New Delhi: Nitu Ghanghas (48kg) and the seasoned Saweety Boora (81kg) etched their names in Indian boxing history as they were crowned world champions after notching contrasting wins at the marquee tournament here on Saturday.
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Nitu put up a stupendous performance to see off Mongolia’s Lutsaikhan Altansetseg 5-0 and claim the title in the minimum weight category in front of a packed crowd, with Beijing Olympics bronze medallist and Nitu’s idol Vijender Singh also present.
Saweety made it two out of two for the hosts as she warded off a challenge from two-time medallist China’s Wang Lina.
In the first bout of the day, Nitu started off aggressively and used her combination of punches to land jabs and hooks effectively.
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The 22-year-old Bhiwani boxer was able to take the first round 5-0. She began the second round with a series of straight jabs.
When Altansetseg attacked, the Indian southpaw countered with right hooks. The two boxers played from a close range and indulged in a lot of holding in a fast-paced bout with Nitu being given a penalty deduction for clinching towards the end of the second round.
Despite Altansetseg’s strong comeback in the round, Nitu still managed to take it 3-2.
In the final three minutes, Nitu started from afar but soon ditched the strategy and reverted to playing from a close range, as Altansetseg was also given a point deduction for clinching.
Nitu has been in indomitable form in the tournament, winning her first three bouts by RSC (referee stops contest).
Against Alua Balkibekova, who knocked her out in the last edition in the quarterfinal stage, she skilfully adapted to negate the Kazakh’s strong suit.
”I had decided to play aggressively today before the bout and I feel very happy (after the victory). I am proud of myself and my family and would like to thank my coaches, especially my head coach Bhaskar sir,” Nitu said.
”This medal means a lot to me. I have worked for this for 12 years. My family’s financial problems will be solved after this victory. We will use the prize money to pay off our loans,” added Nitu, whose father took three years leave from work to support his daughter.
Fighting the last bout of the day, Saweety, the 2014 silver medallist, was able to change the colour of her medal.
The Haryana boxer looked to attack as soon as the match started but couldn’t connect any of her punches as Wang used her sharp reflexes to dodge. But then Saweety connected a strong straight jab to the delight of the crowd. She continued to attack to edge out her opponent 3-2 in the first two rounds.
It was an ugly bout as both boxers were clinching and trying to throw each other on the canvas.
In the third, Saweety mixed attack with defence. She ducked, dodged and sidestepped, avoiding Wang’s punches to take the round 4-1.
The bout was sent for a review with Saweety emerging on top.
”I am thrilled after fulfilling my dream of becoming the world champion. The bout went well and I was able to execute my planning perfectly. My performance in the tournament got better as the bouts progressed, with my body also responding well,” the triumphant Saweety said.
This title can be considered Saweety’s revival because, after winning the Worlds and Asian silver in 2014 and 2015, she fell off the radar. She missed out on a chance to compete at the Tokyo Olympics as well. She then went on to win the Asian Championships bronze in 2021 followed by the gold in 2022.
The two join an elite list that includes six-time champion Mary Kom (2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2018), Sarita Devi (2006), Jenny RL (2006), Lekha KC (2006) and Nikhat Zareen (2022).
Hosts India are on course to match their best-ever performance in terms of gold medals won with reigning champion Nikhat Zareen and Olympic medallist Lovlina Borgohain set to take the ring on Sunday.
India had won four golds in the 2006 edition which they had hosted in Delhi. It was also their best performance in terms of total medals (8).