The boxing trio of Nikhat Zareen, Amit Panghal and Nitu added three gold medals to India's kitty at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. India could have a fourth gold medal with pugilist Sagar Ahlawat still to fight his gold medal bout.
The indomitable Nikhat Zareen added a Commonwealth Games light flyweight (50kg) title to her bulging trophy cabinet while Amit Panghal (51kg) began his redemption journey with a much-needed gold winning show, in Birmingham on Sunday. Nikhat, who is on a winning spree since the Nationals last year, asserted her dominance over Northern Ireland's Carly Mc Naul as she punched her way to a comprehensive 5-0 win in her maiden CWG appearance.
Panghal, on the other hand, avenged his 2018 Commonwealth Games final loss against Kiaran MacDonald by clinching the title with a comprehensive 5-0 win over the favourite. Indian boxers made it three out of three golds on the day as young Nitu Ghanghas (48kg) too reigned supreme on her CWG debut. Sagar Ahlawat will play his final bout later tonight.
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The India pugilists will return with seven medals from Birmingham, two less than the previous edition. Nikhat started off the year by clinching a gold at the prestigious Strandja Memorial tournament before going on to become a world champion. The Telangana boxer, who dropped from 52kg to 50kg for the CWG, glided around the ring, landing hooks and tight jabs at will. Her defence was equally impressive.
Such was her dominance that when the nine minutes ended there was no doubt which way the decision would go. Having lost to a Briton four years ago at the same stage in Gold Coast, the 26-year-old Panghal was at his aggressive best against MacDonald as he clinched the yellow metal with a 5-0 verdict.
The dominating Panghal, who was lightning quick with his jabs, also left MacDonald with a cut above his right eye that needed a few stitches and a stoppage in play as the Indian was on song. Using his height advantage, MacDonald tried to bounce back in the third round but the Asian Games champion had it easy.
The turning point for Panghal, however, was the semifinal win over Zambia's Tokyo Olympian Patrick Chinyemba as the Indian bounced back to win the bout. "It was the toughest round and was the turning point. I lost the first round and gave it all to produce the win and there was no looking back," Panghal told PTI.
Asked about his strategy against his British opponent, he said: "He was taller than me and I had to be more aggressive and get inside his arms. That worked. My coaches did a great job because we worked out how to win and I did it in the ring." "I did enough to win the first two rounds and I held it in the last. I thought he probably won the last round but I was too far ahead by then. He was a great opponent." Panghal said. "This has avenged my loss in Australia in the final. I knew it would be very tough because I was fighting an Englishman in England but the judges were very fair and very accurate," Panghal said.
With the gold, Panghal also put his disappointing Tokyo Olympics outing where he made a round of 16 exit, behind. Nitu, on the other hand, upstaged 2019 world championships bronze medallist Demie-Jade Resztan of England by a 5-0 unanimous verdict. The first Indian boxer to take the ring, Nitu, competing in her first CWG, looked completely in control throughout the nine minutes, giving the home boxer no chance.
The atmosphere was intimidating for the 21-year-old facing the home favourite but she pinned her with her unwavering gaze into her eyes. In a battle of two southpaws, the Indian who was taller than her opponent showed fluid and clever movements while stepping back to the rival's attacks.
The long-range shots being her advantage, Nitu used them to perfection to land her jabs perfectly on her opponent's face as she also won via 5-0 unanimous verdict to claim the women's minimum weight (45kg) gold. "I am so happy, I can hardly breathe," Nitu told reporters.
Daughter of an employee in Haryana Vidhan Sabha, Nitu, who hails from India's 'mini Cuba' in boxing Bhiwani, further said: "My parents have been my inspiration and my gold medal is for them." The legendary MC Mary Kom had won the coveted yellow metal in the same category at the 2018 Games. Incidentally, it was in the selection trial against Nitu that Mary Kom had injured her knee and had to withdraw.