Head coach Santiago pins hopes on Assam pugilists

GUWAHATI: India boxing head coach, Santiago Nieva has high hopes on the pugilists from Assam to do well at the India Open beginning here from Monday and the world boxing championships in Russia later this year.

Six boxers from the state are taking part in the 2nd India Open international boxing tournament beginning here from Monday.

“Shiva Thapa will have to make good use of this tournament (India Open) as preparation for the world championships this year. As it is, he has changed his tactics and focusing on being more aggressive. He has done well at the Asian championships and is capable of winning at any level,” Santiago, who took over as the country’s head coach in 2017, told reporters on the eve of the India Open international boxing tournament on Sunday.

Among the women from the state, the head coach is banking on 21-year-old Loveleena Borgohain to make it big at the world championships, which will serve as a gateway to the Tokyo Olympics qualification berth.

“She is a good technical boxer and is capable of winning a medal at the world championships. Besides, there is another Assam boxer, 18-year-old Ankushita Boro, who missed out last year, but has been impressive. There will be many good boxers in her weight category and she will face a good test,” Santiago, who is eyeing more medals at the India Open this time, said.

The success at the Asian championships will also hold the Indian pugilists in good stead at the India Open, the coach says. “Our boxers beat Olympic champions, gold medalists and world champions at the Asian championships. So, they are prepared for the tough competition ahead,” he said.

As many as 400 boxers from 16 countries are taking part in the five-day tournament at the Karmabir Nabin Chandra Bordoloi Indoor Stadium here. The preliminary bouts begin from 2pm on Monday.

With just about three months to go for the world championship, which is also an Olympic qualifier, the India Open will serve as the preparatory ground for the participants.

Santiago, 43, was also showered praise on Mary Kom’s fitness despite been there for so long.

“She has been competing for a long time but her skills intact. But this time she will face good competition in her weight category (51kg) and it will the most interesting weight category,” he said.

Addressing the media on Sunday, Mary Kom said it was good that the India Open is being hosted by Guwahati, “which is like home” only. “I thank the BFI for the honour and hope to give my best for gold,” she said.

Guwahati boy, Shiva Thapa, who bagged bronze at the Asian Championships in April, too said that he was all geared up to perform well in front of the home crowd. “I have changed my technique and will look to be more aggressive to make an impact with my punches till the end,” he said.

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