Lovlina Borgohain became the first Indian boxer to enter the quarterfinals with a 3-2 win over German welterweight Nadine Apetz on Tuesday. Both boxers, two-time World championship bronze medallists, had received byes into the last 16. Borgohain can now secure a bronze medal with a win over Chin-Chen Nien of Chinese Taipei on Friday.
The 69kg contest was the first Olympic bout for both the 23-year-old Borgohain and Apetz, 12 years her senior. The German took up boxing out of curiosity at 21; Borgohain had a bronze each at the Asian Championships and World Championships by that age.
For a welterweight, the 5’9 Borgohain moves quickly. And while she only had an inch on Apetz, the German’s slightly-more-crouched stance helped Borgohain maximise the height and reach advantage. Jab was the order of the day, often followed up with another. The double-jab is employed to distract, create distance and line up the second punch.
The straight left, thus, was the key tool on Tuesday. The jabs stung and kept Apetz at bay, while the hook was there to catch and counter her when she rushed in.
“I am satisfied with Lovlina’s performance. She played an excellent match against the German, also world bronze,” women’s high performance director Raffaele Bergamasco says. “Lovlina was rewarded for her greater pressure and speed of hits, especially with the left jab.”
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It wasn’t all easy going. Apetz — an inspiration in European boxing circles who put a Ph.D in neuroscience – focusing on Parkinson’s Disease and deep brain stimulation – on hold for her Games debut — was aggressive and launched flurries. She pushed the action, often closing the distance with step-in combos and overhand punches.
Borgohain won all three rounds 3-2. But with one judge awarding all three rounds to the German, the split decision could have gone either way.
“I am saddened by the behaviour of the Sri Lankan judge who saw Lovlina lose for all three rounds,” Bergamasco adds.
“Lovlina could perform a lot better,” says childhood coach Padam Boro. “The first round, she was cautious and only got going in the last two. She was not able to properly utilise her right hand. If she did that, the score would have been 5-0 in her favour.”
Boro, coach at Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) Guwahati centre, discovered Borgohain during a talent hunt at the Sarupathar Girls School in 2012.
“We saw the certificates and realised she was a good Muay Thai athlete. She was impressive in all her tests and showed that she could easily become a top boxer,” says Boro. “She needed to be convinced since she was leaving her sport behind. But during training, she got so into boxing that she wouldn’t leave without clearing all her doubts or perfecting a technique we just showed.”Standing between Borgohain and an Olympic medal is the imposing fourth seed Nien-Chin Chen. The 24-year-old from Chinese Taipei handily defeated Borgohain in the semifinals of the 2018 Worlds in New Delhi, going on to win the gold medal.