Tokyo Olympics-bound Pooja Rani (75kg) secured a gold medal while legendary pugilist MC Mary Kom (51kg) finished with silver at the ASBC Asian Boxing Championships in Dubai on Sunday.
Also on finals day, tournament debutant Lalbuatsaihi (64kg) finished with silver after she lost 2-3 against Milana Safronova while Anupama (81+kg) also lost by the same scoreline against Lazzat Kungeibayeva as Kazakhstan dominated proceedings overall with eight gold medals out of 10 categories in the women’s divisions.
Indian women finished with one gold, three silver and six bronze medals.
Pooja Rani, who was fighting her first bout of the event after a walkover in the semi-finals, defeated Mavluda Movlonova of Uzbekistan 5-0 and secured India’s first gold medal at the ongoing event.
She had also won the gold medal in the previous edition in 2019 but that was in the 81kg division. It is also Pooja’s fourth medal at the championships after silver in 2012 and a bronze in 2015.
Movlonova, who ended the challenge of London Olympics medallist Marina Volnova in the last-four stage, did not stand much chance against a fresh and aggressive Pooja, who was at it from the word go and ensure a comfortable win. Pooja showed great sharpness and tactical brilliance and put pressure on the opponent with timely punches.
Pooja earned $10,000 for her clincal one-bout show in which Movlonova was simply out of sorts, unable to keep pace with the Indian’s intensity.
Mary Kom faced a stiff challenge from the two-time world champion (in a lower weight category) Nazym Kyzaibay. The Kazakhstan boxer was at the receiving end in the early stages of the bout but came back strongly in the second and third rounds to clinch the final by a split decision, 3-2 in her favour.
Six-time world champion Mary Kom, gunning for her sixth Asian Championship gold medal, looked surprised by the decision in the end. This was her second silver medal at the event for a total of seven medals over her glittering career, the first being a gold that came way back in the 2003 edition.
Up against an opponent 11 years younger to her, the 38-year-old made an impressive start and clinched the opening round comfortably by relying on her sharp counter-attacks.
The intensity picked up in the second round and both the boxers showed aggressive intent. The Kazakh drew level at this point with her jabs landing perfectly.
Mary Kom fought back in the final three minutes but that was not enough to get the judges’ nod.
In the 64kg final, Lalbuatsaihi gave her Kazakh rival Milana Safronova a fight to remember. Lalbuatsaihi came into the Indian team as a late replacement for the seasoned Pwilao Basumatary, whose passport had expired, reported PTI.
The Mizo boxer exhausted her rival with her counter-attacks but lost momentum in the final round to end second best.
Anupama, also making her tournament debut, was the last to take the ring against former world champion Lazzat Kungeibayeva of Kazakhstan. She managed to hold her own in a bout marred by excessive holding and clinching, but it was Kungeibayeva, who connected better.
India had already assured themselves of a medal in all of the 10 women’s weight divisions but could not match their tally of two gold from 2019.
Overall, the Indian contingent has already ensured their best-ever show at the Asian Championships by assuring 15 medals and bettered previous highest of 13 medals (2 gold, 4 silver and 7 bronze) achieved during the 2019 edition.
Eight Indian pugilists – Simranjit Kaur (60kg), Lovlina Borgohain (69kg), Jaismine (57kg), Sakshi Chaudhary (64kg), Monika (48kg), Saweety (81kg) among women and Vikas Krishan (69kg) and Varinder Singh (60kg) among men – have secured bronze medals with their semi-final finish.
Top seed Amit Panghal (52kg) and two other pugilists Shiva Thapa (64kg) and Sanjeet (91kg) will be seen in action on Monday in the men’s finals.
Panghal will be up against the Rio Olympics and world champion Uzbek pugilist Zoirov Shakhobidin of Uzbekistan. While Assam boxer Thapa will be challenged by the Asian Games silver medallist Mongolia’s Baatarsukh Chinzorig. Second seeded Sanjeet will also have a strong challenge of the Rio Olympics silver medallist Vassiliy Levit, who is chasing his fourth gold medal of the Asian Championships.
The International Boxing Association, AIBA, has allocated $400,000 prize money for the on-going Championships. The gold medallists of men’s and women’s categories will be awarded with $10,000 while both the silver and bronze medal winners will take home $5,000 and $2,500 respectively.
(With PTI inputs)