India’s top pugilists Nikhat Zareen and Manisha Moun dominated proceedings on Day 4 of the Mahindra IBA Women’s World Boxing Championships and advanced to the pre-quarterfinals after securing identical wins by unanimous decision at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex on Sunday (March 19).
Being at her razor-sharp best, Nikhat toppled the top seed Boualam Roumaysa of Algeria with a 5-0 victory in the 50kg category. The reigning World Champion asserted her dominance over the Algerian from the get-go and landed accurate, powerful punches to have the first round to her name.
The 26-year-old maintained her momentum from the first round in scintillating fashion and kept her opponent at bay in the next two rounds as well to earn the win by unanimous decision.
Speaking after her stellar victory, Nikhat said, “My strategy today was to dominate a little from the first round itself as she (Roumaysa) is the top seed and had an advantage. I have never played against her before but I have seen her bouts previously. She is a fighter and she gets aggressive if one goes in close range with her so my strategy was to play from distance. There was some clinching from time to time but in the end, I won so I am happy.
Nikhat will now take on Mexico`s Herrera Alvarez Fatima in what will be a rematch of last edition’s Round of 32 bout between the two pugilists.
Similar to Nikhat, the 2022 World Championships bronze medallist Manisha (57kg) also recorded a 5-0 win by ousting Tina Rahimi of Australia. marking a successful day at the office for India.
Starting on the front foot, the 25-year-old pugilist from Haryana was in cruise control throughout the bout and gave her opponent no chance to make a comeback.
“While we had planned the strategy for this bout beforehand, the coaches’ advice in between the bout helped me understand the opposition’s mindset, land my punches perfectly and conserve my energy. I am here to fight and feel great carrying the weight of the country on my shoulders. I would like to thank the amazing support from Indians which has been crucial in helping the women boxers reach pre-quarters,” said Manisha.
Manisha will next face Nur Elif Turhan of Turkey in the next round.
Meanwhile, the 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medallist Ingrit Valencia (50kg) of Colombia also began her campaign with a victory as she defeated Nziva Veronica Mbithe of Kenya with a Referee Stops Contest (RSC) verdict in the second round. The decorated Colombian hardly had to break a sweat in her bout and sealed the win by overpowering her opponent using her immense strength and vast experience.
Another Olympics medallist, Irma Testa of Italy got off to a winning start at the tournament as she got the better of Reyes Moreno Leilany Noshbet of Guatemala with a 4-1 win in the 57kg category. The top-seeded Italian who clinched bronze at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics did not face an easy challenge against her opponent but utilized her supreme technical ability to get the job done.
On Monday, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Lovlina Borgohain (75kg) along with Sakshi Chaudhary (52kg) and Preeti (54kg) will take to the ring for their pre-quarters bouts. While Lovlina will face Citalli Ortiz of Mexico, Sakshi and Preeti will square off against Urakbayeva Zhazira of Uzbekistan and Jutamas Jitpong of Thailand respectively.
The 2018 World Champion Li Qian of China (75kg) who also has two Olympics medals to her name will be playing her tournament opener on Monday as well.
The ongoing event is witnessing the participation of 324 boxers, including several Olympic medallists, from 65 countries fighting for titles in 12 weight categories. The tournament has a massive prize pool of INR 20 crore.