New Delhi: Veteran L Sarita Devi and rookie Manisha Mouna gave India a flying start in the women's World Boxing Championships with dominating victories in their respective bouts here on Friday.
While Manisha punched above her weight to outclass veteran American Christina Cruz in an unanimous verdict in 554kg, 2006 edition gold medallist Sarita (60kg) had to work harder to emerge 4-0 winner on points against Diana Sandra Brugger of Switzerland in their opening bouts at the K D Jadhav Stadium here.
Both Sarita and Manisha advanced to the prequarterfinals where they will face Kellie Herrington of Ireland and Dina Zholaman of Kazakhstan respectively on Sunday.
Harrington had won a silver in 64kg in the 2016 World Championships but she has gone one weight category down in this tournament. She beat Troy Garton of New Zealand on Friday.
Zholaman is the defending world champion but Manisha has beaten her in the Silesian Women's Boxing championship in Poland earlier this year.
The 20-year-old Manisha from Haryana, who was making her debut in the World Championships, was in complete control during the first round bout against the American who is almost twice her age.
The 36-year-old Cruz from New York was the last edition's bronze medallist besides winning the same colour of medal in 2012 also.
Manisha, who had won a gold in the India Open and a silver in the Poland event this year, was the clear winner as she dominated all the three rounds. The five judges gave her a unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-26, 30-26, 29-28).
Manisha's mother Usha Rani and grandmother Saroj Devi, who had come all the way from Kaithal, were at the stands to watch her bout.
"I am very proud for winning my first bout in the World Championships. I have proved that I can be at this stage. I will give my best and see how far I can go. I am confident of doing well in the coming rounds," she said.
"My next bout is against the world champion but I have beaten her in Poland. It will be tough but I can beat her," she added.
Asked about the strategy for the bout, she said everything went according to plan.
"My coaches told me to play from a distance. Her (Cruz's) right was very strong so coaches told me to watch here right. I tried to miss her punches from the right and attacked from the left. That was the plan and I did just that," she said.
"The first round was about observing my opponent and find out what to do and what not to do. In the second round, I went with the plan and I was able to land my punches. In the third round, I went for attack and gave the best attack and won the bout," she added.
Zholaman, who beat Muzuki Hiruta of Japan 4-1, said Manisha is a "good" boxer.
"I lost to her (Manisha) in Poland but that is boxing, it happens. She is a good boxer," said the Kazakh.
The 36-year-old Sarita faced a tough fight from her experienced Swiss opponent, who also has been in the international circuit for more than a decade, before winning 4-0 (28-28, 29-28, 30-27, 29-28, 29-28).
The Manipuri boxer, who has been competing in the World Championships since the first edition in 2001, was clearly the better boxer as all the five judges gave points in her favour.
In the second round, the Swiss got a standing count after a hard punch from Sarita landed on her face. Still, one judge gave the Swiss 10-9.
In the third round, Sarita showed signs of tiredness but she carried through the bout. Only one judge ruled in her favour in the third round while the other four awarded identical 10-9 in favour of the Swiss.
After the bout, Sarita admitted that she was finding it difficult to control her opponent.
"In the first round I was trying to observe her and find out how to go about in the next two rounds. But she came attacking from the first round itself. I was finding it difficult to control her," she said.
"Under the new points system, you need to have a proper guard and combination of punches to fetch points. That was what I was doing. She got a standing count in the second round and in the third round I was trying to attack."
Sarita dedicated the win to the people of Manipur who had contributed financially to pay the fine after she was banned for one year in 2014 following the Incheon Asian Games controversy in which she refused to accept the bronze medal at the victory ceremony.
"The people of Manipur contributed money to pay my fine and so I dedicate this win to them."
In other bouts of the day, 2016 World Championship and Rio Olympics bronze medallist Mira Potkonen of Finland beat Commonwealth Games gold winner Anja Stridsman of Australia in 60kg.
Another Rio bronze winner in 60kg, Anastasia Beliakova of Russia moved to the pre-quarters with a unanimous verdict win over Elisa Williams of Panama.
In 48kg, Algerim Kassenayeva of Kazakhstan beat Jazzelle Bobadilla of United States in a 3-2 split decision to earn the right to face five-time world champion M C Mary Kom on Sunday.