New Delhi: Amit Panghal will be eager to dispel the ghosts of disappointing Tokyo Games while Lovlina Borgohain will seek redemption after a disappointing World Cup outing as the country’s boxers prepare for a tricky path during the Commonwealth Games.
Reigning world champion Nikhat Zareen will also be the cynosure of all eyes as the Telangana boxer looks to extend her golden streak.
Nikhat has won titles and emerged victorious at the Nationals, the prestigious Stradja Memorial tournament and the World Championships. But at the CWG, the 26-year-old faces a different challenge.
Nikhat, who participates in 52 kg, has been reduced to the 50 kg category. The bronze medalist of the 2019 Asian Championship and her coaches will judge how she adapts to the new weight class so they can decide her event for the Paris Olympics.
The weight loss can lead to a loss of strength, but Nikhat is a technically sharp boxer who has a lot of experience that should help her.
Lovlina has had a stormy year. The Assam boxer, who prefers to keep a low profile, has been in the limelight since she won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics last year.
The 24-year-old admittedly lost focus due to the endless features and other commitments outside the boxing ring that affected her performance.
The campaign of the two-time World Cup bronze medalist at the event, who is known as a high-performing asset, ended early this time with a disappointing loss.
The technically savvy long-distance boxer is eager to win the medal, which had eluded her in the Gold Coast.
Last time at the CWG, Panghal (51kg) was in rich form, including winning Gold Coast silver, Asian Games gold, Strandja Memorial and Asian Championships and an unprecedented silver at the 2019 World Championships.
Considered a guaranteed medal contender in the Olympics, expectations were sky high. But Panghal had a disappointing Tokyo Games, where he was eliminated in the pre-quarter finals, followed by months of control.
He missed the ensuing World Championship and returned to competition at the Thailand Open, where he won a silver medal.
A nice blend of controlled aggression and tactical acumen, the Haryana boxer will happily break free and change the color of his medal during the big event.
Likewise, the experienced Shiva Thapa (63.5 kg) will happily put a CWG medal in his trophy cabinet. The 28-year-old, who has five Asian Championship medals, will appear at the Games after eight years, having missed the Gold Coast edition.
The other veteran campers including Olympian Ashish Kumar (80kg) who has risen from 75kg, previous edition’s bronze medalist Mohammad Hussamuddin (57kg) and Asian Championship gold medalist Sanjeet (92kg+) are also title contenders .
People like Rohit Tokas (67 kg), Sumit Kundu (75 kg) and Sagar (+92 kg) have little experience, but have enormous potential. It would be interesting to see how they react to the marquee pressure.
In the absence of legendary MC Mary Kom, who suffered a heartbreaking injury during the trials, all hopes are pinned on Lovlina and Nikhat, but debutants Nitu Ghanghas (48kg) and Jaismine Lamboriya (60kg) should not be taken lightly.
The dynamic Nitu took the gold at the Strandja Memorial and was close to taking a World Cup medal on his debut, but unfortunately fell ill on the day of the quarter-finals.
Although Nitu has no maturity in ring crafts and does not have much experience at the elite level, her confidence gives her an edge.
Jaismine, on the other hand, is a technically strong boxer. She had won the Asian Championship bronze last year, beating World Championship bronze medalist Parveen Hooda in the trials to book a ticket to Birmingham.
However, the lanky boxer will need to show more aggression rather than relying solely on her long-range counterattacks.
The Indian boxers’ best-ever CWG show took place in 2018, where six-time world champion Mary Kom became the country’s first female boxer to win the title and all male boxers returned with a medal around their necks.
The Indian boxers returned with a record three gold, three silver and three bronze medals and the aim is to improve on last edition’s result. But that’s easier said than done, as overcoming boxers from England, Ireland and Australia will be a challenging task.
Women: Nitu (48kg), Nikhat Zareen (50kg), Jaismine (60kg), Lovlina Borgohain (70kg).
Men: Amit Panghal (51 kg), Mohammad Hussamuddin (57 kg), Shiva Thapa (63.5 kg) Rohit Tokas (67 kg), Reigning National Champion Sumit (75 kg), Ashish Kumar (80 kg), Sanjeet (92 kg) and Sagar (92 kg+).
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