Women’s World Boxing: Nikhat Zareen storms into quarters

Istanbul: India’s Nikhat Zareen (52kg) stormed into the quarter-finals but it was curtains for Shiksha (54kg) as she lost a close bout in the 12th edition of the IBA Women’s World Boxing Championships here on Sunday.

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The 2019 Asian Championships bronze medallist, NIkhat (52kg) made light work of her Mongolian rival Lutsaikhan Altantsetseg to sail into the quarter-finals of the 52kg category.

Nikhat was the first Indian in action on Sunday and she completely dominated from start to finish to outpunch Altantsetseg in a unanimous 5-0 verdict in her round-of-16 bout.

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The boxer from Nizamabad in Telangana used her quick hands to great effect and landed a flurry of straight punches on her rival’s face in all three rounds. The highlight of Nikhat’s display was her immaculate footwork and speed, which the Mongolian found difficult to handle.

Nikhat will next face England’s Charley Davison, who defeated Hainite Kayla of Togo in the Round of 16.

Shiksha couldn’t move to the next round losing 2-3 by a split decision to Youth Asian bronze medallist Yesugen Oyuntsetseg of Mongolia.

A slow and defensive start cost Shiksha dearly in her 54kg bout as she took time to get into the groove in the first round, which the Mongolian won.

But Shiksha came back strongly in the second round and adopted a more aggressive approach which paid rich dividends for her as she won the round.

But the Indian couldn’t hold on to her tempo in the final round as Oyuntsetseg waited for openings to land her punches and succeed in her ploy to pocket the close contest.

Four Indian boxers have already qualified for the quarter-finals.

The 2022 Strandja Memorial Gold medallist Nitu (48kg) will take on Alua Balkibekova of Kazakhstan in the last-eight match, while Manisha (57kg) will face a tough challenge from Youth World bronze medallist Namuun Monkhor of Mongolia.

Tokyo Olympian and two-time Asian Champion Pooja Rani (75kg) will fight against Australia’s Jessica Bagley in her last-eight bout, while Nandini (81+kg) will begin her campaign against Morocco’s Khadija Mardi in the quarter-finals.

All the quarter-finals will take place on Monday.

This year’s event, which marks the 20th an’iversary of the IBA Women’s World Championships, will be played till May 20.

In the last edition of the tournament, held in Russia in 2019, Indian boxers secured one silver and three bronze medals.

Indian boxers have won 36 medals, including nine gold, eight silver and 19 bronze, in the 11 previous editions of the tournament, which is the third-highest after Russia (60) and China (50).

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