Four years since her bronze medal at the London Olympic Games, MC Mary Kom is all set to hit the ring at the Women’s Boxing World Championships which flags off in Astana on Wednesday. The 33-year-old will be chasing her sixth gold in this prestigious tournament where the stakes have now risen significantly due to it being the last qualifying event for Rio.
Mary Kom having earlier dominated the scene at the 45,46 and 48 kg categories will be competing in the 51kg category this time; a fiercely contested one due to a massive 48 other pugilists running for the final four. In her opening fixture, she will take the ring to face off against Juliana Soderstrom of Sweden on Thursday.
The same day will feature Incheon Asiad bronze medallist Laishram Sarita Devi against Belarusian Ala Yarshevich in the 60kg category. In a division that finds 47 boxers cramping in to earn a Rio berth by virtue of a semi-final qualification, Sarita will take on Mexico’s Victoria Torres once she clears her first hurdle.
Another bronze winner from the 2014 Asian Games, Pooja Rani is the third Indian in the fray for a potential Olympic qualification. Having received a first-round bye, 25-year-old Pooja will look to down her Ukranian opponent in Mariya Borusta in their Friday encounter in order to surge ahead amongst the 34 contenders, closer to the coveted semis here at the Kazakh capital.
For now, all Indian hopes will be pinned on each of these three prolific boxers to make the cut for the 2016 Olympics by putting up an extraordinary performance at the World Championships. However imposing the roster might look, with Mary Kom leading the way, both Sarita and Pooja Rani could certainly turn some heads at the upcoming tourney and thus provide further strength to the Indian squad headed for the Summer Games this year.
In the non-Olympic categories, former junior world champion Nikhat Zareen will face Australia’s Bianca El-Mir in the 54-kg category, while Sonia Lather will be up against Mongolia’s Gundegmaa Myagmar in the 57-kg category.
Pavitra, who got a bye in the 64 kg category will face the winner of the bout between Australian Skye Nicolson and Croat Antonija Pavic. Last but not the least, Seema Poonia will face Azerbaijan’s Aynur Rzayeva in the 81 kg category.