Nikhat Zareen continued to grow in stature as she added a second world title to her swelling trophy cabinet while Lovlina Borgohain broke her ‘bronze jinx’ to claim her maiden gold medal at the marquee event here on Sunday.
Nikhat upstaged two-time Asian champion Nguyen Thi Tam of Vietnam by a 5-0 verdict to take the light flyweight title in front of a packed home crowd at the KD Jadhav Indoor Hall.
Two-time bronze medallist Lovlina, on the other hand, defeated two-time Commonwealth Games medallist Caitlin Parker of Australia 5-2 to win her maiden world title.
With the win, Nikhat becomes only the second Indian after the legendary MC Mary Kom to win the title of the prestigious tournament twice.
“I am very happy that I have become a world champion for the second time, especially in an Olympic category,” Nikhat, who won the 52kg title last year, said after her bout.
The first bout of the day between the two Asians was an exciting affair that went down to the wire.
“Today’s bout was the toughest for me, she is an Asian champion and my next target is Asian Games, and I might meet her, so I will work hard,” Nikhat said. “It was a roller coaster bout, she got a warning, I got a warning, she got a count so did I. But I went all out.”
Nikhat, who has moved down from her preferred 52kg, looked tentative at first as Tam was the first one to attack. But after a few seconds, the home favourite leapt forward to attack. She then landed two right hooks, followed by straight jabs.
Tam was handed a penalty point for clinching further, tilting the result in Nikhat’s favour as she took the first three minutes by a unanimous verdict.
But, Tam made a strong comeback as she launched into attack mode. The southpaw landed several punches, forcing Nikhat to play with her head down which earned her a penalty point. The Vietnamese managed to take the round 3-2.
In the final three minutes, both boxers went for broke and attacked each other relentlessly.
If Nikhat’s powerful right cross forced the referee to give Tam the eight count, Tam’s jab compelled the referee to do the same to the Indian.
“For me, this is the first major competition in this category after the Commonwealth Games, which did not have much competition. But here, countries from all over the world competed and had back-to-back matches also, my body was a bit slow in some matches. I will learn from these experiences and try to become stronger,” Nikhat, who has already qualified for the Asian Games, said.
Maiden world title for Lovlina
Eyeing her maiden gold medal, Lovlina, who has moved to the middleweight category as her 69kg doesn’t feature in the Olympics, started the bout from a distance.
The Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist looked to use her slight height advantage in the opening round. She used her reach to land accurate jabs. Parker too was accurate with her punches. But Lovlina managed to take the first round 3-2.
Lovlina changed her strategy in the second round, switching to playing from a close range. The change in the game plan did not work for her ad Parker had better access and launched a series of attacks on the Indian to take the round 4-1.
The final round was played on an even keel and the bout was sent for review with Lovina emerging winner.
“It was the final so there was stress but I tried to play like the coaches said, I wasn’t entirely successful at times but I am happy to win the gold and make India proud,” Lovlina said after the bout. “Our plan was to play the second round from a closer range and play the final round from afar. Coaches had told me dur se khelna (play from a distance).”
The gold came after Lovlina made early-round exits at the World Championships and Commonwealth Games last year.
However, since bulking up to 75kg, it is Lovlina's fourth title. She won the National Games, National Championship and the Asian Championships. Although she is self-admittedly still adapting to the category, the hope is that she can book an Olympic berth at the Asian Games later this year.
Matching best gold medal count
With Nikhat and Lovlina winning their bouts, it has been a golden weekend for India.
On Saturday, Nitu Ghanghas (48kg) and Saweety Boora (81kg) were crowned world champions in their respective weight categories.
Hosts India matched their best-ever performance in terms of gold medals, though the country did not win any silver or bronze this time.
India had won four golds in the 2006 edition at home which was also the country's best-ever performance with a haul of eight medals, including a silver.