London Olympic bronze medallist Mary Kom will make her competitive debut at home in 51kg in the second edition of the India Open boxing tournament, to be held in Guwahati from May 20-24.
With Olympic qualification round the corner, India Open with witness 35 men and 37 women boxers from India vying for glory, even as close to 200 pugilists from 16 boxing powerhouses will participate in the USD 70,000 tournament.
Mary Kom had opted out of the Asian Championships last month in order to prepare for the World Championships as the event will serve as good preparatory ground for Olympic qualification.
“I have been preparing well for 51kg category. Having got a real hand idea of the competition in this class in Germany, I am ready to give my best at this tournament and test myself ahead of the World Championships,” said Mary Kom, who led six Indian boxers to gold in the last edition in New Delhi.
“I am glad the event will be hosted in Assam this time. With the North-East being a powerhouse of talent, I hope this gives an opportunity to the youngsters to watch and get inspired by watching us live,” she added.
Keeping in mind the approved weight categories for Olympic qualification, some of the Indian pugilists have changed their weight divisions.
After her stunning performance at the Asian Championships, where she became the first Indian to win a gold in 81kg, Pooja Rani has gone back to her original weight category of 75kg.
Assam’s Bhagyabati Kachari too has made a similar change while Asian Championships bronze medallist Manisha Moun will be fighting it out in 57kg for the very first time.
Simranjit Kaur, a silver medallist at the continental tournament in 64kg, has switched to 60kg and will be competing with former world champion Sarita Devi, who added her eighth Asian medal this year.
While the six-time world champion will be India’s biggest medal hope yet again, Amit Panghal (52kg) will be looking to continue his dominance after conquering the Asian Championships gold.
Assam’s Shiva Thapa (60kg), who created a record by winning medals in four consecutive Asian Championships, will be aiming to impress the home crowd, and so will Ankushita Boro (64kg), a gold medallist at the 2017 World Youth Championship.
2017 World Boxing Championships bronze medallist Gaurav Bidhuri (56kg) will be another of the big medal bets from India.
“The India Open is a great opportunity for the Indian boxers. In the run-up to their preparations for the World Championships, they will be facing some of the top boxers including Asian Games and World champions,” said Ajay Singh, President of the Boxing Federation of India (BFI).
“BFI vision is to take boxing to every corner of the country. Staging the second edition of the India Open in Assam will give step in that direction and a chance to bring world-class boxers to the North-East region which has already contributed many Indian boxing success stories for India and will inspire the next generation to take up the sport in a much bigger way,” he added.
In the upcoming edition, the gold medallists will get richer by USD 2,500, the silver medallists will receive USD1,000 for their exploits as the countdown for the tournament begins.