Six-time world champion MC Mary Kom (51kg) was made to work hard but bounced back from a slow start to move into the Asian Boxing Championships final after notching up a gruelling victory over Mongolia’s Lutsaikhan Altantsetseg in Dubai on Thursday.

Sakshi (54kg), Lalbuatsaihi (64kg), Pooja Rani (75kg) and Anupama (81+kg) had also also entered the finals in their respective categories.

However, Sakshi Choudhary (54kg) later lost her final spot after her opponent, top-seeded Kazakh Dina Zholaman, successfully challenged the narrow victory that the two-time youth world champion had clinched in the last-four stage.

Sakshi had prevailed 3-2 in the regulation bout but the decision was challenged by the Kazakh team and eventually overturned.

Friday’s semi final Line up.

Amit (52kg)- 8PM
Varinder (60kg)- 9:15 PM
Shiva (64kg)- 9:30 PM
Vikas (69kg)- 10 PM
Sanjeet (91kg)- 11:45 PM  

Later in the day, however, the Tokyo-bound duo of Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) and Simranjit Kaur (60kg) endured contrasting defeats. They, along with Monika (48kg), debutant Jaismine (57kg) and Saweety (81kg) secured bronze after their respective semi-final defeats.

In 75kg, Pooja — also headed to the Olympics — received a walkover from Mongolia’s Munkhbat Myagmarjargal and she will face Mavluda Movlonova (UZB) in the final. “We got to know a couple of hours before the bout that her opponent has pulled out. The reasons were not told to us,” Indian women’s boxing’s High Performance Director Raffaele Bergamasco told PTI.

Monika went down 0-5 to second seeded Alua Balkibekova of Kazakhstan, while Jaismine too was bested in a unanimous verdict by another Kazakh in Vladislava Kukhta. Simranjit, who recently recovered from Covid-19, also lost to a Kazakh, Rimma Volossenko, in a unanimous verdict. Lovlina’s defeat was by a mighty close margin as she went down 2-3 against Navbakhor Khamidova.

It was a memorable tournament debut for Lalbuatsaihi (64kg), who outboxed Noura Almutairi of Kuwait to such an extent that she decided to concede the bout in the second round. Next up for the boxer from Nagaland is Milana Safronova of Kazakhstan.

In the last bout featuring an Indian, Anupama came up with a confident display against Mokhira Abdullaeva (UZB), winning the semi-final bout on a 4-1 decision. A strong start helped the Indian ride through her bout. She will face Lazzat Kungeibayeva of Kazakhstan in the final.

Having secured medal in each category in women section, Indian contingent will now stand a chance to clinch gold in five weight divisions.

The seasoned campaigner Mary Kom made a defensive start and took her time in the first round. The six-time world champion made the Mongolian opponent work hard and looked in good touch in the next round as she landed timely and powerful punches that put pressure on Altantsetseg.

“It has taken a lot to adjust to the humid weather here. Today, I was a bit slow in the first round but got my rhythm from the second round onwards. I had already fought her once so it didn’t take much to understand her gameplan,” Mary Kom told PTI.

The veteran’s right hooks were particularly impressive in a compelling performance. She fought with a perilously low guard despite the aggressive intent shown by her rival and relied on her sharp reflexes to score on counter-attacks.

“The guard wasn’t needed, I knew her quite well,” she quipped.

Mary Kom, who was out of action and participating in only her second event since the lockdown after recovering from dengue, kept her calm and used all her experience to take charge.

The 38-year-old will now be gunning for her sixth gold medal at the continental showpiece and will be up against Kazakhstan’s two-time world champion Nazym Kyzaibay who entered the final beating Sri Lanka Nadeeka Pushpakumari with the referee stopping contest (RSC) after the first round.

“I have faced Nazym earlier and have even defeated her in a couple of past tournaments. Let’s see what’s the challenge I get this time,” said Mary Kom.

Elsewhere, Monika (48kg) suffered a defeat and bagged bronze medal after going down 0-5 to second seeded Alua Balkibekova of Kazakhstan. Jaismine (57kg) also lost in the semi-final by an unanimous decision (5-0) against Vladislava Kukhta of Kazakhstan.

In an intense contest, Monika just could not keep pace with Balkibekova, who craftily dodged the Indian’s attacks and connected some eye-catching combination punches to dominate the proceedings.

For the Tokyo-bound Simranjit the defeat was by a scoreline that would worry the Indian camp as she was outplayed 5-0 by Vladislava Kukhta (KAZ), with low scores across the board especially in the second and third rounds. The scoreline itself might have been on the harsher side but there was no doubt her opponent was the stronger boxer on the night.

Another boxer headed for the Olympics, Borgohain fought hard in her bout but it was not enough to get the decision in her favour.

On Wednesday night, the Olympic-bound Ashish Kumar (75kg) lost 2-3 to Asian Games silver-medallist Abilkhan Amankul of Kazakhstan in the quarterfinal. Also going down in the quarters was Narender (+91kg). He lost 0-5 to Kazakhstan’s Kamshibek Kunkabayev.

On Friday, five Indian men – Amit Panghal (52kg), Varinder Singh (60kg), Shiva Thapa (64kg), Vikas krishan (69kg) and Sanjeet (91kg) – will fight it out in the semifinals. Of these, Panghal and Krishan are bound for Tokyo Olympics.

With 15 medals confirmed in the on-going event, Indian contingent achieved their highest medal haul, bettering previous best of 13 from the 2019 edition in Bangkok where they finished third with two gold, four silver and seven bronze medals.

(With PTI inputs)