Pooja Rani will next face the reigning world and Asian champion Li Qian of China, who has the top billing in this category. (Photo Credit: Boxing Olympic Qualifiers Whatsapp)
Asian champion Pooja Rani (75kg) and the seasoned Vikas Krishan (69kg) on Sunday became the first set of Indian boxers to qualify for this year's Tokyo Olympics by advancing to the semifinals of the continental Boxing qualifiers in Amman, Jordan. While fourth-seeded Pooja Rani notched up a facile 5-0 win over Thailand's Pornnipa Chutee, Krishan endured a tough one against third-seeded Japanese Sewonrets Okazawa before also prevailing in a unanimous verdict against the Asian silver-medallist. While Rani secured her maiden Olympic spot, Krishan will be making his third successive appearance at the quadrennial showpiece, scheduled in July-August.
"I had never fought against this girl before today and honestly, I was a bit scared. I had told my coaches about it before the bout. They instilled confidence in me and I could pull off a one-sided result. I am happy," said the 29-year-old Rani, who fought career-threatening shoulder and hand injuries before her gold at last year's Asian Championships.
Rani will next face the reigning world and Asian champion Li Qian of China, who has the top billing in this category. Qian had no trouble beating Mongolia's Myagmarjargal Munkhbat 5-0 in the opening bout of the day. Taking full advantage of her longer reach, Rani outpunched the inexperienced but determined Chutee.
The Indian is a three-time Asian medallist, besides being a former bronze-winner at the 2014 Asian Games. Krishan, however, had to slog hard against a brilliant boxer, whose performance was eye-catching despite the loss. Okazawa, a gold-winner at the Olympic Test Event last year, kept Krishan on his toes with his right jabs being particularly effective. What worked for the Indian was the consistent straight punches to the body, which fetched him the bulk of the points. Later in the day, Sachin Kumar (81kg) will face China's Chen Daxaing in another quarterfinal bout.