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Asian Games

Gold lost in boxing: Women impress, men disappoint at Asian Games 2023

Unlike the 2018 Asiad, when Indian women's boxers returned home emptyhanded, of India's five medals in Hangzhou, women won four, including Borgohain's silver. Women also won four Olympic quota places as men secured none.

Gold lost in boxing: Women impress, men disappoint at Asian Games 2023
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Lovlina Borgohain punches her ticket for the Paris Olympics (AGNS)

By

Sudipta Biswas

Updated: 13 Oct 2023 1:25 PM GMT

A trend was broken at the boxing event of the Asian Games 2023. India improved its medal tally from the low of the 2018 Asian Games when it won just two medals, but a gold medal went missing from the Indian boxing contingent's entourage this time around.

Since the 2010 Asian Games, India won at least one gold medal in boxing. At the 2018 Asiad, Amit Panghal won the yellow metal to keep Indian boxing's top-of-the-podium finish intact at least in one category. But this time around, no one from the 13-member boxing contingent managed to retain that fame.

Boxing, however, was not all about disappointments for India in Hangzhou. Unlike the 2018 Jakarta Games, when Indian women's boxers returned home emptyhanded, of India's five medals in Hangzhou, women won four, including Lovlina Borgohain's silver.

While women boxers boxed impressively, their Indian male counterparts faltered in even securing Paris Olympics quota places. In contrast, Indian women won four berths for next year's Olympics in Paris, the biggest sporting spectacle in the world.

Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist Lovlina Borgohain displayed her immense courage and determination to win her maiden Asian Games medal - a silver - in the women’s 75kg category. Borgohain went down to Li Qian of China in the final.

This was the first time an Indian woman won a silver medal at the Asiad boxing. Legendary Mary Kom won the country's maiden gold medal in women's boxing at Incheon 2014.

In the final - a rematch of the World Championships semifinal in New Delhi earlier this year - when Borgohain defeated Li Qian 4:1 in a split decision, the Chinese boxer started off aggressively. Borgohain, early in the bout, deployed her defensive block successfully to evade Li Qian's flurry of punches.

The Indian boxer, in contrast, managed to land an accurate right-handed jab on Li Qian's face. At the end of the first round, both boxers, however, had very little separating them.

In the second round, Borgohain conceded a point for excessive attacks, and Li Qian put up a better defensive show while also collecting crucial points on the counterattack.

Nikhat faltered, men got cold feet

The biggest disappointment for India was Nikhat Zareen, a pre-Asian Games favourite for the gold medal. Nikhat, the two-time World Championships gold medallist, was expected to emerge triumphant as she had done in the last couple of years, showing undying consistency. But she went down in the quarterfinal against a crafty Raksat Chuthamat of Thailand.

It was a close bout, with Nikhat's flurry of punches being blocked by Raksat, who had an impeccable defence. Nikhat lost 2:3 in a split decision. The Nizamabad boxer, who had performed exceptionally well till her quarterfinal bout, had to settle for a bronze medal.

With this defeat, Nikhat's long winning streak also came to an end.

Heading to the Asian Games, Nikhat had made herself almost invincible in the 50kg category. Having defended her World Championships title, Nikhat was shouldering the expectations of a gold medal.

But she lost to Raksat after edging out the Thai boxer 3:2 in the World Championships. Her defeat eventually saw India's hope of a boxing gold medal getting dashed.

Nikhat knows it better than anyone else. "Coming home with a medal and I know that it’s not the colour that everyone expected of me," she wrote on 'X'. She has now vowed to come back stronger.

"I believe a comeback is always stronger than a setback. This Asian Games has certainly prepared me for the @Paris2024. I promise I'll come back with a different colour of medal," she added in the post.

Nikhat and Lovlina, however, secured their Paris Olympic quota places along with Preeti Pawar (54kg) and Parveen Hooda (57kg), the two other Indian bronze medallists at the Games.

In the men's boxing, which presented an utterly disappointing display, Narender Berwal emerged as the only positive, with the 92kg boxer winning the bronze medal. But, more renowned names like Shiva Thapa and Deepak Bhoria faltered in the pre-quarterfinals, and for India, no Olympic quota places were won.

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