Saturday, September 23, 2023

Nikhat, Lovlina title Boxing Big showdowns crew

The two top medal contenders have switched weights and will compete in Olympic medal categories

Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Lovlina Borgohain and world champion Nikhat Zareen headline India’s strong 12-member squad for the IBA Women’s World Championships to be held from March 15-26 at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex here.

With India hosting the mega event — Delhi last hosted the 2018 worlds — a rich haul of medals is expected. A number of boxing nations, including the USA and Great Britain, have pulled out due to the row with the International Boxing Association over allowing Russian and Belarussian athletes under their own flag and anthem. That will provide a wonderful opportunity though for the home boxers to shine.

Nikhat had dropped to 50kg with an eye on the Paris Olympics qualification this year. Similarly, Lovlina too has switched weight, going up to 75kg from 69kg. It will be the first major event for both the top boxers in their new weight category.

Nikhat made the switch at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games and won gold while Lovlina showed her class to win in the heavier division at the Asian Championships. She will eye a third worlds medal, having won bronze in 2018 and 2019.

IBA has announced a record prize money of ₹20 crore for the championships.

“In the last few years, India has become a powerhouse of boxing and we intend to further cement our standing with this talented contingent for the world championships. It’s a line-up of champions and I am sure they’ll bring glory to the country again,” Ajay Singh, Boxing Federation of India (BFI) president, said.

This time, the squad has been chosen on the basis of an ‘evaluation process’ and not through selection trials. Bernard Dunne, the high performance director, has devised a new selection policy that is based on the boxers’ performance at the national camp and ranking on parameters like technique and skill, tactical ability, growth, weight management, mindset, etc. Those who win gold at the worlds will be automatically selected for the Asian Games. Of the 12 boxers, nine are national champions.

The biggest name to miss out is Parveen Hooda, who won bronze the last time in 60kg but hasn’t been able to impress since moving to 66kg at the National Games last year.

Focus will be on the six Olympic weight categories — 50kg, 54kg, 57kg, 60kg, 66kg and 75kg –in which a talented new crop will get an opportunity to impress. In 54kg, Preeti , who won bronze at the 2022 Asian Championships, has made the cut while 2022 CWG bronze medallist Jaismine Lamboria will be a contender in 60kg. National champion Manju Bamboria (66kg) will also be keen to prove herself.

More than 350 boxers, including seven Olympic medallists, from 74 countries will compete in the event.

Indian Squad-

Nitu Ghanghas (48kg), Nikhat Zareen (50kg), Sakshi Chaudhary (52kg), Preeti (54kg), Manisha Moun (57kg), Jaismine Lamboria (60kg), Shashi Chopra (63kg), Manju Bamboria (66kg), Sanamcha Chanu (70kg), Lovlina Borgohain (75kg), Saweety Boora (81kg) and Nupur Sheoran (81+kg)

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