Star boxer Nikhat Zareen kickstarted India’s challenge impressively at the IBA Women’s World Boxing Championships with a dominating victory while Sakshi Chaudhary, Nupur Sheoran and Preeti also made winning starts to ensure an unbeaten start for the hosts at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex in New Delhi on Thursday.

Zareen, who clinched 52kg gold in the last edition in Istanbul, began her title defence in style as she took just over four minutes to outclass Anakhanim Ismayilova with the Referee Stops Contest verdict in the 50kg opening round contest. The pugilists from Azerbaijan looked clueless against Zareen’s strong jabs and quick movement in a thoroughly lopsided bout. The 26-year-old boxer from Telangana will take on top-seeded Roumaysa Boualam of Algeria in the second round.

Women’s World Boxing C’ships: Eyes on home favourite Nikhat Zareen amid turbulent build-up to event

Zareen’s dominating triumph, in the first bout of the day, provided a befitting start to the event, which is being hosted by the Boxing Federation of India for the third time in the country.

Extending hosts’ domination further on the opening day, 2021 Asian Championships bronze medallist Chaudhary, and Sheoran also registered emphatic wins with an identical 5-0 margin in their respective matches. 2022 Asian Championships bronze medallist Preeti also secured a comfortable RSC win in her 54kg round of 64 bout.

Chaudhary dominated Colombian Maria Jose Martinez with supreme technical ability in the 52kg round of 32. Sheoran (+81kg), on the other hand, proved too strong for Abiola Jackman of Guyana in the round of 16 bout. Preeti came out swinging in her bout and secured her win after the referee stopped the contest in the second round.

Chaudhary will now face Kazakhstan’s Urakbayeva Zhazira in the next round whereas debutant Sheoran will be up against 2016 World Champion Lazzat Kungeibayeva of Kazakhstan in the quarter-finals. Preeti will next face 2022 World Championships silver medallist Lacramioara Perijoc of Romania in the round of 32.

Meanwhile, in a surprising turn of events, French boxer Lkhadiri Wassila caused a major upset in the 50kg category when she sent the 2018 Asian Games gold medallist Chang Yuan of China packing with a 5-2 win in a thrilling bout after the review.

Women’s World Boxing C’ships: Nikhat Zareen to kickstart home challenge, Indians handed mixed draw

The on-going event is witnessing the participation of 324 boxers, including several Olympic medallists, from 65 countries fighting for the titles in the 12 weight categories.

Rio Olympics champion Estelle Mossely (60kg) of France is scheduled to begin her campaign on the second day of the tournament on Friday along with some other top boxers, including the five-time World Championships medallist Elif Guneri (75kg) of Turkey, reigning Asian Champion Oh Yeon-Ji (60kg) of South Korea, and former world champions Italy’s Alessia Mesiano (60kg) and Lina Wang (81kg) of China.

Among Indians, Jaismine Lamboria (60kg), Shashi Chopra (63kg) and Shruti Yadav (70kg) will fight in the round of 32.