When Pooja Rani, became the first woman boxer to advance into the finals of the Asian Boxing Championship 2019 in Bangkok on Thursday, sports enthusiasts labelled it as the performance of the year. Since the beginning of the championship, Pooja, (75kg), an Asian Games bronze medalist, dominated the scene to put India on top of the standings ahead of the semi-finals of the Asian Boxing Championships.
Pooja along with three other Indians — Kavinder Singh Bisht, Deepak Singh and Ashish Kumar, entered the finals of the Asian Boxing Championships on Thursday.
Pooja advanced in the women’s draw in the early session of the marquee event’s last-four stage in semifinals.
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Meanwhile, four-time Asian Championships gold medallist L Sarita Devi (60kg) and last edition’s silver-medallist Manisha (54kg) won bronze medals. Pooja was up against Kazakhstan’s Fariza Sholtay and she won the round 5-0 in a unanimous decision.
Earlier last week, two-time continental medallist Pooja secured India’s first medal in the women’s 81 kg category after making it to the semi-finals.
The road so far…
- The 28-year-old middle-weight boxer Pooja hails from Bhiwani district, Haryana.
- Pooja comes from a family which doesn’t support women playing any kind of sport. But, being a boxing enthusiast, she was always on the lookout for opportunities to start her training. Even though she got a chance to join an academy in her hometown, she was scared to tell her father of her passion. Eventually, her family got to know of her secret but before that she would hide her injuries so that her father would not find out.
“My parents were dead against my plans of making a career out of boxing. My father would say, “Acche bache boxing nahi khelte (good children don’t play boxing)”. Such was the situation that I feared my father would stop me from going to the boxing ring if he saw my injuries. So, I would conceal my injuries from him as well as my mother,” Pooja had said in an interview with TOI.
- Unfortunately, even after getting to know of his daughter’s secret, her father banned her from enrolling in any training classes. It was then that her coach, Sanjay Kumar, visited Pooja’s family and convinced them about her talent.
- The same year, Rani went for her first Youth National Championship and won silver, proving her potential to her father and other family members.
- She won silver in the 60kg category at the National Youth Boxing Championship in 2009 in the 60kg category. Two months after her first win, she defeated one of Haryana’s leading women’s boxing champions Preeti Beniwal, in the state championships.
“Nobody objected after that win. All my family members became supportive,” Pooja recalled.
- After which Pooja spent months to convince her parents that boxing is her true calling.
- Next Pooja won silver in the Asian Boxing Championship in 2012 and silver at the Arafura Games held in Australia the same year.
- Finally, they agreed since she got a call to represent India at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in Scotland in the year 2014.
- She also clinched a bronze at the 2014 Asian Games in the 75 kg category and later went on to win the gold medal in South Asian Games 2016.
- Pooja currently works as an Income Tax inspector in the Haryana government.
Feature Image Credit: The Bridge