Fabulous four: Nikhat, Lovlina, Nitu, Saweety cruise into World Championships final

PTI, Mar 24, 2023, 8:01 AM IST

New Delhi: On a delightful day for Indian boxers, the quartet of Nikhat Zareen (50kg), Lovlina Borgohain (75kg), Nitu Ghanghas (48kg) and Saweety Boora (81kg) marched into the finals of the Women’s World Championships with stellar wins here on Thursday.

While Nikhat out-punched Rio Olympics bronze medallist Ingrit Valencia of Colombia 5-0, two-time Worlds bronze medallist Lovlina beat Li Qian of China 4-1 to book her maiden appearance in the title round of the prestigious championships.

The other two contests went down to the wire and bout reviews had to be taken to declare the winners.

Nitu eked out a 5-2 victory over reigning Asian champion Alua Balkibekova of Kazakhstan, while Saweety reached her second World Championships final dispatching Sue-Emma Greentree of Australia 4-3.

In the first bout of the day, Nitu gave the hosts a thunderous start. In a rematch of last year’s World Championships quarterfinal, Nitu and Balkibekova went all guns blazing in the first round.

Nitu, who had lost to Balkibekova in the Istanbul edition, learned from her mistakes and adapted well.

She played from close range, throwing Balkibekova off her natural game as the Kazakh prefers to box from a distance.

But Balkibekova still managed to maintain her dominance to take the round 3-2.

In the final two rounds, Nitu persisted with her strategy and was able to land clean hooks and jabs, but Balkibekova kept making things difficult for the Indian.

Balkibekova, last edition’s silver medallist, repeatedly resorted to body blows and clinching tactics.

The final three minutes were a tense affair. It was the first time in the tournament that Nitu was playing the third round, and the closeness of the contest saw the bout go into a review.

“I played from a distance last time (in Istanbul), so I was not able to recover. This time I played from close range,” Nitu said after the bout.

“I had to play with my mind and adapt. I can see improvement in myself. Earlier I used to play a counter-attacking game from a distance but now I can adapt according to the situation.”

Nitu will now take on the Asian Championships bronze medallist Lutsaikhan Altantsetseg of Mongolia in the final on Saturday.

Reigning 52kg champion Nikhat, who is competing in the 50kg category, used her speed and tactical acumen to see off Valencia to keep alive the defence of her title.

Fighting a formidable opponent, who beat the legendary Mary Kom at the Tokyo Olympics, Nikhat came well prepared and had her strategy sorted.

Nikhat attacked in the opening two rounds and once she dominated the first six minutes, she started to defend.

The unanimous decision win is a testament to Nikhat’s skill and physical fitness as the Telangana boxer had to fight five bouts, including three back-to-back ones, to reach the final.

“Today’s bout was my best. I feel like I play better when I face technical boxers. I have played her before and she’s an experienced boxer. It was a clean game,” Nikhat said.

Two-time Asian champion Nguyen Thi Tam of Vietnam now stands between Nikhat and her dream of winning a second Worlds gold.

After two bronze medals, Lovlina was third-time lucky as she changed the colour of her medal with a scintillating win.

The Indian threw punches at her fellow Olympic medallist in bursts. The tall Lovlina attacked and counter-attacked, keeping Qian guessing about her strategy.

“I used to think I have a psychological problem that’s why I can’t go beyond the bronze. But, today, that has changed,” Lovlina said.

“I played from afar in the first round and then attacked and counter-attacked. I also defended as I wanted to confuse my opponent.”

Lovlina will play Australia’s Caitlin Parker in the final on Sunday, while Saweety will take on Wang Lina of China.

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