A shoulder injury in 2022 kept two-time World Youth Champion boxer Sakshi Chaudhury out of the ring for close to five months before she powered the Services side to the first ever gold medal in the 54 kg weight division at the senior women’s national championships in Bhopal, last year.
Hailing from Dhanana village, near Bhiwani — the mini Cuba of India, Sakshi made an instant impact after being picked by the Services in the first batch of women boxers late last year.
Now posted in Goa, the 22-year-old is currently representing the coastal state in the 37th National Games and is a strong gold medal contender. She started her title hunt with a 5-0 against Haryana’s Kalpana in the Rd-16 of the 50kg light flyweight division.
“I have been training in Goa for the past six months as I’m posted here. The training facilities are pretty decent here. Also, with the National Games taking place in the state, it will help the emerging boxers from the state.”
“It was my first bout for Goa, and it turned out well, the opponent was a strong one. When I came to Goa, I was looking to box in the 52kgs and 54kgs, but since they already had athletes in those weights, I decided to come down to the 50kg division,” she added.
But with Nikhat Zareen already sealing the Paris Olympic quota in the 50kg weight class at the Hangzhou Asian Games, Sakshi knows that she will have to move to another weight category in the next few months for any chance of qualification.
“It will be hard work, I am up for the challenge. But at the same time, I don’t want to overload and pick up an injury. The focus for now is winning a gold here for Goa,” she said.
In women’s boxing, only quotas in the 60kg and 66kg are up for grabs in the women’s category with Nikhat (50kg), Preeti Pawar (54kg), Parveen Hooda (57kg) and Lovlina Borgohain (75kg) already sealing the other berths on offer.
Sakshi, the bronze medallist of the 2021 Asian championships, hinted at a change in weight category, although she preferred to remain tight-lipped on her plans.
“There is a plan, but I’m not sure whether I can pull it off as of now. Going up to the 60kg won’t make sense for me as my normal weight remains around 54kg, so I’m hoping there could be another way out. Till then I’d prefer to keep my fingers crossed,” the 2023 world championships quarter-finalist.
Sakshi went to the famed Bhiwani Boxing Club (BBC) with her father Manoj Kumar ferrying his daughter on a bike for 20kms every day. Her dedication and sacrifices made sure she rose to prominence when she was only 15. She beat US National champion Yarisel Ramirez in the final of the AIBA World Junior Women’s Championships.
Known for her speed and agility in the ring, Sakshi went on to pocket two World Youth Championships titles consecutively before making it to the senior circuit in 2019, and almost made it to the Tokyo Olympics squad before Covid-19 jeopardised her prospects.
Now three years later, Sakshi is in no mood to let another opportunity slip.