Saweety Boora walked into her first Worlds final in nine years hoping to claim destiny. Nine minutes later, it was hers: World Champion, at last.
Saweety became the first Indian boxer to win gold in the women's light heavyweight category [81kg] after beating China's Wang Lina via a split verdict on Saturday. This was one up on her silver won in 2014: it'd taken her nine long years to climb the podium again at the Worlds. This time, though, she went to the very top.
A three-time Asian Championships medallist, Saweety's is a classic tale of perseverance. She had a massive break in 2014 when she won silver on her Worlds debut. At 21, she'd won India's best medal in the light heavyweight category. She was a former national kabaddi player who ditched the mat for a pair of gloves -- and had been a bright prospect. But her career didn't quite take off from there.
She had plenty of success at the Asian level: silver in 2015, bronze in 2021 and gold in 2022. She was also dominant at home and in invitational tournaments across the globe. In 2018, she switched things up by moving to the 75kg category, which is part of the Olympics roster. But she just wasn't able to replicate that on the world stage. Until 2023.
In New Delhi, she got a bye straight into the quarterfinals, where she beat Belarus' Viktoriya Kebikava 5-0 for a spot in the semifinal. A bronze medal assured. But not the colour she wanted.
Next up was a tough challenge against Australia's Emma-Sue Greentree. Saweety ground out a 4-3 win on points after the bout was reviewed. Now, she would leave with a silver at the very least. It still wasn't the colour she wanted, though.
Between her and the gold stood former world champion, Wang. And she got past her thanks to the unpredictable nature of her boxing.
At times she would charge at Wang: with her arms flailing and head ducked. At other times she would attack with a series of jabs or simply stand and punch. She threw everything she had at Wang.
"What sets Saweety apart is that you never know where she is going to punch you. Usko opponent dikhta hai aur jahan gap dikhta hai wahan maarti hai woh (she just sees her opponent and whenever she notices a gap she goes after it). Nobody knows what punch she will attempt in the ring. She's not a technical or tempo boxer. She fights purely on instinct," says Bhaskar Bhatt, chief coach of the Indian women's team.
It's her boxing instinct that has carried her over the last nine years. From that silver in South Korea to the gold on Saturday in front of her home crowd in New Delhi.
Tears streamed down her face as the announcer named her the winner. This was the colour she had wanted.
Such was her joy that she did a lap of honour inside the ring while holding the tricolour aloft. The referee had to intervene and say it wasn't permitted. But it simply did not matter, she left the ring smiling from ear to ear while her eyes were filled with tears of joy.
Nine years after her Worlds debut, Saweety Boora can call herself a World Champion.