All the three boxers – MC Mary Kom, Simranjit Kaur and Pooja Rani - have successfully secured their 2020 Olympic berths.
Mary Kom was at the end of a narrow defeat against China’s Chang Yuan on Tuesday as the six-time World Champion bid adieu to the Asian boxing Olympic qualifiers after going down in a split decision in the Women’s Flyweight (48-51kg) category semi-final.
Though India’s lightweight (57-60kg) category star Simranjit Kaur Baatth made amends for it soon enough by pulling a remarkable comeback against Chinese Taipei's Shih-Yi Wu to reach the final, Pooja Rani succumbed to a lopsided defeat against top seed Qian Li of China in the middleweight (69-75kg) category.
After securing the 2020 Olympics berth in Tokyo on Monday, Mary Kom was expected to continue her momentum in the Asian boxing Olympic qualifiers semi-final, but a sturdy Chang Yuan stood firm in the way of the London 2012 bronze medallist.
Mary Kom, among the eight Indian boxers who have qualified for the 2020 Olympics so far, started by trying to evade punches of the towering Chinese boxer for the most part of the first round but couldn’t land clean punches of her own. Yuan took the tight first round by a 4-1 split decision.
Trailing in the first round, Mary Kom levelled up her intensity with a quick combo attempt early in the second round but Chang remained out of reach. Mary Kom’s only proper connect in the round was a jab and a hook while pressing forward as Chang kept roaming the court.
In a cagey contest, the 37-year-old Indian boxer’s over reliance on speed and reflexes was a big ask as Chang, 15 years younger than her counterpart, ended the round with a robust uppercut to win it 4-1.
Mary Kom went all-in with her guard down in the final round but with the job almost done, Chang kept hovering at the ropes for the large part of it. Racing against time, Mary Kom managed to land some light hooks, but it wasn’t enough in the end.
After losing the bout by a 1-4 split decision, Mary Kom told the Olympic Channel, “I think I fought well but when I found out about the points at the end of each round, I was upset. I don’t think there was that much of a difference in the fight. I didn’t even feel a proper punch to my face. I’m not disappointed, next time I’ll come back and do better.”
Simranjit Kaur had an uphill task against a towering Shih-Yi Wu of Chinese Taipei and she struggled in the first round as well. Wu’s jabs were clean and her shorter Indian opponent found it difficult to deal with for most of the three minutes.
Though Simranjit Kaur lost the first round 1-4 by a split decision, her moment of encouragement from it was a left hook-right cross combo that had taken third-seeded Wu by surprise.
Simranjit Kaur rode on it to take the second round by a close 3-2 split decision after she saw off an early exchange of hooks and landed some significant blows of her own.
The third round started with Simranjit Kaur getting a clean body shot to her name amidst a relentless flurry of punches thrown by both the boxers. Simranjit Kaur further got the judges’ attention with a slick right-left-right combo after escaping Wu's long jab, which turned the tide her way.
“After the first round, my coaches told me to wake up. They motivated me for a few rounds after that and I knew I had to win at any cost. I am excited about fighting in the final. I had to express myself in the final. Even though I’ve qualified for the Olympics, I want to win the final,” Simranjit Kaur told the Olympic Channel.
Simarnjit Kaur won the bout by a 4-1 split decision in the end and will be facing South Korea’s Yeonji Oh in the Asian boxing Olympic qualifiers final on Wednesday.
Pooja Rani wasn’t the favourite coming up against top seed Qian Li of China, but very few expected the Indian boxer to be outplayed so comprehensively.
Eyeing to stay out of a tall Qian Li’s reach, Pooja Rani saw most of her jabs falling short of the target while the Chinese pugilist was content with connecting a couple of clean jabs early on. Pooja Rani lost the first round by a unanimous decision.
Li got faster in the second round. Helped by her longer reach, she got her points early this time as well, with an impactful backhand-right cross combination. Though Pooja Rani showed more heart in the second round, a tactically superior Li was timing her punches to perfection.
After taking the second round 5-0 as well, Li was brimming with confidence. A helpless Pooja Rani saw Li punching in threes and fours now before the Chinese boxer finished the bout with a hard right jab at the Indian.
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