Four-time champion Mary Kom got off to a winning start in the Asian Boxing Championships in the 48 kg category, beating local favourite Diem Trinh Kieu in Ho Chi Minh on Thursday by split decision to progress to the quarter-final.

The five-time world champion, who was fighting in her first major tournament since the 2016 World Championships, was denied a bye in the opening round. Later in the day, Shiksha Singh will battle it out in her 51 kg category, round of 16 match against Mongolia’s Oyun Nergui.

After a cautious start to proceedings, the pace picked up in the second round and the Indian veteran was on top with her clean straights. Mary Kom’s reflexes were sharp and she kept maintaining the right distance to deny Kieu a clear shot at her.

The local favourite, backed by a partisan crowd, gave a better account of herself in the final three minutes. But Mary Kom also stepped it up with some telling combination blows to throw Kieu off-balance.

The Indian boxer will now be up against Chinese Taipei’s Meng- Chieh Ping, who got the better of Thailand’s Panpradab Plodsai in her opening bout.

India opened their account even before the start of the competition after Seema Punia found herself entering the semi-finals of her 81+ kg category event as there are only four boxers in her weight category. Punia is assured of at least a bronze medal.