Tokyo Olympics: Boxer Pooja Rani bows out after losing to Li Qian in quarters

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TOKYO: In a thoroughly disappointing day for Indian boxing, Pooja Rani (75kg) joined world number one Amit Panghal (52kg) in exiting the Olympic Games after an underwhelming performance, going down 0-5 in her quarterfinal bout against China’s Li Qian on Saturday.Qian, who is a former world champion and a Rio Olympics bronze-medallist, thoroughly outpunched Rani in the quarterfinals, quite literally taking away her belief with a clinical performance.This was after Panghal bowed out with a stunning 1-4 loss to Rio Games silver-medallist Yuberjen Martinez , beaten by the Colombian’s relentless attacks and pace in a draining pre-quarterfinal bout.Rani looked clueless in the ring after showing some spark in the opening round. Qian was ruthless in her counter-hitting every time the debutante Indian tried to launch an offensive, striking straight and clean to assert her dominance.Even the waiting game didn’t work for Rani, whose fragile defence was easily penetrated by the top-class Chinese boxer, who is now assured of her second Olympic medal.Earlier Panghal, who was also making his debut in the Games and was seeded top, fizzled out after a good start.One of India’s strongest medal contenders, Panghal was put under pressure by the sprightly Colombian in the opening round itself but the pre-bout favourite ensured that he connected better to claim the first three minutes 4-1.“They have sparred with each other. In some of them Amit was better than today but in others, it was similar to what happened today. It wasn’t a total surprise because we had seen that this guy is very dangerous,” Indian Boxing’s High Performance Director Santiago Nieva said after the bout.Martinez’s pace should have set alarm bells ringing in the Indian corner despite Panghal bagging the first round because the Pan-American champion upped the ante in the second round, working relentlessly on Panghal’s body with his uppercuts.Panghal found it tough to respond and Martinez’s persistence brought him level with the top star.“We knew what to expect but our hope was that Amit would stand up better in the last two rounds,” Nieva added.Martinez made sure that there was no let up in the intensity in the final three minutes as well and Panghal ended up being on the defensive for the most part.“He didn’t have the strength to move, so he stayed inside. Then (eventually) he didn’t have the strength to respond also and he became passive. There the Colombian scored a lot of points,” Nieva said.“Against no other opponent, I have seen Amit so tired. It’s not just him, in the Italy camp we also had Deepak, who is also a world-class boxer, and he also could not stop him. We were facing a very high-calibre boxer,” he added, referring to Asian silver-medallist Deepak Kumar, who was there with the Olympic-bound group for sparring.Despite this loss, the 25-year-old Panghal remains one of the best-performing Indian boxers in recent times, having secured a gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games, followed by an unparalleled silver medal at the world championships in 2019.The diminutive Army man is also a three-time Asian medallist, securing a medal every time he has been at the continental showpiece. It is in fact the first major setback that the youngster has endured since a breakthrough 2017, when he first burst into the scene.Martinez won the light flyweight silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics and will turn professional after the Tokyo Games.“This is a big step for me in my aim to win the gold medal. He was the top seed and a great competitor, a fantastic fighter, but I was very well-prepared for this fight,” Martinez said after the bout.“I am in the quarterfinals now but I know I will have to be at my best if I want the gold medal. That is what I am here for,” he added.His parents, who follow the pacifism-supporting Anglican church, were against him taking up the sport but eventually came around to support his ambitions.On Friday, Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) became the first Indian boxer to secure a medal at the ongoing Games after advancing to the semifinals. She defeated former world champion Nien-Chin Chen of Chinese Taipei in her quarterfinal bout.

Tokyo Olympics 2020, Women’s Boxing: Pooja Rani loses in quarterfinals, Olympic dream ends

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Welcome to the coverage of the Women’s middleweight quarterfinal between India’s Pooja Rani and Li Qian (China).

Pooja Rani’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics campaign comes to an end.


ROUND 3: Li Qian is just keeping her range and drawing Pooja Rani forward. Once she comes close, the Chinese star is connecting with lethal blows. Pooja Rani hasn’t landed a clean punch in a long time. Li Qian feinted and struck a brilliant right upper cut. It’s over and Pooja Rani has lost this bout. An effortless win for Li Qian.

ROUND 2: Pooja Rani is playing into Li Qian’s trap. Pure dominance from the Chinese boxer. Rani is struggling to get her punches right. A flurry of unreturned strikes from Li Qian. This might be a landslide. Pooja Rani has to get it going. Another 10-9 round across scorecards for Li Qian.

ROUND 1: Pooja Rani is being aggressive here. Li Qian calmly stays on her back foot. Not many punches have connected so far. Li Qian gets the better of an exchange of jabs, but this fight has been quite a dull one so far. Pooja Rani could have lost this round by a whisker. Li Qian takes it 10-9 on all five scorecards.


The boxers march out! Pooja Rani comes out first followed by her Chinese opponent Li Qian.

We’re minutes away from the start of the bout.

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Form guide: 2021: Gold at Asian championships, UAE; Silver at Boxam International Tournament, Spain; 2020: Bronze at Cologne World Cup, Germany.

Ironically, despite being from the hub of boxing, Bhiwani girl Pooja Rani did not have any interest in the sport until her college lecturer Mukesh Rani persuaded her to don the gloves. Mukesh introduced 18-year-old Pooja to her husband Sanjay Sheoran, a boxing coach and the son of legendary boxer Hawa Singh. Sanjay convinced Pooja’s father, who was a policeman, to let his daughter box.

Pooja hid her bruises and cuts from her father to pursue boxing to win a gold medal at the Haryana state youth championships, followed by a silver at the Nationals youth championships in 2009, within months.

READ: Pooja Rani doesn’t want to overdo anything before Olympics

Pooja’s improvement removed her roadblocks and fetched her more glory. She progressed to win multiple National titles, an Asian Games medal, a South Asian Games gold medal and two Asian crowns.

Even though she had achieved most of her success in 75kg, Pooja had switched to get her first Asian title in 81kg in 2019. However, she returned to 75kg after being guided by foreign coach Raffaele Bergamasco to begin her pursuit of Olympics glory. She was encouraged after getting another Asian title in the middleweight division in 2021.

Tokyo Olympics: Pooja Rani misses out on medal, loses 0-5 to Rio bronze medallist Li Qian

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A second boxing medal at the Tokyo Olympics for India did not come by on Saturday as Pooja Rani (75kg) lost to No.2 seed and Rio 2016 bronze medallist Li Qian of China by unanimous decision. Qian never ceded control throughout the bout and ended up winning 5-0 to go through to the medal rounds.

The first round was a clean sweep for Qian with the Chinese constantly drawing Rani and the Indian ending missing a number of her punches. It was more the same in the second round, with Qian continuing to practically keep no guard at all but remaining surgical in her strikes and controlling the bout. The second round was also decided unanimously in Qian’s favour.

Tokyo Olympics: Live | Full Coverage

The 30-year-old, who is making her Olympic debut in Tokyo, was looking to become only the fouth Indian boxer after Mary Kom, Vijender Singh and Lovlina Borgohain to win a medal at the Games.

Lovlina Borgohain achieved the feat earlier this week when she stormed into the semi-final, comfortably outclassing former world champion Chen Nien-Chin of Taiwan in the Women’s Welterweight quarter-final.

Earlier in the tournament, Pooja handled nerves wonderfully well to open her campaign with a win in the Women’s Middleweight category. She was the first Indian boxer to qualify for Tokyo 2020 and she made sure she belonged to the highest level by coming up with a unanimous decision victory over Algeria’s Ichrak Chaib.

Pooja, the reigning Asian champion, hammered her 20-year-old opponent. Pooja used all her experience to control the three-round bout against Chaib, who showed plenty of heart and energy but kept swinging wildly and missed her target.

Pooja on the other hand, looked calm and composed, knew exactly what she needed to do to get past an opponent 10 years her junior.

Pooja won the Asian Games bronze medal in 2014 but missed the bus to Rio. However, she made sure she was in the best of forms in the lead up to Tokyo, winning the Asian Championships gold in 2019 and 2021.