New Delhi, Mar 24 (IANS): On the back of outstanding campaigns, India and China will be leading the field in the finals of the IBA Women's World Boxing Championship with four of the respective countries' top pugilists setting their sights set on clinching the gold at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex, here on Saturday and Sunday.
For India, the 2022 Commonwealth Games champion Nitu Ghanghas, the reigning World champion Nikhat Zareen, the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Lovlina Borgohain and three-time Asian medallist Saweety Boora will be competing in the finals.
On the other hand, Wu Yu (52kg), Yang Chengyu (63kg), Yang Liu (66kg) and Wang Lina (81kg) will be the four Chinese pugilists aiming for gold.
Kicking off India's gold medal charge, the two-time World Youth champion Nitu (48kg) will take to the ring against the two-time Asian Championships bronze medallist Lutsaikhan Altantsetseg of Mongolia in the finals on Saturday. The 22-year-old Indian who is competing in her second World Championships has had a stellar campaign so far, recording three victories by Referee Stops Contest (RSC) verdicts and will look to extend that momentum in the final.
"Winning against Kazakhstan (yesterday) was the most pressurising since I lost the last time (in the World Championships quarter finals) and after winning, I do feel confident. I can see a lot of improvement in my game as earlier I used to play just a single kind of game but now I know how to seamlessly change my techniques according to my opponent, and I am sure I'll continue to play like this going further.
I haven't seen the bouts of my opponent for the finals but I will see her bouts and I will prepare accordingly. As far the aggression is concerned it will depend on the fight," said Nitu.
Determined to defend her title and win back-to-back World Championships gold medals, Nikhat (50kg) will be squaring off against the two-time Asian champion and 2018 Asian Games bronze medallist Nguyen Thi Tam of Vietnam in the final on Sunday.
Despite shifting to the light flyweight category, the distinguished pugilist from Telangana has comfortably dominated all of her opponents so far including the African champion Roumaysa Boualam of Algeria, the two-time Worlds bronze medallist Chuthamat Raksat of Thailand and the Rio Olympics bronze medallist Ingrit Valencia of Colombia.
"This is the first competition in my boxing career where I am fighting a total of six bouts, especially back to back and all against experienced and tough opponents. However, I am really happy by the calibre of the performance I am showing here. I have placed my way into the finals even in the 50kg weight category and there is just one more match to go to win and defend my title. As I am moving forward my game is improving so I hope to give my best in the finals," said Nikhat.
Having secured two World Championships bronze medals in 2018 and 2019, Lovlina (75kg) will be giving it her all to ensure that her third medal in the competition is gold when she takes on the two-time Commonwealth Games medallist Caitlin Parker of Australia in the final on Sunday. Similar to Nikhat, the Telangana born pugilist has also changed her weight category and has been at the top of her game throughout the tournament, defeating the highly decorated Li Qian of China in the semi-finals on Thursday.
"When I started playing in the 75kg category, I played national games, national championship and Asian Championship. Now coming to the present, all the games I have till yet played in this category have gone smoothly and I feel that I am more comfortable in this category as I don't need to control myself a lot and do well in my natural weight. The next final will be tough but I will follow what the coaches tell me to and apply some of my planning in the ring with regards to the situation. I will keep fighting for my country and try to win gold for India to the best of my abilities and give my 100%," said Lovlina.
Contesting her second World Championships final, Saweety (81kg) will go head to head against the 2018 World champion Wang Lina of China in the final on Saturday. The experienced pugilist from Haryana had to settle for the silver in the final of the competition in 2014 which was also against a Chinese opponent and hence, will look to go all out this time round to avoid a repeat of that result.
"The bout (yesterday) was tough and the opponent was good but I was confident in my scoring and I was confident that I would win. I have a golden chance of changing my silver medal into gold and I hope I can do that. I have worked day and night for this and I want to make my country proud," said Saweety.
With four medals, India ranked joint third alongside Colombia in the medals tally at the IBA Women's World Championships 2023 with China (7) and Kazakhstan (6) ranking first and second respectively.
Also striving for gold in this year's tournament finals will be the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallists Huang Hsiao-Wen (54kg) of China and Irma Testa (57kg) of Italy. While Hsiao-Wen will face the reigning Bolivarian Games champion Yeni Arias of Colombia on Sunday, Testa will take on last World Championships bronze medallist Karina Ibragimova of Kazakhstan in the finals on Saturday.
The 2019 World Champion and Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Beatriz Ferreira (60kg) of Brazil will face off against Valdez Pana Angie Paola of Colombia in the final on Sunday.
The on-going prestigious event is witnessing the participation of 324 boxers, including several Olympic medallists, from 65 countries fighting for the titles in the 12 weight categories. The tournament has a massive prize pool of INR 20 crore.