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“It’s Nikhat Zareen’s Time, Lovlina Borgohain Needs To Be More Proactive”: Ex-India Boxing Coach Blas Iglesias Fernandez

New Delhi:

Former Indian men’s boxing coach Blas Iglesias Fernandez has backed world champion Nikhat Zareen (50kg) to bag a medal at this year’s Paris Olympics but feels that Tokyo Games bronze-medallist Lovlina Borgohain’s (75kg) chances will boil down to her level of aggression in the ring. The 68-year-old Cuban, who served for over two decades as the men’s coach and also became the first and only overseas Dronacharya awardee, has been appointed by the Sports Authority of India as High Performance Coach for a two-year period.

Fernandez is stationed at the National Boxing Academy in Rohtak, Haryana.

Speaking recently on the sidelines of the multi-nation camp for junior boxers at the National Centre of Excellence in Rohtak, Fernandez evaluated India’s chances at the upcoming Summer Games.

“I love the boxing (style) of Nikhat. She is very intelligent. She has good ring tactics. She knows when she is winning and when she is losing,” Fernandez told SAI Media.

“This is Nikhat’s time to prove herself. It’s true that she had lived in the shadows of Mary Kom but now it’s her chance to prove herself and make India proud,” he said.

The Cuban was a part of the Indian men’s coaching staff when Vijender Singh claimed the first Olympic medal in the country’s boxing history back in the 2008 Beijing edition.

He also hit the headlines in 2014 for coping a disciplinary ban for losing his cool after L Sarita Devi’s controversial semifinal loss in the Asian Games.

The veteran says he sees potential in Borgohain too but she has to come across more purposeful, especially when the chips are down in the ring.

“Lovlina has to show more killer instinct. I have seen some of her bouts and I think she lost them because Lovlina was not aggressive and proactive enough.

If she can box to her potential, she can finish among the medals in Paris,” said Fernandez.

The 26-year-old Borgohain has endured a mixed run after her Tokyo medal. She moved up from 69kg to 75kg and did not finish among the medals at the 2022 World Championships and the Commonwealth Games.

But the tall Assam girl bagged her Paris ticket after winning the silver medal at the 2023 Hangzhou Asian Games before being crowned world champion last year.

Zareen and Borgohain are among four Indian women boxers who have qualified for the July-August Summer Games in Paris.

The others are Preeti Pawar (54kg) and Parveen Hooda (57kg).

Fernandez is hoping that India’s male boxers will also qualify for the Paris Games. It will depend on how they fare in the second and final world qualifiers in Bangkok from May 23 to June 3.

Up to 51 Paris quotas will be up for grabs and Indian boxers can potentially clinch nine more Paris spots.

“I reckon Nishant Dev and Amit Panghal can bag Paris quotas. They both have the potential to do this. Men’s boxing is very tough and should not be compared with women’s where the competition is relatively easier. I will like to see Indian men breaking the Olympic jinx,” said Fernandez.

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