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Boxers Nikhat, Lovlina, Nitu, Saweety Punch way into World Championships finals

Nikhat Nitu

Nikhat Zareen (50kg), Lovlina Borgohain (75kg), Nitu Ghanghas (48kg) and Saweety Boora (81kg) advanced to the final of the Women’s World Boxing Championships with stellar semifinal wins here on Thursday.

While Nikhat out-punched Rio Olympics bronze medallist Ingrit Valencia of Colombia 5-0, Nitu eked out a 5-2 victory over reigning Asian champion Alua Balkibekova of Kazakhstan.

Two-time Worlds bronze medallist Lovlina beat Li Qian of China by a 4-1 margin to book her maiden appearance in the final of the prestigious tournament.

Saweety too cruised into the title round with a 4-3 win over Australia’s Sue- Emma Greentree.

Reigning 52kg champion Nikhat, who is competing in the 50kg category, used her speed and tactical acumen to see off Valencia to keep alive the defence of her title.

Fighting a formidable opponent, who beat the legendary Mary Kom at the Tokyo Olympics, Nikhat came well prepared and had her strategy sorted.

Nikhat attacked in the opening two rounds and once she dominated the first six minutes, she started to defend.

The unanimous decision win is a testament to Nikhat’s skill and physical fitness as the Telangana boxer had to fight five bouts, including three back-to-back ones, to reach the final.

“Today’s bout was my best. I feel like I play better when I face technical boxers. I have played her before and she’s an experienced boxer. It was a clean game,” Nikhat said.

Two-time Asian champion Nguyen Thi Tam of Vietnam now stands in front of Nikhat and her second Worlds gold.

In the first bout of the day, Nitu gave the hosts a thunderous start. In a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal, Nitu and Balkibekova went all guns blazing in the first round.

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Nitu, who had lost to Balkibekova in Istanbul, learned from her mistakes and adapted well.

She played from close range, throwing Balkibekova off her natural game as the Kazakh prefers to box from a distance.

The Kazakh still maintained her dominance to take the 3-2.

In the final two rounds, Nitu persisted with her strategy and was able to land clean hooks and jabs, but the Kazakh didn’t make things easy.

Balkibekova, last edition’s silver medallist, repeatedly resorted to body blows and clinching tactics.

The final three minutes were a tense affair. It was the first time in the tournament that Nitu was playing the third round, and the closeness of the contest saw the bout go into a review.

“I played from a distance last time (in Istanbul), so I was not able to recover. This time I played from close range,” Nitu said after the bout.

“I had to play with my mind and adapt. I can see improvement in myself. Earlier I used to play a counter-attacking game from a distance but now I can adapt according to the situation.”  Nitu will now take on the Asian Championships bronze medallist Lutsaikhan Altantsetseg of Mongolia in the final on Saturday. 

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