World youth champion Alfiya Pathan, who got inspired after watching the Mary Kom movie and whose background resembles World champion Nikhat Zareen, is delighted to have begun her journey in elite international boxing with a bang.
Alfiya – who stunned two home boxers, including 2016 World champion Lazzat Kungeibayeva in the final, on her way to win the gold medal in the +81kg category on her senior international debut at the Elorda Cup in Kazakhstan – is eager to make her mark.
Looking back at her experience in Nur-Sultan, Alfiya, one of the rookie boxers from the National Centre of Excellence (NCOE), Rohtak, to be fielded for exposure, admitted that not knowing much about her final opponent helped her.
“Since my opponents (in the semifinals and final) were from the host country, there was some pressure. I did not know that my opponent in the final was a world champion. It helped me in a way,” Alfiya told Sportstar after her return on Tuesday.
“The exposure was enriching as I got a taste of fighting with experienced boxers. The way I began is a matter of delight and will help me in the future.”
Beating the odds is one of Alfiya’s traits from her childhood. With the support of her family, especially her father Akram Khan Pathan, and childhood coach Ganesh Purohit, the Nagpur girl took to boxing despite her orthodox background and went on to claim gold medals at the 2019 Asian junior championships and the 2021 World youth championships.
READ | Elorda Cup: Indian boxer Alfiya stuns former world champ to clinch gold
Alfiya said a setback made her work harder. “After the World youth championships, I lost in the National youth championships in Sonipat last year. But I worked on my weak areas and improved my performance to bounce back and win a better medal now.”
Since finding sparring partners in the heavier weights is not easy, Alfiya spars with girls from the 75kg category when she needs to improve her speed. “I spar with the boys (of heavier weights) once a week at Rohtak,” she said.
Chief National women’s coach Bhaskar Bhatt, who was the National youth team’s head coach when Alfiya won her World youth title, hopes to see the 19–year-old as a better boxer.
“Alfiya is a confident, focused and self-motivated boxer. She loves to box aggressively and dominate her bouts. She will get better with experience,” said Bhatt.
Alfiya looked forward to working with Bhatt again and improving her game. “If I get selected to the National camp, it will help me. I enjoyed working with Bhatt Sir and would like to work with him again,” she said.