Indian boxer Pooja Rani doesn’t want to overdo anything before Olympics

“More than tournaments, I want to work in a very balanced way and peak at the right time during the Olympics,” says Pooja Rani Bohra.

India’s Pooja Rani is ecstatic after defeating Mavluda Movlonova of Uzbekistan to clinch the gold medal in the women’s 75 kg category at the ASBC Asian Boxing Championships in Dubai on May 30.   -  PTI

Pooja Rani Bohra has shown her class by securing a second consecutive gold medal in the Asian boxing championships. The strongly-built boxer, who bagged the 81kg title in the 2019 edition of the continental event, claimed the 75kg crown in the Asian championships in Dubai.

It was not Pooja’s fault that there were only four competitors in the depleted Asian championships field. The Haryana boxer — who shuffled between 75kg and 81kg weight classes before settling for the middleweight to give herself a chance in the Olympics — made herself a medal contender in Tokyo by securing the continental gold ahead of the mega event. An Asian Championships and Asian Games medallist, Pooja took some time out for Sportstar to speak about her recent success, different aspects of her game and preparations for the Olympics.

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Since the final was your first bout of the Asian championships (she got a walkover in the semifinals), how confident were you?

My training since the exposure tour of Europe last year has been really good and I feel in top shape and form. My good performance at the Boxam international tournament in Spain, where I defeated a World champion in the semifinal, also boosted my confidence. Usually, I am nervous before the final bout but this time I was very calm and confident.

Even your 81kg gold (in 2019 Asian championships) came with two wins. How tough is it mentally when you suddenly face a big moment like the final with less match practice?

It is indeed tough as waiting for a lot of days adds to the anxiety and leads to overthinking. But after so many years as a boxer I am able to manage these things better now. Ideally, I would have liked to box in more bouts to judge myself and get more match practice but I am happy with my performance.

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Which one was better, 81kg or 75kg gold?

Every medal, especially a major medal, is very special. The 2019 gold medal is very precious to me as it was my first Asian championships gold medal and I defeated a World champion. This gold medal is also very important to me as it boosts my confidence and puts me in a very good space mentally before the biggest event of my life.

How much confidence does it give, going into the Olympics?

It is a massive help, to be honest, as it reassures me that whatever I have been doing since last year is working well. Apart from that, it gives me an idea about things I need to improve before the Olympics. You cannot go to the Olympics without working on all the areas.

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What are the plans ahead of the Olympics?

There are talks of us going abroad for training and sparring sessions. That will be helpful. More than tournaments, I want to work in a very balanced way so that I don’t overdo anything and peak at the right time during the Olympics.

Any areas of improvement in your game?

Physically, I feel very good at the moment as I worked a lot on it in the past few months. But yes, there are a few technical aspects I would like to improve in the next few weeks.

"I always turn towards my family during tough times in boxing. They have been very supportive and have stuck by me unconditionally through thick and thin. Apart from that, I discuss everything with my coaches in the camp," says Pooja Rani Bohra.   -  PTI


How is the competition in the 75kg category?

At an event like the Olympics, the competition is always very tough as top athletes from all over the world are there and anyone can beat anyone on a given day. But a few of the boxers whom I consider my toughest opponents are Li Qian (China), Tamara Thibaut (Canada), Melissa Naomi Graham (USA) and Ariane Fortin (Netherlands).

Even though you’ve got enough experience, you keep a low profile until recently. Has the rise in your status lifted your game as well?

I have had a long career with a lot of highs and lows but I have received a lot of recognition after winning the 2019 Asian gold medal. The increase in the faith of people in me has actually helped me a lot as it gives me more confidence and self belief. Apart from that, expectations of the people always make me push myself more.

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Give us an idea about your training. Do you face problems in finding good sparring partners?

I have been doing a lot of high intensity training since last year and have found my rhythm too. Initially, it was tough due to COVID-19 related restrictions but I have sparred a lot with different types of boxers in the last one year. I have sparred with girls from 69kg, 75kg and 81kg and I have had good training and sparring sessions with boys during my time in Bellary. It has prepared me for different types of challenges in match situations. Usually, male boxers have a lot of speed and it helps me in sharpening my movements. During our training tour in Italy last year, I sparred with boxers from Italy, France and Ireland and that was also very helpful.

Who is your go to person as far as boxing is concerned?

I always turn towards my family during tough times in boxing. They have been very supportive and have stuck by me unconditionally through thick and thin. Apart from that, I discuss everything with my coaches in the camp and Sanjay (Sheoran of Bhiwani, son of two-time Asian Games gold medallist Hawa Singh) Sir.

How do coaches like Raffaele Bergamasco and Mohammed Ali Qamar help you? How do you utilise their inputs?

They have a lot of experience and the biggest help that I get from them is during the breaks in a bout. I trust their advice blindly and do what they say in the next round and it pays off mostly. They are very quick to judge the other boxers and make adjustments in our strategy. I also watch a lot of videos of my opponents with them and they make me understand their game and tell me how to fight against them.

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