Unheralded Sonia Chahal stormed into the finals of Women’s World Boxing Championships by outclassing her North Korean opponent Jo Son Hwa but Simranjit Kaur had to settle for a bronze after losing the semifinal bout here Friday.
The 21-year-old Sonia, who began competing at the senior level only since 2016, registered a unanimous 5-0 win over her more fancied North Korean opponent, a silver medallist in the Jakrata Asian Games, in the 57kg semifinals to reach the final in her debut World Championships.
The rookie boxer joins Mary Kom (48kg) in Saturday’s finals.
Simranjit lost to fleet-footed Chinese Dan Dou, a silver medallist in the Asian Championships last year, on a split 4-1 decision in the 64kg semifinals. The 23-year-old Simranjit was also participating in her first World Championships.
Sonia now faces Wahner Ornella Gabriele of Germany in the final on Saturday. The Haryana boxer can fancy her chances as Gabriele does not have a big reputation.
Seeking a historic sixth gold, Mary Mom will take on Ukrain’s Hanna Okhota in the 48kg summit bout on Saturday.
Assam boxer Lovlina Borgohain had won a bronze in 69kg after losing her semifinal bout on Thursday.
For Sonia, who hails from Bhiwani district in Haryana, it was a stupendous achievement to reach the World Championships final with little experience under her belt.
She began her boxing career in 2011 when she was 14 and rose through the ranks by competing at the school and sub-junior levels. She first won a senior level medal in 2016. Last year, she won a gold in Serbia Cup and bagged a bronze in the Ahmet Comert tournament in Turkey earlier this year.
With two bronze medals already won and two gold medal round bouts yet to come, India has produced its best ever show since the 2008 edition when the country won 1 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze.
That time also, two Indians were in the final and two were beaten in the semifinals.
India can beat this 2008 performance if both Mary Kom and Sonia win a gold each on Saturday.
India’s best performance ever was the eight medals, including four gold, it won in 2006. After that, India won four medals in 2008, two in 2010, one in 2012, two in 2014 and one in 2016.
Sonia was slow to start but soon picked up steam. She was particularly aggressive in the third round and clearly dominated the semifinal bout in the end.
Both the boxers showed their attacking intent in the first round itself and they exchanged quite a few punches. In the second round, Sonia tried to seize control of the bout and threw a flurry of punches but still the North Korean held her ground.
The third round, however, clearly went Sonia’s way. On the advice of the coaches, she went all out and the North Korean was at the receiving end.
“I have never imagined that I will reach the final. But it is happening and I am in the World Championships final at such a young age. I am doing this in front of my home crowd. I am very happy,” Sonia said later.
“My coaches said my opponent won the first round and it was an even affair in the second round and so I have to be aggressive in the third if I have to win the bout. So I changed my game and played aggressive in the third round with 1-2.”
Asked about her opponent in the final on Saturday, she said, “My opponent in the final is a hard-hitting boxer and I have to plan accordingly. I want to win the gold in front of my home crowd.”
For Simranjit, it was a tough job from the beginning as she was trailing in the first two rounds. She had to go all out in the final round which she won but that was not enough to win the bout.
“It was a tough fight. Chinese boxers are very quick and I was having problems in catching her,” she said.
“The first round was not mine and the second round was also very tough. So, the coaches told me to go all out in the third round. I did that but it was not enough.”
Asked if she was satisfied with the result, she said, “Yes, it is all right. The result could have gone either way. I have no issues.
“This is my first World Championships and I won a bronze. I have to be satisfied with this.”