Amit Panghal will be eager to exorcise the ghosts of disappointing Tokyo Games while Lovlina Borgohain will seek redemption after an underwhelming World Championship outing as the country’s pugilists gear up to negotiate a tricky path at the Commonwealth Games.
Reigning world champion Nikhat Zareen will also be the cynosure of all eyes as the Telangana boxer will look to extend her golden streak. Nikhat has been on title-winning spree having emerged victorious at the Nationals, the prestigious Stradja Memorial tournament and the World Championships. But at the CWG, the 26-year-old will have a different challenge.
Nikhat, who competes in 52kg, has moved down to 50kg category. The 2019 Asian Championship bronze medallist and her coaches will assess how she adapts to the new weight class so that they can decide her event for the Paris Olympics.
The weight loss may lead to decrease in strength but Nikhat is a technically sharp boxer who has ample experience which should help her.
Lovlina has had a whirlwind year. The Assam boxer, who prefers to keep a low profile, was pushed into the spotlight ever since she won the bronze at the Tokyo Olympics last year. The 24-year-old self-admittedly lost focus due the endless functions and other commitments outside the boxing ring, which affected her performance.
Known to be a high-performing asset, the two time World Championship bronze medallist’s campaign at the marquee event ended early this time with a disappointing loss. The technically sound long range boxer will be eager to clinch the medal which had eluded her in Gold Coast.
Last time around during the CWG, Panghal (51kg) was in a rich vein of form that included winning a silver at Gold Coast, gold at the Asian Games, Strandja Memorial and Asian Championships and an unprecedented silver at the World Championships in 2019.
Considered a sure-shot medal contender at the Olympics, expectations where sky high. But Panghal had a disappointing Tokyo Games, where he was knocked out in the pre-quarterfinals, which was followed by months of scrutiny. He gave the subsequent World Championship a miss and returned to competition at the Thailand Open where he won a silver medal.
The Haryana boxer, who is a nice mix of controlled aggression and tactical acumen, will be eager to redeem himself and change the colour of his medal at the big-ticket event.
Similarly, the experienced Shiva Thapa (63.5kg) will be keen to add a CWG medal in his trophy cabinet. The 28-year-old, who has five Asian Championship medals, makes an appearance at the Games after eight years, having missed the Gold Coast edition.
The other experienced campers including Olympian Ashish Kumar (80kg), who has moved up from 75kg, last edition’s bronze medallist Mohammad Hussamuddin (57kg) and Asian Championship gold medallist Sanjeet (92kg+) are also title contenders.
The likes of Rohit Tokas (67kg), Sumit Kundu (75kg), and Sagar (+92kg) are low on experience but have tremendous potential. It would be interesting to see how they respond to the pressure of the marquee event. In the absence of the legendary MC Mary Kom, who suffered a heartbreaking injury during the trials, all hopes will be pinned on Lovlina and Nikhat but debutants Nitu Ghanghas (48kg) and Jaismine Lamboriya (60kg) are not to be taken lightly.
The dynamic Nitu won the gold at the Strandja Memorial and was close to clinching a world championship medal on debut but unfortunately fell ill on the day of the quarterfinal. Although Nitu lacks maturity in ring craft and doesn’t have much experience at the elite level, her confidence gives her the edge.
Jaismine, on the other hand, is a technically strong boxer. She had won the Asian Championships bronze last year and defeated World Championship bronze medallist Parveen Hooda in the trials to book a ticket to Birmingham. However, the lanky pugilist, will have to show more aggression rather than just relying on her long range counter attacks.
The Indian pugilists’ best-ever CWG show came in 2018 where six-time world champion Mary Kom became the first woman boxer from the country to win the title and all the male boxers returned with a medal around their necks
The Indian boxers returned with a record haul of three gold, three silver and three bronze medals and the aim will be to better last edition’s result. But that is easier said than done as overcoming boxers from England, Ireland, Australia will be a challenging task.
Women: Nitu (48kg), Nikhat Zareen (50kg), Jaismine (60kg), Lovlina Borgohain (70Kg).
Men: Amit Panghal (51kg), Mohammad Hussamuddin (57kg), Shiva Thapa (63.5kg) Rohit Tokas (67kg), reigning national champion Sumit (75kg), Ashish Kumar (80kg), Sanjeet (92kg) and Sagar (92kg+)