By a Correspondent
New Delhi, Nov 18,
Kellie Harrington from Ireland stopped what could have been a Perfect 10 for India when Sarita Devi got a split verdict against her (2-3) in the lightweight (60 kg) category as the 28-year-old Irish woman in the 10th AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships here yesterday.
What turned the bout in favour of the Astana and European medal winner was the third round in which the Ireland pugilist was really charged and out-boxed her Indian veteran, who was returning to the Worlds after 12 years. But the 36-year-old definitely had the edge in the two earlier rounds. Three out of five judges gave 29-28 in favour of the Irish boxer.
“I thought I got unluckier. Some points did not go my way. But I will continue to box as long as I can,” said a dejected Manipuri.
But the loss was made up none other than the 35-year-old Indian icon, M.C. Mary Kom, Manisha Moun, Lovlina Borgohain and Bhagyabati Kachari who all marched into the quarterfinals on the fourth day of the championships.
Just before Sarita Devi’s bout, chasing her sixth world title, Mary Kom made it as easy as it can get in her opening bout in the 48 kg class when she won a unanimous decision against Aigerim Kassenayeva from Kazakhstan.
The experienced Manipuri sent down a few rights which brooked no challenge from her rival who, reeling under pressure, slipped twice before gathering herself up. But she was never able to match the guile and speed of a 35-year-old. Mary will take on Wu Yu of China in the quarterfinals on Tuesday afternoon. The Chinese had earlier beaten Filipino Josie Gabuo.
Talking after the bout, Mary Kom said: “Feeling good, the pressure is off. I always enjoyed boxing, it has been my life whether I train or compete in tournaments,” said the mother of three children.
“I am happy I lived up to expectations. I got doubly energized because of the support from my fans,” added the pugilist before going for a cool-off session. On her Chinese opponents, Mary said: “She is a new entrant and I will have to see how to handle her.”
In the afternoon, Manisha outpunched her way to upstage reigning world champion Dina Zholaman from Kazakhstan with a unanimous decision in the 54 kg pre-quarterfinals. It was Manisha’s successive victory over the Kazakh whom the Indian had beaten in Poland recently. Manisha, having met her opponent once before, banked on her speed and evasive action to keep Zholaman out of harm’s way. The India’s left-right and the straights made her a clear first-round winner but the experienced Kazakh came back aggressively in the second. Yet, did well in the third round despite raised intensity and land a few combination blows even as Dina made good efforts, charging at the Indian. But it didn’t matter in the end as the Haryana girl had full points from three judges to win 5:0.
Asked about her strategy, Manisha said: “I had beaten her once before (in Poland) and I focused on speed and concentrated on target areas. I did well in the first two rounds but in the third it was more or less even.”
Manisha takes on top-seeded Stoyka Zhelyakova Petrova, who defeated Uzbek’s Tursunoy Rakhimova 4:1, in the quarterfinals. The Bulgarian had won a silver medal at Astana and had started the championships here as a favourite medal contender.
But Manisha is not worried yet. “Our coaches will tell me the way to stop her (Petrova) when we sit for a meeting today evening. I will also watch videos to plan things,” said the 20-yar-old Indian.
Equally impressive was Lovlina in her 69 kg pre-quarterfinal bout against Panama’s Atheyna Bylon, former world champion. Getting full points against the gold medal winner at Jeju in 2014 was as credible as it can get for the Indian who did leave a chance to throw punches at her rival right from the word go.
The tall Panama pugilist some startled by the Lovlina’s charge and was tactically not as good despite her experience, having won multiple medals internationally. The southpaw did come at the Indian intermittently but Lovilina punched her way ahead, collecting the goodwill of judges on technical and tactical aspects (27-30, 27-30, 27-30, 27-30, 27-30) to be a clear winner.
“I know it would be a tough bout. But I had the confident because I had prepared well. I had a good defence despite the tall opponent coming at good speed at me,” said the Assamese, who will clash with Australian Kaye Frances Scott in the quarterfinals.
The Aussie beat Kazkhstan’s Akerke Bakhytzhan in a unanimous decision. The 34-year-old has a silver medal from the last edition of the world championships at Asthana besides a bronze medal from the 2018 CWG. But the Indian has the age on her side as she is just 21 years old and very nimble footed.
In the last bout of the afternoon, Baghyabati Kachari proved her prowess, beating Germany’s Irina-Nicoletta Schonberger in a split verdict (4:1) in 81 kg category. After a very positive start and a grand opening, the Assam boxer was pushed somewhat on the back foot in the second with the German, cleverly using her reach to land a few combination punches.
But the strong Indian launched really nicely in the third as both pugilists went broke in the last minute. The points (29-28, 29-28, 29-28, 29-28, 29-28) that the judges awarded indicate that the Indian was superior technically.
“Speed was essential against the German and I controlled it nicely. My coaches told me to keep it lower and I followed the direction. Ultimately, it paid off,” said Baghyabati.
Day five witnessed a upset,top seed in Russian boxer, Anastasiia Beliakova lost to China’s Yang Wenlu in the 60 kg category in a split decision of 3:2.