She knew she had to win today, there was no other option. Lovlina Borgohain — national champion, World Champion and Olympic bronze medalist – had to reach the final at the Asian Games in Hangzhou to ensure she qualified for Paris 2024, unlike other boxers who only had to make it to the semifinals. And she did in style, overwhelming Thailand’s Maneekon Baison to set up a title clash in the 74kg with local favourite and two-time Olympic and World medalist Li Qian.
It wasn’t an easy bout although Lovlina started the favourite and played like one in the opening round. Using her height and reach well, Lovlina kept the Thai at bay and defending well while landing some beautiful straight punches to take the first round 5-0. The opponent changed her plans, forced Lovlina to come closer and dragged her down to deny her space to move freely. It was a tight round that saw repeated warnings to both boxers to avoid holding or twisting arms but Maneekon took it by a 3-2 split verdict, leaving everything to play for in the final round.
“I thought the 2nd round was over and I did not get it but it’s not in my control anymore, it’s gone. But the 3rd round was still up and I decided to follow the coaches’ instructions and give my 200 percent,” Lovlina admitted after the bout.
It worked. There was total dominance from the Indian in the final three minutes, landing punches with both hands without giving the Thai any opening to enter the final unanimously, moving constantly and quickly to deny a target. “There was a little stress and both the fights so far were very difficult for me because I was not able to play as freely as I normally would. A Paris ticket was at stake, making this tournament very important and I was under pressure. But I managed to do it and now I am looking to go all out for the gold,” Lovlina, who had to switch weight categories after Tokyo Olympics, admitted.
It was curtains for Preeti Pawar, however, going down to Yuan Chang in the 54kg semifinals to finish with bronze. The Indian teenager, already assured of an Olympic spot, was never in her elements even as Yuan came on strongly and stayed on top all through.
Among the men, Sachin bowed out in the quarterfinals after losing 1-4 by split verdict to China’s Ping Lyu while Narender ended his campaign in the +92kg with a bronze medal, going down to Kazakhstan’s Olympic bronze medalist Kamshybek Kunkabayev in the semifinals.