Part of the national camp since her sub-junior days, Lovlina Borgohain felt she needed something special to show for what had been an indifferent year. The 21-year-old started with a gold at the India Open, but lost a close contest against eventual gold medallist Sandy Ryan at the Commonwealth Games. “I wanted a medal. After I failed at Gold Coast, I was heartbroken. So there was a lot of pressure here at the World Championships,” said Borgohain, who defeated Australian Kaye Scott in the 69kg quarterfinal of the world championship on Tuesday, becoming the fourth boxer to ensure India of a medal along with Mary Kom, Simranjit Kaur and Sonia Chahal.
“Itna sab chhod diya boxing ke liye. This medal counts for a lot,” said Borgohain, who started out as a Muay Thai fighter and has had to make a number of sacrifices to represent India at her maiden world championship, the least of which was her waist-length hair. “It used to bother me during training, all the sweat and general inconvenience. I miss it sometimes, but boxing is more important,” says Borgohain, who will revert from the present close-cropped style to the buzz cut she sported at Gold Coast after this tournament gets over. But leaving the sleepy Golaghat district of Assam was way tougher for Borgohain.
“I had never lived away from home. Hostel me aake bohot roya main. Ek din ghar pe baat kare bina nahi reh sakti thi,” says Borgohain, who later found a friend in fellow Assamese Bhagyabati Kachari and a confidante in a diary. There’s nothing specific about the entries, but for one motto she jots in when she wakes up and after training.
“Day by day, I will get better and better.”
Between the more popular veterans and fellow first-timers putting on exciting performances, Borgohain’s march to the semifinals – with unanimous wins over 2014 champion Atheyna Bylon and CWG bronze medallist Scott – has been understated, befitting her demeanour.
On Tuesday, Borgohain began as the aggressor, landing blows and catching the incoming Australian with counters. Scott, 34, controlled the tempo in the second round, picking off Borgohain from a distance before the Indian struck back at the behest of her corner. With both playing the waiting game for most of the third round, Borgohain effectively made up the gap in the last minute with double jabs, step-in hooks and combinations.
“It was a tough fight, but I have worked on my weaknesses and strengths and conditioning all year,” said Borgohain, who next faces Taipei’s Chen Nien-Chin. “I am waiting to win the gold, after which I will do everything I’ve put on hold. Baal buzz cut karna hai, diary likhna hai aur ghar ka khaana khana hai.”
Mary, the gold standard
It was a sterner test than her opening bout, but Mary dispatched China’s Wu Yu in the 48kg quarterfinals, ensuring her seventh world championship medal and becoming the most successful fighter in the event’s history. The 35-year-old, who had five golds and a silver before Tuesday, was tied on six medals with Irish Katie Taylor.
Wu was decidedly quicker than the Indian, but Mary edged the contest by feinting, landing and disengaging.
“It was very tough,” said Mary. “Once I knew her game, I planned and made the strategy accordingly. China keep changing their boxers and do not repeat them. They have got a lot of boxers, good boxers and strong boxers.”
Next up is North Korea’s Kim Hyang Mi, whom Mary defeated last year to clinch her fifth Asian Championships title and kick-start her current run. “I don’t have to be too overconfident. Just be confident,” said the Olympic bronze medallist. “Her game can change from that last loss. She would have analysed my fight. I will look at her in the ring in the first round and then see from there.”
Sonia, Simranjit in Last 4
First-timers Chahal and Simranjit posted contrasting wins to enter the semifinals of the 57kg and 64kg categories respectively.
Chahal bounced back from Monday’s hullabaloo after defeating 2014 world champion Stanimira Petrova with a strategic 4-1 win over Colombia’s Yeni Castenada. Casteneda, the shorter and more powerful boxer of the two, began the bout pressuring the 21-year-old Indian. Caught fighting on the inside, Chahal received a hook which left her rattled. Coach Raffaele Bergamasco and Co then advised Chahal to use her reach, after which she hung back and boxed from a distance, leaving the Colombia to futilely chase her opponent.
Simranjit, meanwhile, defeated Irish Amy Broadhurst by a contentious 3-1 majority decision. The fighters put on an exciting clash, with both Simranjit and Broadhurst landing several clean blows. Broadhurst appeared to be doing more damage but was docked a point in the third round for ‘slapping’ – hitting with the inside of her glove – after she had been warned.