Six-time world champion MC Mary Kom (51kg) was made to work hard but bounced back from a slow start to move into the Asian Boxing Championships final after notching up a gruelling victory over Mongolia’s Lutsaikhan Altantsetseg in Dubai on Thursday.
Sakshi (54kg), meanwhile, notched up a superb win against 2016 World Champion and top seed from Kazakhstan Dina Zholaman in her semi-final. The Indian youngster registered a 3-2 split decision to stun the favourite and carry on her impressive form at the event. The former Youth Worlds champion Sakshi blanked Ruhafzo Haqazarova of Tajikistan 5-0 in the previous round.
Sakshi endured a tough bout against Zholaman but came out trumps, riding on her grit. She will face Uzbekistan’s Sitora Shogdarova in the summit clash.
The seasoned campaigner Mary Kom made a defensive start and took her time in the first round. The six-time world champion made the Mongolian opponent work hard and looked in good touch in the next round as she landed timely and powerful punches that put pressure on Altantsetseg.
“It has taken a lot to adjust to the humid weather here. Today, I was a bit slow in the first round but got my rhythm from the second round onwards. I had already fought her once so it didn’t take much to understand her gameplan,” Mary Kom told PTI.
The veteran’s right hooks were particularly impressive in a compelling performance. She fought with a perilously low guard despite the aggressive intent shown by her rival and relied on her sharp reflexes to score on counter-attacks.
“The guard wasn’t needed, I knew her quite well,” she quipped.
Mary Kom, who was out of action and participating in only her second event since the lockdown after recovering from dengue, kept her calm and used all her experience to take charge.
The 38-year-old will now be gunning for her sixth gold medal at the continental showpiece and will be up against Kazakhstan’s two-time world champion Nazym Kyzaibay who entered the final beating Sri Lanka Nadeeka Pushpakumari with the referee stopping contest (RSC) after the first round.
“I have faced Nazym earlier and have even defeated her in a couple of past tournaments. Let’s see what’s the challenge I get this time,” said Mary Kom.
Elsewhere, Monika (48kg) suffered a defeat and bagged bronze medal after going down 0-5 to second seeded Alua Balkibekova of Kazakhstan. Jaismine (57kg) also lost in the semi-final by an unanimous decision (5-0) against Vladislava Kukhta of Kazakhstan.
In an intense contest, Monika just could not keep pace with Balkibekova, who craftily dodged the Indian’s attacks and connected some eye-catching combination punches to dominate the proceedings.
On Wednesday night, the Olympic-bound Ashish Kumar (75kg) lost 2-3 to Asian Games silver-medallist Abilkhan Amankul of Kazakhstan in the quarterfinal. Also going down in the quarters was Narender (+91kg). He lost 0-5 to Kazakhstan’s Kamshibek Kunkabayev.
On Friday, five Indian men – Amit Panghal (52kg), Varinder Singh (60kg), Shiva Thapa (64kg), Vikas krishan (69kg) and Sanjeet (91kg) – will fight it out in the semifinals. Of these, Panghal and Krishan are bound for Tokyo Olympics.
Having secured medal in each category in women section, later in the night Simranjit (60kg), Lalbuatsaihi (64kg), Lovlina Borgohain (69kg), Pooja Rani (75kg), Saweety (81kg) and Anupama (+81kg) will play their respective semi-finals.
With 15 medals confirmed in the on-going event, Indian contingent achieved their highest medal haul, bettering previous best of 13 from the 2019 edition in Bangkok where they finished third with two gold, four silver and seven bronze medals.
(With PTI inputs)