Nitu Ghanghas, a two-time youth world champion, and Commonwealth Games gold medalist is often compared with boxing legend Mary Kom.
Nitu Ghanghas is often called the next Mary Kom.
Her power and speed in the ring are reminiscent of a young Mary Kom. However, her ruthless aggression and unwavering commitment to victory distinguish her from the Manipuri icon.
In her early 20s, Nitu Ghanghas has a way to go before she matches Mary Kom's legacy, but the youngster is making all the right noises and has been steadily accumulating medals and accomplishments.
Having been born on October 19, 2000, in the Dhanana village of Haryana's Bhiwani district, Nitu Ghanghas' encounter with boxing was inevitable. Bhiwani has produced several global stars, including Olympic medalist Vijender Singh.
Her father, Jai Bhagwan, worked at the Haryana Rajya Sabha in Chandigarh. Her mother is Mukesh Devi, and Nitu has a younger brother named Akshit.
She was a naughty child. Her father introduced her to boxing to channel her energy constructively.
After Nitu Ghanghas started formal training at the age of 12, she failed to make any progress.
Nitu Ghanghas gave up on the sport after becoming frustrated with her lack of progress, but her father intervened. Her father, Jai Bhagwan, took a three-year unpaid leave to help his daughter achieve her boxing dreams.
Besides farming on a small piece of land he owned, Jai Bhagwan took out a loan for about six lakh rupees (about $7500) to cover the costs. He also personally oversaw Nitu's training.
Coach Jagdish Singh, one of Vijender Singh's mentors and the founder of the renowned Bhiwani Boxing Club, noticed Nitu Ghanghas at that time.
To train at the Bhiwani Boxing Club, Nitu, a BA student at Sri Guru Gobind Singh College, used to travel 40 km each day on her father's scooter.
Nitu Ghanghas' efforts paid off soon enough.
When Nitu Ghangas won a medal for Haryana in a state-level competition in 2015, a pelvic injury threatened to end her career. Jai Bhagwan again played a crucial role in keeping his daughter on track.
Haryana's pugilist won a bronze medal at the 2016 youth nationals and a gold medal at the Balkan Youth International Boxing Championship in Sofia, Bulgaria, the following year.
In 2017 and 2018, she won gold medals at the world championships in Guwahati and Budapest, Hungary respectively.
In 2018, the southpaw won both the Asian and Indian youth championships.
After that, Nitu was sidelined by injuries to her shoulder and wrist, and then COVID-19 disrupted her schedule.
In 2021, however, the youngster stormed back into the spotlight when she won her first senior national title.
At Europe's oldest boxing tournament in Sofia, Nitu Ghangas won gold in the women's 48kg division at the Strandja Memorial in February 2022.
Several months later, Nitu Ghanghas made her senior world championship debut and was narrowly beaten by eventual silver medalist Alua Balkibekova of Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals.
Nitu Ghanghas was called up for the Commonwealth Games 2022 boxing trials and encountered her idol Mary Kom in the semi-finals.
Mary Kom, the reigning Commonwealth Games champion in the division, suffered a knee injury one minute into the fight and was forced to concede the fight by RSCI (Referee Stops Contest - Injury).
Although it was a win on paper, Nitu was disappointed because she desperately wanted to face her idol.
"I wanted to play a whole match with Mary Kom and show her everything that I have worked so hard for," Nitu Ghanghas said.
During the finals, Nitu outpunched former world championship silver medalist Manju Rani by a split decision of 5-2 to secure her spot in the Indian boxing contingent for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022.
While the youngster won, questions lingered about whether she was ready for the big stage, and some speculated she was only on the plane to Birmingham because Mary Kom was injured.
In Birmingham, Nitu Ghanghas put all doubts to rest emphatically.
Nicole Clyde, Nitu's quarter-final opponent, had to retire in the second round after Nitu battered her.
Nitu won the semis against Canada's Priyanka Dhillon after the referee intervened in round three.
Demie-Jade Resztan of England, a former world championship bronze medalist, managed to last all three rounds against Nitu but lost 5-0.
After her win, Nitu said, "Resztan was a very worthy opponent. She told me afterward that I deserved to win, and that means a lot to me."
Nitu Ghanghas has achieved a lot at her age, but she still has a long way to go before she can truly be considered Mary Kom's successor.
With Mary Kom having played her final Olympics in Tokyo 2020, there is going to be fierce competition for the 50kg spot in Paris 2024.
Nitu Ghaghas will have to move up a weight category from her pet 48kg, which will pit her against senior compatriot Nikhat Zareen, the world champion in the division and the Commonwealth Games gold medalist in the 52kg category.
There will also be old rival Manju Rani in the mix, which will make the division extremely competitive.
Despite the prospect of facing Nikhat Zareen, Nitu appears unfazed and relishes the challenge.
Bronze medal at the 2016 Youth Women's Nationals
Gold medal at the Balkan Youth International Boxing Championships 2017
Gold medalist at the 2017 Youth Women's World Boxing Championships
Gold medal at the Asian Youth Championships 2018
Gold medal at the Youth Women's Nationals 2018
Gold medal in the Golden Glove of Vojvodina Youth Tournament 2018
Gold medal at the 2018 Youth Women's World Boxing Championships
Gold medal at Women's Nationals 2021
Gold medal at the Strandja Memorial Boxing Tournament 2022
Quarterfinalist at the Women's World Boxing Championships 2022
Gold medal at Commonwealth Games 2022
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