Harpal Singh Bedi
New Delhi: World champion Mary Kom, Asian Games Champion Amit Panghal (52kg) and Olympian Shiva Thapa will spearhead home challenge as pugilists from 16 countries will be seen in action in action in the $70,000 prize money India Open Boxing Tournament to be held at the Karmabir Nabin Chandra Bordoloi Indoor Stadium in Guwahati, Assam from May 20-24.
India will field 62 boxers (35 men, 37 women) in the competition in which over 140 foreigners are expected to take part. The gold medallists will get richer by $2,500, the silver medallists will receive $1,000 for their exploits ..
The second edition of the tournament will see London Olympic bronze medallist Mary Kom making her competitive debut at home in 51kg after opting out of the Asian Championships last month in order to prepare for the World Championships as the event will serve as good preparatory ground for Olympic qualification.
Keeping in mind the approved weight categories for Olympic qualification, some of the Indian pugilists have changed their weight categories.
After her stunning performance at the Asian Championships, where she became the first Indian to win a gold in 81kg, Pooja Rani has gone back to her original weight category of 75kg.
Assam’s Bhagyabati Kachari too has made a similar change while Asian Championships bronze medallist Manisha Moun will be fighting it out in 57kg for the very first time. Simranjit Kaur, a silver medallist at the continental tournament in 64kg, has switched to 60kg as well and will be competing with former world champion Sarita Devi, who added her eighth Asian medal this year.
“I have been preparing well for 51kg category. Having got a real hand idea of the competition in this class in Germany, I am ready to give my best at this tournament and test myself ahead of the World Championships,” said Mary Kom, who led six Indian boxers to gold in the last edition in New Delhi.
“I am glad the event will be hosted in Assam this time. With the North-East being a powerhouse of talent, I hope this gives an opportunity to the youngsters to watch and get inspired by watching us live,” she further added.
While the six-time world champion will be India’s biggest medal hope yet again, Amit Panghal (52kg) will be looking to continue his dominance after conquering the Asian Championships gold.
Assam’s Shiva Thapa (60kg), who created a record by winning medals in four consecutive Asian Championships, will be aiming to impress the home crowd and so will Ankushita Boro (64kg), a gold medallist at the 2017 World Youth Championship.
2017 World Boxing Championships bronze medallist Gaurav Bidhuri (56kg) will be another of the big medal bets from India.
“The India Open is a great opportunity for the Indian boxers. In the run-up to their preparations for the World Championships, they will be facing some of the top boxers including Asian Games and World champions,” said Ajay Singh, President of the Boxing Federation of India (BFI).
“BFI vision is to take boxing to every corner of the country. Staging the second edition of the India Open in Assam will give step in that direction and a chance to bring world-class boxers to the North-East region which has already contributed many Indian boxing success stories for India and will inspire the next generation to take up the sport in a much bigger way,” he added.
The seven-day tournament will be held under the auspices of Government of India, Ministry Youth Affairs and Sports and the Sports Authority of India. The Assam government too has lent its full support to stage the event in Guwahati.