There was commonality too: both boxers were making their Olympic debut. For both, it was now or never.
On this day, in this 69kg pre-quarterfinal clash, it was Lovlina who would prevail. She won 3-2 in a tense, closely-fought encounter at the Kokugikan Arena on Tuesday.
One punch away from the medal 🏅 you are the best all the best 👊🏽 https://t.co/MdCyhKfJJG
— Vijender Singh (@boxervijender) 1627374621000
In doing so, Lovlina became the first from a nine-member Indian boxing contingent to make it to the quarterfinals, and take a significant step closer to assuring India of a medal.
Lovlina now needs to win her quarterfinal bout against Nien-Chin Chen of Chinese Taipei on July 30 to ensure a medal for herself and country.
It won’t be easy, however. The feisty Chen is the world No. 2 in the 69kg weight category and had defeated Lovlina in the 2018 World Boxing Championships semifinals. But don’t count Lovlina out: in the 69kg, she is ranked only one step lower, at third.
On Tuesday, Lovlina made a slow start as she took time to gauge her opponent. She chose her moments wisely to bring up her jabs. Apetz, on the other hand, went for a flurry of punches – some landed while others went wide. The Indian waited for the Apetz burst to end, defending brilliantly, and then as soon as she got an opening, deposited a few scoring combinations. In the end, much to India’s relief, three of the five judges ruled in favour of Lovlina.
Onwards! 🥊🔥Power packed punching from Lovlina Borgohain lands her a last eight slot as she wins 3-2 against Nadin… https://t.co/NrOQVISoFU
— #Tokyo2020 for India (@Tokyo2020hi) 1627366257000
In the second round, Lovlina unleashed a combination of her right and left-hand jabs. The intensity proved to be too much for the German to handle as Apetz struggled to evade the onslaught. Her efforts to dodge and block the Indian wasn’t successful. The Indian also defended well on the counter. As a result, she once again impressed the judges and the second round too went in her kitty by a 3-2 split decision.
With the first couple of rounds going in her favour, the assured Lovlina reserved her energy in the third and final round. The safe and smart approach worked. The Indian defended well and kept the pressure on the German by counter-attacking brilliantly.
Apetz tried her best to attack but Lovlina withstood the pressure in the end moments. As a result, another 3-2 split decision went in Lovlina’s favour.
“There was no point in being too offensive. Lovlina was smart enough to keep the scoring ticking by hitting on the counter-attack. She applied her mind well. Early on, when she was going for attack, Lovlina was getting hit. Then we told her to play on the counter and keep her guard up. That strategy worked,” said national women’s coach Mohammed Ali Qamar.
Lovlina’s tall frame, she is five feet eight inches, also proved to be an advantage, as she could stay back and defend and then use her long reach to connect her punches.