| New Delhi |
Published: November 17, 2018 4:15:32 am
On the eve of her World Championship debut, Manisha Moun had to be reminded to look her opponent up and study a few bouts. Scheduled to take on American Christina Cruz, a two-time Worlds bronze medallist and record ten-time Golden Gloves champion, “Maine uski age dekhi aur band kar diya. Thirty-six,” exclaims Manisha. “I realised that she may have the experience, but I am also young. I have the speed and I am prepared. I said to myself, ‘let her do what she does in the ring’.”
On Friday, Cruz could do little against Manisha, who registered a unanimous 5-0 win to advance to the 54kg pre-quarterfinals of the Women’s World Championships. Hours after the win, the 20-year-old from Kaithal, Haryana was buzzing but not overly excited.”I am feeling the same as I was after winning the bout. Beating a world bronze medallist is always nice,” says . “Upar se easy bout thi.”
Confident to the point of being dismissive, Manisha didn’t need any last-minute revisions thanks to the homework done by coaches Raffaele Bergamasco and Shiv Singh.
The lankier Manisha used her reach to frustrate Cruz, blocking and slipping past the American’s right and landing counters to secure a good start. If the “first round was about observing my opponent and find out what to do and what not to do”, Manisha focussed on quantity in the second, out-striking her opponent.
Down two rounds, Cruz went all out in the final three-minute period. But instead of trying to see her off, Manisha attacked and landed consistently on the increasingly-sloppy American. Up next is Dina Zholaman, the reigning world champion from Kazakhstan who defeated Muzuki Hiruta of Japan 4-1. Manisha is 1-1 against Zholaman, having lost a close first bout to her in Kazakhstan and settling the scores at Poland’s Silesian tournament in September.
“I lost to her in a very close decision but it was in her country. Let’s see what happens here. She would be here with good preparations as well. But kya karna hai tension lekar?” says Manisha, who wildly claims that she has never been stressed out. Not before her first boxing match, which she lost, and not once throughout a 2018 which saw her board her first overseas flight and medal at international events.
Manisha began her “ekdum fantastic” breakout year by making the camp in January on the backs of a silver medal at nationals, and won gold at her first senior competition at February’s India Open, following it with a bronze and silver in Kazakh and Polish tourneys afterwards. But as much as making the cut for the World Championships was about proving her potential, it was also about getting her hands on a specific piece of memorabilia.
“I had ‘Kaithal’ written on the back of my shirt when I was young and competing for my district. Then once I got ‘Haryana’ at the state level, I really wanted ‘India’ on my kit. I got that, but then I wanted this cool blazer,” Manisha says, pointing to the slick, grey piece of clothing. “Now that is also complete with this tournament.”
Manisha, one of the three Indians to have not received a bye, knows that even if she topples the champion Zholaman on Sunday, the path to final remains a minefield. Or at least that’s what she has been told.
“It’s good that the tough bouts are done at the start, but my draw is a difficult one to even reach the bronze medal bout,” says Manisha. “Well, my seniors were telling me that. I don’t really have the knowledge of the field.”
For the host nation, the second day of competition was highlighted by one 36-year-old being treated with borderline disdain, and another stumbling forward. Sarita Devi beat Diana Brugger of Switzerland 4-0, but would have to work harder to shine in the competitive 60kg field.
Spurred on by a sizable contingent of fans, 2006 gold medallist Sarita came out blasting but had to quickly retreat under the Swiss’ frenetic attack. Brugger, 37, received a standing eight-count in the second round after being caught by a combination but returned some flush shots. By the final round, the two weary boxers flailed and traded heavy punches.
“In the first round I was trying to observe her and find out how to go about in the next two rounds. But she came attacking from the first round itself. I was finding it difficult to control her. Under the new points system, you need to have a proper guard and combination of punches to fetch points. That was what I was doing,” said Sarita, who faces Kellie Herrington of Ireland next. Herrington, who won the 64kg silver in 2016, handily beat Troy Garton of New Zealand.
Sonia, Simranjit Kaur and Pinki Jangra will begin their campaign on Saturday.
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