2023 Women's World Boxing Championships: Nikhat cruises to opening round win; Sakshi, Nupur and Preeti progress

Nikhat Zareen. Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

Nikhat Zareen began the defence of her world championship title with an emphatic RSC (referee stops contest) win over Anakhanim Ismayilova of Azerbaijan in the opening round of the 2023 Women's World Championships in New Delhi on Thursday.

The tournament started with home favourite Nikhat's bout and the defending champion did not disappoint. Competing in the 50kg category, the 2022 Commonwealth Games gold medallist took her time to judge her opponent, but once she figured out the Azerbaijani boxer's game, there was no stopping her.

Nikhat, who is unseeded despite being the reigning champion, was at her aggressive best as she landed a flurry of combination punches on her opponent. The first round was decided unanimously in her favour, with all five of the judges scoring the round 10-8 to Nikhat.

The 25-year-old Indian kept connecting with Ismayilova's face, with the Azerbaijani having no answer to her opponent's speed. Such was the Nikhat's domination that the referee had to give Ismayilova the 'count' thrice before stopping the contest in the second round.

On being unseeded, Nikhat said, "It's not a problem. That's the thing about draws, anyone can get any seeding. It doesn't matter but my draw is good, as the competition goes on, I'll get tough opponents." Nikhat will next face top seed, 2022 African champion Roumaysa Boualam, in the round of 32.

"I know that boxer, but I haven't played against her. I'm happy that India's first bout started with me and hopefully, I will only end it."

If she gets past Boualam, Nikhat can potentially face Rio Olympics bronze medallist Ingrit Valencia of Colombia and Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Tsukimi Namiki of Japan in the semi-final and final respectively.

Meanwhile, Sakshi Chaudhary (52kg) advanced to the pre-quarterfinals with a 5-0 unanimous decision win over Colombia's Martinez Maria Jose in the first round.

Debutant Sakshi and Jose indulged in a fast-paced bout, where the Indian jabbed her way through to victory.

Nupur Sheoran also progressed to the quarterfinal of the 81+kg category, with a dominant win over Abiola Jackman of Guyana. The Indian's strength and speed were too much for her opponent, with the judges ruling unanimously (5-0) in Nupur's favour.

Preeti (54kg) made short work of Lakotar Hanna of Hungary in the evening session of the event, winning the bout via RSC. Displaying a swift left uppercut that her opponent had no answer to, Preeti took the first round 5-0 before the referee stopped the contest in the second round itself.