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AIBA Women’s World’s campaign delivers 4 medals, and points to dwell on

Head coach Mohammad Ali Qamar broke down the good and the bad of the campaign in Russia during Tuesday's felicitation ceremony.

Written by Gaurav Bhatt | New Delhi |
October 16, 2019 1:15:03 am
AIBA Women’s World's campaign delivers 4 medals, and points to dwell on The Indian women’s contingent with coach Raffaele Bergamasco. PTI

A second successive four-medal haul at the World Championships speaks of the health of women boxing in India, but there remains a need to tweak and improve ahead of next year’s Olympic qualifiers. Head coach Mohammad Ali Qamar broke down the good and the bad of the campaign in Russia during Tuesday’s felicitation ceremony.

Technique and strategy

The good things first. Indians go into the bouts technically and strategically equipped. “We have superior technique. Most other countries stand and trade,” said Qamar. “Our girls move much better, with coordination.”

Take for example Jamuna Boro’s 54kg semifinal against the freakishly-tall-for-the-division Hsiao-Wen Huan of Chinese Taipei. The lanky 5’8 boxer, who’s been going through massive weight cuts to drop down from her native 60kg division, had the height and reach advantage to overwhelm Boro. But the Indian put up a fair fight.

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“I thought I won. The coaches were telling me I won,” said Boro, who lost the fight 5-0 to the eventual gold-medallist. “The judges who are watching from below, they usually favour the taller boxer. If someone has the height, even if she is keeping distance and only trying to punch from the range, makes a good impression on the judges.”

The 5’4 Boro had dispatched taller opponents in the earlier rounds, and thus had the prototype to counter Huan. “She was staying at a distance, but she wasn’t able to connect properly. I was moving well, slipping in and out. I used the 3-2, 4-5 combinations to go inside, even the hooks were landing,” said Boro. “I will see her again, and probably this time I will use my left hand to block instead of slipping and punching. Will try to be more aggressive too.”

Qamar said: “The strategy was there. She was playing from a range, Jamuna tried to go in and stop her from extending her punches. It’s all about going all out for her.”

Strategies are good, executions could be better. But Indian boxers also need to adapt to the situation. Lovlina Borgohain had prepared for Chinese number 1 Gu Hong, last year’s finalist and 2019 Asian champion. In the preparatory camp in Italy, Borgohain dominated Hong and felt good about her chances in Russia. The Chinese camp then switched Hong with unheralded Liu Yang, who defeated Borgohain to make the final.

“They completely switched up their planning, and sent her,” said Borgohain, who was down with fever thanks to the sub-zero temperature in Ulan-Ude. “In the hall, sparring and all was fine. But I couldn’t practice outside because of the fever.”

Strength

“Boxers from other countries are stronger,” shared Qamar. “You can see it in their muscles, very strong. Italy, Netherlands, Germany. Most of the European teams focus a lot on strength.”

Qamar shares that going forward, the Indian contingent would look to opt for open gym sessions and increased strength training. “Increase the amount of weight, maximum strength training will be the focus.”

Video analysis and nutrition

Ali also spoke of the importance of video analysis, and how India could spend some more time scouting opponents. While the women’s contingent has a video analyst at disposal, the boxers as well as coaches could do more to draw up battle plans.

“I think we need to focus on it more. Watch three-four bouts, maybe coaches could sit down with the boxers,” said Qamar, who added that nutrition remains a key issue as well. “We are not being able to make the boxers get rid of oily food. Doodh, ghee. You tell them to drop it and they go ‘this is what we’ve grown up on.’ Nutrition is paramount and that’s another thing we will focus on.”

Pressure

“Often we would wonder, why are our boxers so exhausted after a practice session. We realised that they are taking a lot of pressure,” said Qamar. “Nowadays, the draws are readily available. Online, via WhatsApp. They start looking too far ahead. ‘Tomorrow I am facing her. My final can be against this one. That is the another thing they need to mentally improve about.”

But while pressure could make straightforward fights difficult — “I was so scared before my first round match because I was opening India’s campaign” shared Boro — others could rise up to the moment.

“My first fight was easy, but the second was against number 1, top seeded boxer,” said Manju Rani, who beat North Korean Kim Hyang-Mi in the 48kg quarterfinal. “There was a little nervousness. But I realised that if I win this fight, my life will change. I fought with everything I had then.”

Scoring

Majority of the Indian contingent returned from Russia with the feeling of being wronged. And one has been more vocal about perceived partiality against Indian boxers than Mary Kom, who lost in the semifinal. “I don’t want to say I am right. I am not happy with the decision, that is all,” said Mary, who added that she is not worried about facing Chinese boxers in China at the Olympic qualifiers because “it will be organised by the IOC, not AIBA.”

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