World Boxing Championships: Nikhat Zareen into gold-medal bout, Manisha, Parveen get bronze

Nikhat Zareen (in Blue) celebrates after winning the 52kg semi-final Boxing Federation of India

Nikhat Zareen (52kg) was the only Indian to reach a final at the ongoing Women's World Boxing Championships in Istanbul while Manisha Moun (57kg) and debutant Parveen Hooda (63kg) ended their campaign with a bronze on Wednesday.

Nikhat, the 2019 Asian Championship bronze medallist, registered a 5-0 win over Brazil's Caroline De Almeida in the semi-final. She will take on Thailand's Jitpong Jutamas in the fly weight gold medal bout on Thursday.

Manisha lost to Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Irma Testa of Italy by a 0-5 while Parveen went down by a 1-4 split verdict to European Championship bronze medallist Amy Broadhurst of Ireland.

Nikhat, who is a former junior world champion, stayed calm and completely dominated her rival for an unanimous decision win. After a relatively sedate start Nikhat went all out to land a flurry of punches as the Brazillian struggled to keep up with the Indian's pace. The 25-year-old boxer from Telengana displayed deft footwork to avoid her opponent once she delivered her own punches. In the third round, Nikhat continued to attack from afar, inviting Almeida to come at her before sealing a finals berth.

"My strategy today was to not let her play her natural game, and instead, make her adjust to my game. That was the strategy, and I adopted it successfully. I'm now looking forward to returning home with the gold medal," Nikhat said after her victory. "As far as my opponent for the final is concerned, I saw her first round in the semifinals. I played her once, so have some knowledge about her game, but still I will plan my strategy with my head coach," she added.

Nikhat has been in stellar form this year. She became the first Indian woman boxer to claim two gold medals at the Strandja Memorial in February. Her dominance in the ongoing event has been such that she won all her bouts with a 5-0 unanimous decision.

Manisha, the 2019 Asian Championships bronze medallist competing in her second world championship, tried hard to outdo her technically-superior opponent but Testa defended superbly. The Italian danced around the ring while landing timely punches as Manisha struggled to cope with her opponent.

The 22-year-old Parveen was up against a much more experienced opponent although she fought her heart out in the physically draining bout. The Haryana youngster, despite losing the first round 0-5, recovered well and made an impressive comeback to take the second 3-2. But Broadhurst took charge in the final round and clinched the intensely-fought bout in her favour, ending the Indian's dream run on debut at the prestigious event.

Six-time champion MC Mary Kom, Sarita Devi, Jenny RL and Lekha C are the only Indian women boxers who have won the world title and now Nikhat has the opportunity to join the elite list.

India's best performance in the event came in 2006 when the country won eight medals -- four gold, one silver and three bronze. In the last edition, four Indian boxers returned home with medals as Manju Rani clinched the silver, while Mary Kom bagged an unparalleled eighth world medal, a bronze.