Indian boxers Nikhat Zareen and Nitu clinched gold medals at the 73rd Strandja Memorial Boxing Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria on Sunday. Nikhat bagged her second gold medal at Europe’s oldest tournament with a 4-1 win in the women’s 52kg final, and had won the title back in 2019 as well.
Nitu outpunched the reigning Youth World Championships bronze medallist Italy’s Erika Prisciandro 5-0 without breaking a sweat in the women’s 48kg final. With Nandini also finishing on the podium in the +81kg category and signing off with a bronze medal, the Indian contingent concluded their campaign with three medals at the tournament, which was part of India’s first exposure trip this year.
Up against Ukraine’s Tetiana Kob, Nikhat did not have the best of starts to the match as her experienced opponent went aggressive from the word go. The 34-year-old former World Championships bronze medallist Kob used all her experience to push Nikhat on the back foot. But as the bout progressed, the Indian grew in confidence and fought back well to secure a 4-1 lead in the opening round.
The 25-year-old Telangana boxer Nikhat, who has been in a red-hot form in the tournament and beat Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Turkey’s Buse Naz Cakiroglu in the semi-finals, made a strong start and looked in complete control in the remaining part of the bout as she landed some sharp scoring punches before completing a convincing win.
Earlier, Nitu, who hails from Haryana, made a cautious start and took time to settle down. She maintained distance and tested the strength of Italy’s young boxer Prisciandro. There was hardly any power-hitting but the contest was more engaging in the close second round with both the boxers exchanging the punches.
High on confidence, the two-time youth world champion Nitu, who sent the former world championships silver medallist Hanna Okhota of Ukraine packing in the last encounter, was more aggressive between the two and surprised her Italian opponent with a combination of punches and her speed. Having titled the first two rounds in her favour, Nitu made Prisciandro work hard for a point in the last three minutes and secured the gold medal comfortably, winning a lopsided bout by a unanimous margin.
The prestigious tournament, the first from the Golden Belt Series and a testing event for International Boxing Association’s World Boxing Tour format, witnessed thrilling action taking place in the presence of top boxers from 36 countries around the world, including strong boxing nations such as Kazakhstan, Italy, Russia and France.