Kerala dethrones Manipur

M. R. PRAVEEN CHANDRAN

WOMEN's boxing is one of the few sports that India can boast of having truly world class competitors. But the sport is yet to catch the imagination of the public or that of the administrators. M. C. Merycom and Meena Kumari are both world champions but are relatively unknown individuals outside their chosen sport. In a country where participation of women in combat sports is still considered a taboo, the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation is grappling with the problem of increasing the player base in the country.

The Kerala team which won the overall title. — Pic. SURESH KUMAR-

At present the sport is thriving in the North East, thanks to the Centre of Excellence being run by the Sports Authority of India in Imphal. In other States too, the leading boxers are all SAI trainees (of the 185 competitors who took part in the fifth edition of the championship, 90 per cent were from SAI). Among institutions only Police fielded a team. Railways and other public sector enterprises are yet to show any interest in women's boxing. The IABF is trying hard to create job opportunities for the women boxers.

Kerala, is one of the few States where women's boxing has made its presence felt. And there was an air of excitement and expectation when it hosted the fifth senior National women's championship in Kollam recently.

But the championship got off to an inauspicious start with the tsunami wreaking havoc on the Kollam coast on the inaugural day. It nearly forced the organisers to cancel the meet. The venue was shifted from Kadappakada Sports Club to the nearby Lal Bahaur Stadium and the bouts were conducted in `secrecy'. The championship returned to the original venue only after the official two-day mourning was over.

M. C. Merycom (right), the winner, punches Roshni Bhusal in the final of the 46kg category. — Pic. SURESH KUMAR-

On the competition front. Kerala dethroned defending champion Manipur to win its maiden title. Kerala ruled the roost in the heavier weight categories where internationals Aswathy Mol (70kg), K. C. Lekha (80kg) and Renna (86kg) trampled their rivals to win gold. Aswathy Prabha, who was chosen as the most promising boxer of the meet, ruined T. S. Jyotimati Chanu's comeback attempt in the 57kg class. Kerala, won four gold medals to finish with 37 points. Manipur, with three gold medals, was second with 34 points. Assam came third with 25 points. Boxers from the North East dominated the lower weight categories. M. C. Merycom (46kg), Sandhya Rani (48kg) and L. Sarita (54kg) stamped their class in no uncertain terms to give Manipur its three gold medals of the meet. Arjuna awardee and World champion Merycom was a class by herself. Speed and flawless technique were Merycom's forte and she was simply too good for her rivals winning all her bouts with ease.

L. Sarita of Manipur was chosen as the best boxer of the meet. Sarita won the gold in 54kg division by outscoring her rival Chhoto Lorua (MP) 14-6. Chhoto Lorua was too defensive and allowed Sarita to dominate from the start. Chhoto used the hit and run tactic to the hilt in the first two rounds. But the Madhya Pradesh girl tired out rapidly and in the third round Sarita launched a blistering attack with a combination of left and right to score heavily. It was the bout between Aswathy Prabha and Jyotimati Chanu in the 57kg that decided the championship in favour of Kerala. Jyotimati, on a comeback trail, tried her best but she was a shade slow. Aswathy danced around and often landed her punches on the right spot. Though Jyotimati employed the `holding' tactic, to disturb Aswathy's rhythm, the Kerala girl was simply too good. Kerala's Shiva Priya's dream run came to an end in the 63kg division where Asian champion Aruna Mishra (Jharkand) beat her hollow in the first round. The home team boxer had surprised a few big guns on her way to the final. But in the final, Shiva Priya's lack of technique was found wanting as she was exposed by an experienced rival.

Nevertheless, it was a creditable show from the Kerala girl. Indian boxing needs more such gutsy competitors.

The results All finals:

46kg: M.C.Merycom (Manipur) bt Roshni Bhusal (Meghalaya) 27-2; 48kg: Sandhya Rani (Manipur) bt Kalpana Sharma (Assam) 23-10; 50kg: Meena Kumari (Haryana) bt Jahanabi Gogoi (Assam) 15-2; 52kg: N.Usha (Andhra Pradesh) bt K.Mandakini (Manipur) 15-9; 54kg: L.Sarita (Manipur) bt Chhoto Loura (Madhya Pradesh) 14-6; 57kg: Aswathy Prabha (Kerala) bt T.S.Jyotimati Chanu (Manipur) 20-10; 60kg: Parnamika Barua (Assam) bt Preeti (Haryana) 27-25; 63kg: Aruna Mishra (Jharkand) bt Shiva Priya (Kerala) RSC - 1st round; 66kg: R.Jenny (Mizoram) bt Pratibha (Haryana) RSC - 1st round; 70kg: Aswathy Mol (Kerala) bt Rupender Kaur (Punjab) RSC - 1st round;75kg: Karamjit Kaur (Punjab) bt Dipika Das (Assam) RSC - 1st round; 80kg: K.C.Lekha (Kerala) bt Poly (Assam) RSC - 1st round; 86kg: Reena (Kerala) bt Shilbha Sathya (Tamil Nadu) RSC - 1st round. Overall title: 1. Kerala (37 points), 2. Manipur (34 points), 3. Assam (25 points). Best boxer: L.Sarita (Manipur). Promising boxer: Aswathy Prabha (Kerala).