was selected ahead of national champion Shiksha Narwal, who unsuccessfully petitioned the Delhi high court with two other boxers against the selection panel not including them. The court did not give interim relief to the three petitioners.
“She is very determined and mentally strong. When she was selected she said she wanted to win a medal,” said her father.
It turned out to be a good day for India as Nitu Ghanghas (48kg) and Manju Bamboriya (66kg) cruised through their Round of 32 bouts.
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Nitu opened her campaign in style against Korea’s Kang Doyeon, finishing her bout within two minutes into the first round to earn an RSC (Referee Stopped Contest) verdict. Nitu’s powerful blows had Kang in trouble and she was twice given a standing count before the referee called a premature end to the bout. Nitu will next face Sumaiya Qosimova of Tajikistan.
“I maintained the intensity throughout,” said Nitu. “I thought of getting some good practice for tougher battles ahead. I will look to maintain the same level of energy,” she said.
In Nitu’s category too there was a selection controversy as former world championships silver medallist Manju Rani went to court.
“I was not under any pressure to perform. I was only focusing on training. I will later shift to 50kg,” said Nitu, who wants to move up and try to qualify for the Paris Olympics, though she will then run into Nikhat Zareen.
In 66kg, Manju used her height advantage to great effect as she beat Cara Wharerau of New Zealand by a unanimous decision. She will meet top seed Navbakhor Khamidova of Uzbekistan next.
“I competed in the 2019 world championships but the performance was not good. I want to make the most of this opportunity at home,” said Manju. “It was my first bout here so I was a bit nervous initially, but then I was able to focus.”
Nepal boxer under probe
Anjani Teli, representing Nepal in the 52kg division, has been cleared by the world boxing body IBA after it conducted an investigation to ascertain if she had violated any eligibility norms. In a statement, IBA said the boxer, though born in Delhi, never acquired an Indian passport. "Eight years ago, she received Nepali citizenship as her parents are originally from that country. Therefore, she is fully eligible to represent Nepal at the IBA Women's World Boxing Championships in New Delhi."