"The whole of India was watching her"
Boxing continues to be one of the most popular sports in the world and these female Indian boxers are part of the reason for that.
Showing tremendous heart, skill, and courage to pursue their passion, these sportswomen have jumped over hurdles to provide more representation to boxing.
Although boxing in India is a much-watched spectacle, not much spotlight is put on the female participants.
This could be down to outdated views on women in sports or the mere fact that not many women receive the same attention as male boxers.
Either way, these following athletes have proved the doubters wrong.
Their tremendous success and continuous trailblazing performances have given a new lease of life to an already popular sport.
Likewise, they are inspiring more Indian women to follow their dreams, no matter how far-fetched they may seem.
Pooja Rani is a middleweight boxer and two-time Asian champion.
From the Nimriwali village in Bhiwani, Pooja kept her passion for boxing a secret from her father who she knew would disapprove of it.
She’d regularly hide her injuries and would constantly stay at her friend’s house until any bruises or wounds would disappear.
After breaking through to the national stage in 2009, she won the silver medal at the Asian Boxing Championships in 2012.
Pooja had the opportunity to represent her country in 2014 at the Commonwealth Games but lost to Savannah Marshal, a top-tier British boxer.
She was one of the top contenders to qualify for the Rio Olympics in 2016 but sadly lost in the second round of the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships which deterred her aspirations.
Regardless of her setbacks, Pooja has still managed to capture seven National Championships and in 2020, was the first Indian to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
One of the most famous female Indian boxers is Lovlina Borgohain who hails from the Golaghat district of Assam.
After seeing her twin sisters, Licha and Lima take up kickboxing, Lovlina’s passion for boxing grew.
From honing her skills as an athlete, she was scouted by Coach Padum Chandra Bodo and taken under his wing.
At the first India Open International Boxing Tournament in New Dehli, Lovlin won the silver medal and subsequently gathered much attention.
Her biggest break came in the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the welterweight division.
Although she lost against Britain’s Sandy Ryan in the quarter-finals, her performances highlighted just how skilled Lovlina was as a fighter.
In fact, Sandy Ryan went on to win gold in that category, so to be amongst that type of competition was huge for Indian boxing.
However, after the Commonwealth Games, Lovlina went from strength to strength.
She won the silver medal at the Ulaanbaatar Cup and the bronze medal at the 13th International Silesian Championship in 2018.
In 2020, Lovlina made history by defeating Maftunakhon Melieva in the Asia & Oceania Boxing Olympic Qualification Tournament.
She became the first-ever sportswoman from Assam to reach the Olympic Games. Her story at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is beautifully summed up by head coach, Raffaelle Bergamesco:
“I tried to motivate her by shouting that the whole of India was watching her and she could write her own story.
“In the semifinals, she lost to the world no. 1 and eventual gold medalist Busenaz Sürmeneli and took home the bronze medal.”
In 2021, Lovlina was given the Arjuna Award during Covid-19 for her outstanding performance in boxing, emphasising how impactful she’s been in the sport.
Born in 1996, Nikhat Zareen has become one of the most talked about female Indian boxers.
Her speed and footwork were natural attributes but were refined under the training of her father, Mohamad Jameel Ahmed.
After transferring to the Sports Authority of India in 2009, Nikhat was proclaimed the “golden best boxer” at the 2019 Eorde Nationals.
Two years later, she won gold at the AIBA Women’s Junior and Youth World Boxing Championship, defeating Turkish boxer Ulku Demir by points.
However, her prizes don’t stop there.
In 2014, Nikhat won silver at the Youth World Boxing Championship and gold at the third Nations Cup International Boxing Tournament in Serbia.
Along with these, she’s won two gold medals at the Strandja Memorial Boxing Tournament and another gold at the IBA Women’s World Boxing Championships in 2022.
She’s only the second Indian boxer to win a gold medal at the World Championships outside of India.
However, her most decorated moment came at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
She defeated Carly McNaul of Northern Ireland to win the gold medal and India’s third gold in the competition.
With endorsements from Adidas and Welspun Group, Nikhat is one of the female Indian boxers to keep on your radar.
Pinki Jangra is a flyweight boxer from Haryana, India and a four-time national champion.
Known as ‘Giant Killer’, Pinki was initially coached by Raj Singh and later switched to Anoop Kumar.
After years of training, Pinki won gold medals at the National Games of India in 2011 and the National Championships in 2012 and 2014.
However, she received the most recognition that same year when she won the bronze medal in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Due to her domestic achievements and fear factor, Pinki has reached incredible feats against elite competition.
She defeated six-time world champion Mary Kom in the 2009 National Boxing Championship and five-time Asian and World Champion, Laihram Sarita Devi.
Pinki has gone on to represent India at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Although she went far in the contest, she was defeated by England’s Lisa Whiteside in the quarter-final bout.
Boxer, politician and former Member of Parliament, Mary Kom, is perhaps one of the most well-known female Indian boxers of all time.
She is the only female boxer to win a medal in the first seven World Championships and the only woman to win the World Amateur Boxing Championship six times.
Mary is also the only boxer (male or female) to win eight World Championship medals, which is an astounding feat.
‘Magnificent Mary’ was ranked as the number one light-flyweight boxer by the International Boxing Association.
This set the foundation for her to build, which she did in the 2014 Asian Games.
Mary became the first Indian female boxer to win gold at the Games and the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
However, her historic moments don’t stop there. She’s also the only boxer to become the Asian Amateur Boxing Champion six times, a record achievement.
Her most recent achievement came in 2019 when she got the bronze medal at the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships in Russia.
Mary is one of the trailblazers for female Indian boxers and her triumphs in the game have given a gateway to future athletes.
In fact, all of these boxers have reached amazing heights in their careers and have put India on the map, in terms of boxing.
Not only are they breaking down barriers for female boxers, but they’re also emphasising just how successful these women can be in such a male-dominated sport.