Nitu Ghangas, the 48 kg Commonwealth Games gold medallist, has two things going for her – speed in the ring and her strength. These qualities left experts impressed.
Four years ago, early in his stint as India’s women’s foreign boxing coach Raffaele Bergamasco noticed Nitu was special. He asked the then youth coach Bhaskar Chandra Bhatt to keep him posted about her progress.
On Sunday afternoon, after Nitu won the 48 kg final against England’s Demie Jade Resztan, with a unanimous 5:0 decision, the Italian sent a congratulatory WhatsApp message to Nitu.
“When I spent time at the national youth camp in Bhopal, Nitu’s skill struck me immediately. Her boxing was very simple yet effective. One thing which impressed me during the camp as well as during the two successive world youth championships was that she got rid of her opponents with her speed and physical strength, a thing which she has displayed the whole of last week,” Bergamasco told The Indian Express.
At Birmingham, Nitu first scored an ABD win (when a boxer retires) over Northern Ireland’s Nicole Clyde to move into the semifinals and assure herself of a bronze medal at least. The Irish boxer was a bit taller than Nitu but the Indian relied on slipping her punches, landing her straight punches with right uppercuts as well. In the semifinal bout, Nitu faced Canada’s Priyanka Dhillon and won through RSC (Referee Stops Contest). Dhillon was a counter boxer and Nitu once again relied on her straight punches.
“Nicole was taller than me and was also a southpaw. So I had to go for an attacking style initially. My focus was on slipping her punches and going for straight as well as for the right uppercuts. Canada’s Dhillon was a counter boxer and I went with the plan that I have to bring her to my range and then use straight punches and slip towards the side to avoid her punches,” Nitu told this paper.
But her biggest challenge came in the final. Demie-Jade Resztan is a southpaw and a rough style boxer. Nitu had boxed against her during training bouts in Ireland prior to the games. “She is a bit shorter in height and that’s why she relies on playing rough against taller opponents. My plan was to play from long range and to increase my attacks. When she came forward, I slipped towards right or left and landed counter punches avoiding the clinching initially,” Nitu said.
Her coach at the Bhiwani Boxing Club Jagdish Singh too had a word with her before the final.
“Playing a southpaw that too in the final meant that Nitu would be under some pressure. But she did not look hesitant at all in the first round and played with an excellent ring IQ to dodge her attacks and play from long range. Regarding the 50 kg category (Olympic category), we need to work on her muscular strength and increase some speed and have more accuracy in counter attacks,” Singh said.
Bergamasco too agrees with Singh. “Nitu’s right guard is an advantage over others and her swiftness of the arms and strength makes her a threat in 48 kg. She needed to add more in terms of muscle structure,” says the Italian.
As for Nitu, once she gets home, she would again spend watching the videos of London Olympics and six-time world champion Mary Kom. “Mary didi at her prime played from long range and remained aggressive through all the rounds. Her accuracy in upper cut and the speed by which she landed her left hook is what I aspire to do one day,” Nitu said.
The young boxer has had her share of injuries.
A pelvic injury in 2015 before she won the youth nationals bronze saw Nitu struggling for some time with her straight punches. Post her twin world youth titles in 2017 and 2018 in Guwahati and Budapest respectively, Nitu would suffer a left wrist injury. She also injured her right shoulder.
“Straight punches as well as right jabs before I land left cross and right hook has been my staple all these years. When I got the pelvic injury, my father would help me stand and I would practice the upper body movement as well these punches apart from upper cut lightly so that my muscle memory remains. When I suffered the left wrist injury, it resulted in me using the right hook more and I got my right shoulder injured. It was a tough time for me mentally,” Nitu said.
A Commonwealth Games gold has made Nitu feel like all the sacrifices were worth it.