Indians show signs of the future at AIBA Women’s Worlds 

While Mary Kom continued to haul records and recognition, three young aspirants proved their worth at the world stage.
By Sandeep Banerjee

The 2019 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships that concluded on Sunday (October 13) was a fruitful one for India. 

While the legendary MC Mary Kom became the most decorated pugilist at the Worlds, winning her eighth medal this time, the likes of Manju Rani, Lovlina Borgohain and Jamuna Boro shone in the spotlight too as the Indian contingent returned home with four medals from Ulan-Ude.

India’s MC Mary Kom won a record eighth medal at the World Championships in Russia. Image courtesy: AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships

What can you say about Mary Kom that hasn’t been said before? There’s no doubt about the legendary status of the 36-year-old mother of three and her willingness to go the distance in preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. But the 2019 edition of the Worlds also showed that Indian boxing is more than just Mary Kom and her exploits. 

Dream debut

Leading the new crop of Indian pugilists was Manju Rani who made the most of her first foray at the Worlds to clinch the silver medal in the light flyweight (48kg) category. Though the final didn’t go her way, Rani’s run to the final was nothing less than commendable.

The Worlds saw the 19-year-old beat top seed and 2018 bronze medallist Kim Hyang Mi (South Korea) through a split decision (4-1), and then get the better of Thailand's Chuthamat Raksat in the semis to make her way into the final.

Manju Rani became the first Indian in 18 years to reach the final on her World Championships debut. Image courtesy: AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships.

Hailing from Haryana, Rani had to deal with the loss of her father at an all too tender age. Taking up boxing to keep her mind off the tragedy, the teenager would practise in the mud pit where she would be discovered by boxing coach Sube Singh Beniwal in 2012.

Soon, she started winning State Championships in her native state Haryana but was passed up for the Nationals. That made her opt for Punjab, from where she soon made it to the national squad.

Double delight

Many find it hard to win a medal at the World Championships, but not Lovlina Borgohain. This young pugilist seems to be making it a habit to be on the podium every single time so far.

While 2018 saw the 22-year-old win a bronze in the welterweight (69kg) category in her debut year, 2019 was no different as she matched that feat with some top-quality boxing last week.

Born in the Golaghat district of Assam, Borgohain harboured dreams of a fighting career from a young age. Her father was sympathetic towards that dream, having allowed her two elder sisters to compete and climb all the way up to the national level of kickboxing.

Like them, Borgohain too started out in kickboxing but opted for boxing later on. After a trial held by the Sports Authority of India, Coach Padum Boro selected and began training her in 2012.

Later, under the tutelage of Shiv Singh, she clinched gold at the inaugural India Open in February 2018 which led to her entry into the 2018 Commonwealth Games a couple of months later, where she lost to Sandy Ryan of England.

However, her crowning moment came when she took the bronze medal at the 2018 World Championships in New Delhi.

Calculated move 

She might have a calm and quiet demeanour, but once she’s inside the ring, Jamuna Boro is a different personality.

Someone who prefers to play the waiting game, Boro - at the Worlds - was seen making the most her time in the ring as she manoeuvred well to land clean punches and force her opponents into committing errors.

Jamuna Boro clinched a bronze medal at the 2019 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships. Image courtesy: AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships.

Starting out in Wushu (a martial art also known as Chinese kungfu) under the guidance of Coach John Smith Narzary, Boro caught the attention of Sports Authority of India talent-spotters in 2009. 

Soon, she picked up her first gold at the first Sub-Junior Women’s National Boxing Championship in Tamil Nadu. More awards followed at both national and international levels, and now has a World Championships bronze medal added to that list.

While hopes from Mary Kom to go and achieve big at the Tokyo Olympics will be sky-high, the Indian fans can now also look up to this trio to hopefully replicate their performance first at the Olympic qualifiers next year in Wuhan, China from February 3-14 and subsequently at the Olympics.