Mary Kom and Co. aim to pack a punch in India Open

Mary Kom will be India’s biggest medal hope yet again, with Amit Panghal, Shiva Thapa, Pooja Rani among those also in the fray.

From left: India's high-performance director Santiago Nieva, boxers Mary Kom, Amit Panghal and Shiva Thapa pose for a photograph during a press conference.   -  PTI

In the pre-Olympics year, multiple World champion and Olympic bronze medallist M. C. Mary Kom and several other Indian stars will be keen to make the most of the experience of competing in an international event at home when they participate in the India Open boxing tournament beginning at the Karmabir Nabin Chandra Bordoloi Indoor Stadium here on Monday.

With the men and women's World championships – which are likely to be the Olympic qualifying events – set to be held in Russia in September and October respectively, the $70,000 tournament will serve as a fine preparatory event.

“I will gain experience from here and will give my best. My target is 2020 Olympics. I want to win a gold medal for the country. It's a great opportunity not just for the elite boxes but also for the youngsters,” said Mary, who would compete in 51kg, here on Sunday.

Local boy and former World championships bronze medallist Shiva Thapa, who will feature in 60kg but is likely to jump to 63kg, was excited to compete at home after 2016 when he had secured the National title.

Read: 'My intensity, volume of punches have increased'

“My new style has benefitted me. People love attacking boxing and I working on it,” said Shiva.

Other top male boxers such as Asian Games and Asian championships gold medallist Amit Panghal (52kg), World championships bronze medallist Gaurav Bidhuri (56kg), Asian championships silver medallists Kavinder Singh Bisht (56kg) and Ashish Kumar (75kg) will also be seen in action among the 35 Indians in fray.

Of the 37 Indian women in fray, champion L. Sarita Devi (60kg), Asian champion Pooja Rani (who switched from 81kg to 75kg), Worlds medallists Sonia Chahal (57kg), Simranjit Kaur (who changed from 64kg to 60kg) and local girl Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) are some of the prominent faces.

Conceptualised to give international competition to maximum Indian boxers, the second edition of the event has attracted some fine overseas boxers including the Uzbek trio of Asian Games gold medallists Bobo Baturov and Mirzakhalilov Mirazizbek and Jasurbek Latipov, Youth Olympic champion Brian Agustin Arregui of Argentina, World champion Josie Gabuco of Philippines and Worlds bronze medallist Decha Butdee of Thailand.

India's chief performance director Santiago Nieva counted the merits of the event. “In a single event we get more international bouts than we get in four-five international exposures. This tournament is an important preparation for the World championships,” said Nieva.