Six-time world champion MC Mary Kom and the seasoned L Sarita Devi spearheaded India's gold rush at the second India Open boxing tournament, which concluded on Friday. Asian Games gold medalist Amit Panghal thwarted a spirited challenge from giant killer Sachin Siwach with a well-calculated display to clinch the gold by a split 4-1 verdict in the highly-competitive 52kg men's category.
Overall, India swept the medals in four men's categories (52kg, 81kg, 91kg and +91kg) and three in women's (51kg, 57kg and 75kg) to conclude their campaign with 12 of the 18 gold medals up for grabs. India, who had bagged six golds in the inaugural edition in New Delhi last year, thus doubled their gold count in the continental meet that witnessed a depleted field with a no-show from Uzbekistan.
World championship medallist Sarita Devi won her first gold in three years beating Simranjit Kaur 3-2 by virtue of a split decision. Making her debut in 60kg category, Simranjit, a World Championship bronze medallist and Asian Championship silver medallist, impressed in the first round with some telling blows.
But Sarita Devi did not lose ground and fought back with a counter-attacking display as she celebrated the win looking upwards, dedicating the gold to her mother Laishram Khomthonbi, who passed away last year.
"This gold belongs to my mother. I lost my dad early and my mother made me the boxer that I'm now. This gold has come after a long time. I'm missing her very much at this moment," Sarita got emotional as she spoke about her mother, who died after suffering from cancer.
Sarita Devi, who won a bronze at the Asian Championship earlier this year en route to her eighth medal in the continental meet, last won a gold at the 2016 South Asian Games in Shillong. Olympic bronze medallist Mary Kom saw off a valiant fight by former national champion Vanlal Duati of Mizoram to emerge winner by unanimous decision. Nikhat Zareen and Jyoti took the bronze medals for an all-Indian finish in the podium.
Home favourite and world championship bronze medalist Shiva Thapa avenged his last year's semifinal defeat to defending champion Manish Kaushik to grab the 60kg gold in front of a boisterous crowd at the Karmabir Nabin Chandra Bordoloi Indoor Stadium. Thapa began with a tight vigil and was seen in his aggressive best from second round onwards en route to get an unanimous verdict from the five judges.
Having moved to the new weight earlier this year, Panghal, who had won the Asiad gold in 49kg, had a tough first round with the former world youth champion Siwach using his height advantage to full credit.
Taller by six inches, Siwach who ousted world championship bronze medallist Rogen Ladon and Commonwealth Games champion Gaurav Solanki in the previous rounds, was full of energy and confidence.
To negate this, Panghal opted the waiting game strategy, ducking most of his opponent's punches and staying out of his range.
"I think he's the tallest boxer I faced till date. I fought with some tall boxers in the Asian Championship but Sachin is taller than them," the 5'3" Panghal, who won the 52kg gold in Asian Championship beating Hasanboy Dusmatov, said.
"You have to have a long reach and play an in and out game. It takes a lot of effort and stamina," he said, terming it the toughest bout of the meet.
National champion P L Prasad and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Solanki took the bronze in in the 52kg category with another India clean sweep. India had a setback in the 64kg, when national champion Rohit Tokas suffered a knee twist in the first round and forfeited the bout to former Olympian Richarno Colin, a bronze medallist at the New Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Tokas, who won a bronze at the Makran Cup earlier this year, thus had to settle for the silver, bettering his bronze medal feat at the last edition of India Open. India also could not add their gold count in the men's 75kg final where Ashish Kumar pulled out against Filipino Eumir Felix Delos Santos. The Asian Championship silver medalist suffered a forehead injury in his semifinal win against Aphisit Khankhokkruea of Thailand on Thursday.