Lovlina, Nikhat crowned world champions

Lovlina Nikhat
Lovlina Borgohain (left) and Nikhat Zareen | BFI

India’s illustrious pugilists Nikhat Zareen and Lovlina Borgohain recorded contrasting victories to cap off their outstanding campaigns by clinching the gold at the IBA women’s world boxing championship as the hosts finished the tournament with the highest number of gold medals (four) at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex in New Delhi on March 26.

The reigning world champion Nikhat (50kg) defeated Nguyem Thi Tam of Vietnam to win gold for a second consecutive year at the tournament while the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Lovlina (75kg) claimed her maiden world championship gold with a 5-2 win on points after the bout was reviewed against Caitlin Parker of Australia.

Living up to her name, the tenacious Nikhat (50kg) oozed class in her rampant display against the two-time Asian champion Nguyen as she asserted her dominance in the bout from the word go by landing accurate punches and using her quick feet to dodge the Vietnamese’s attacks. The 2022 Commonwealth Games gold medallist maintained her composure throughout the bout and proved why she’s one of the best in the business with a sensational attacking display that helped her seal the win by unanimous decision.

With this victory, Nikhat became only the second Indian female pugilist to win two gold medals at the world championships alongside the boxing legend Mary Kom who has claimed a record six gold medals in the competition.

“I am extremely delighted to become world champion for the second time, especially in a different category. Today’s bout was my toughest in the entire tournament and since this was the last match of the tournament I wanted to utilize my energy completely and leave everything in the ring. It was a rollercoaster of a bout with both of us getting warnings as well as eight counts and it was very close. My strategy in the last round was to go all out and attack and I felt very happy when my hand was lifted as the winner. This medal is for India and for everyone who have supported us throughout the tournament,” said Nikhat after her bout.

Competing in her first world championships final, Lovlina faced a tough challenge against the two-time Commonwealth Games medallist Parker but produced a world-class display to come out on top in the closely contested matchup. The bout kept going back and forth with the Indian edging out her opponent with a 3-2 margin in the first round before the Australian coming back to prevail in the next round by 4-1. Ultimately, it was the 25-year-old Assam-born pugilist who utilized her vast experience and supreme technical ability to outpunch her opponent in the final round and secure her third world championships medal.

“I feel happy to become the world champion and win the gold for my country. As the opponent was strong we changed the strategy for the bout according to her gameplay. Our plan was to fight the first two rounds on the front foot and then play counter-attacks in the last round from distance. I won bronze in 2018 and 2019 so it feels good to change the colour of the medals to gold,” said Lovlina after the bout.

Both pugilists were rewarded with Rs 82.7 lakhs ($100,000) each in prize money for becoming world champions.

Following Nikhat and Lovlina’s triumphs, India accumulated a total of four medals in the competition, all of which were gold.

The 2022 Commonwealth Games medallist Nitu Ghanghas (48kg) and three-time Asian medallist Saweety Boora (81kg) were the other gold medallists for the hosts.

This is the second time in history that India have won four gold medals at the women’s world boxing championships with the only other occasion being in 2006 when Mary Kom, Sarita Devi, Jenny Lalremliani and Lekha KC had won gold for the country.

With a massive prize pool of Rs 20 crore, the prestigious event witnessed the participation of 324 boxers, including several Olympic medallists, from 65 countries fighting for the titles in the 12 weight categories.

Indian medallists:

Gold: Nitu Ghanghas (48kg), Nikhat Zareen (50kg), Lovlina Borgohain (75kg) and Saweety Boora (81kg).

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