When Rajpal Kaur told her daughter for the first time that she wants her to be a boxer, Simranjit refused. Both her elder siblings had taken up boxing and Simranjit was not keen on becoming the third from the family. But her mother persisted and took her to a nearby stadium in Chakar village, Ludhiana, to attend boxing classes.

Nine years later, Rajpal is proud that she forced her daughter into the sport. On Saturday, she was sitting in the stands of the KD Jadhav Indoor Stadium in Delhi as Simranjit produced a scintillating performance inside the ring to win her first ever bout at the AIBA World Championships.

“They kill girls for dowry in Punjab but I wanted my girl to be a sportsperson,” Rajpal said. “I used to play kabaddi as a kid in my village but I was asked to do household chores. Later, I saw PT Usha run, so I decided to make my girl an athlete. I was not taking no for an answer.”

The bout was not only a display of Simranjit’s raw aggression against Amelia Moore of USA, a national champion in the 64-kg category, but also a perfect ending to India’s day at the Worlds, with all three Indian boxers in the fray winning their respective bouts.

As the 1,000 odd spectators cheered every punch of Simranjit, Rajpal sat in the stands without any emotions on her face. Like all these years, all she did was wish the best for her daughter, who insists her mother to be in the stadium for her bouts.

“I was just praying that she should be the best,” Rajpal said. “I always like to be with her. And since her first school tournament in Patiala, I have travelled with her. She insists herself that, ‘I want my mother as a support in the stadium.’”

Apart from the few USA team boxers, the entire stadium backed Simranjit. The 23-year-old’s action-packed bout saw some hard punches thrown from both the boxers but she never let her energy go down.

Not an easy journey

Like her bout where she threw some hard punches, life has also given a hard time to Simranjit and her family. In July this year, the boxer lost her father, which was a huge setback. Life was not the best even during her childhood.

“We did not have enough to buy food for six of us,” Simranjit’s mother said. “More than my kids fighting opponents, they were fighting poverty. But I always wanted to support her and look she is fighting here today.”

Simranjit’s three other siblings are also boxers but none of them have reached this level. She is the first from the family to break into the national team after some exciting performances in the last two years.

In 2016, she won the gold medal at the Senior Nationals in Haridwar and, earlier this year, she won the gold medal at the Ahmet Comert Tournament in Turkey. But after missing out on the Commonwealth and Asian Games squad, the World Championships became even more important.

“My father passed away in July and it was tough for me to be here,” an exhausted Simranjit said after the bout. “But it is the World Championships. I want to win a medal for him.”

Simranjit opened the bout with a lot of punches on Moore. Every time the USA boxer tried launching an attack, Simranjit moved back swiftly and produced some great counter. The hard punches by both boxers took a toll and the pace of the bout slowed down.

USA’s national coach Billy Walsh, one of the highly rated coaches across the world, was also impressed with Simranjit’s attitude in the ring, saying that it was a great result for the Indian boxer.

“We wanted our boxer to be to be aggressive. But for the Indian girl it was a good result as she threw everything in there. Especially towards the end of the bout,” Walsh said.

Justifying selection

India team coach Raffaele Bergamasco insisted the win justified her selection for the Championships despite her not being in the CWG and Asiad teams.

“This bout was also important for me because I selected her for World Championships,” he said. “She wasn’t there in CWG and Asian Games but I wanted her for this tournament. And the win justifies her selection.”

While a medal is still three bouts away, Simranjit showed why she should be a contender. If the first bout is anything to go by, the boxers in her draw will need to do a lot to stop her.

Simranjit is not one who thinks too much about her bouts. Her brother Karan explains the carefree attitude. “I talked to her before this bout and she was like, ‘I’ll win this.’ Why would she take any tension?”

Perhaps it runs in the family. Rajpal, despite all the hardships, said that she never thought her daughter could make it big. Another fact that gives her confidence is that Simranjit has come a long way since that bout in Patiala.

“I have seen her there and I am confident she can win here. I will pray for her,” she said.