Lovlina Borgohain is back. And this time she has a World Championships gold medal around her neck.
Lovlina defeated Australia's Caitlin Anne Parker in the 75kg final of the World Women's Boxing Championships in New Delhi on Sunday to climb atop the podium, bettering the two bronzes she had won earlier (2018 and 2019).
This medal holds great value to Lovlina for two reasons (a) this is her first major win since her bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and (b) it's in a weight category that's relatively new to her. She had moved up from 69kg (in which she won the Olympic bronze) to 75kg since the latter features in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
"This medal is very important for my career. Everyone had worked so hard, including my coaches, and our target was to become champion here. Now, I've qualified for the Asian Games and will focus on qualifying for the Olympics from there," said Lovlina.
The medal also announced Lovlina's comeback to the big stage - she had endured a lull after the highs of Tokyo. In 2022, she had just one medal to show: a gold at the Asian Championships. She lost in the pre-quarterfinal of the World Championships and the quarterfinal of the Commonwealth Games.
At a time when her career was expected to take off, Lovlina had struggled to produce results. Meanwhile, Nikhat Zareen took the mantle as the poster girl of Indian boxing and won every tournament there was to win.
The move up to 75kg came after this streak of poor results - and that's when she won the Nationals as well as the Asian Championships. "I've had many ups and downs since the Olympics. My (preferred) weight category (69kg) was removed after the Olympics so I had to struggle to get ready for the new category (75kg). I'm comfortable now considering I don't have to control my weight too much. I do well because this is my natural weight," Lovlina had said earlier this week.
On Sunday, her about against Parker was a see-saw battle where momentum changed hands regularly. Parker had the better start but Lovlina clawed her way back into the opening round with a series of uppercuts. When Parker's guard dropped, Lovlina went for her face and when Parker's guard was up, she attacked her midriff. The Indian took the opening round, but the going got real tough after that. Parker dominated the second round, giving Lovlina no scope to play her game. The Indian camp yelled at Lovlina to stay back and employ long-range punches, but she simply could not. The Australian had a few solid combinations and took the round 4-1.
The momentum had swiftly shifted. "We planned to play on the front foot in the first two rounds and fight from distance in the third as my opponent was strong and because of that our strategy changed to counter-attack in the last round," Lovlina said post the bout.
She was cautious in the final round, as was Parker, but Lovlina appeared to be gassing out mid-way into the round. Parker connected well on a couple of attempts as the Indian corner egged Lovlina to score more points. She found some joy by counterattacking but it was too close to call. The bout's result was reviewed and Lovlina was declared the winner via a split decision.
Lovlina has adapted well to the 75kg weight category, she has three titles in as many tournaments. Owing to her body structure, she had to cut a load of weight before every major event when she competed in the 69kg category. And switching to the 66kg category (which is part of the 2024 Olympics) was not an option because that would then reduce her bone strength and in turn make her more prone to injury. Hence 75kg was the best bet.
It's now turned out to be the category which has helped her break her bronze jinx at the Worlds, a category which is her future and a category which has put her back on top of the world.