The decorated L Sarita Devi (64kg) and world championships silver-medallist Sonia Lather (57kg) advanced to the semifinals and assured themselves of medals at the Asian Women's Boxing Championships on Sunday. Sarita, a former world champion eyeing her sixth medal at the Asian meet, defeated Maftunakhon Melieva of Uzbekistan, while Sonia edged past Kazakhstan's Nazym Ichshanova in the quarterfinals.
Sarita, who returned to the amateur fold after trying her luck in the professional circuit earlier this year, took full advantage of her opponent's reluctance to attack and connected some lusty right hooks to take the upper hand early in the bout.
At the very beginning of the second round, Melieva faced a standing eight count after a flurry of combination punches from the Indian left her dazed. Melieva gave a better account of herself in the final three minutes but Sarita was up for the challenge and displayed some fine ringcraft to dodge the attacks.
Sonia, on the other hand, had to stave off a stiff challenge from Kazakhstan's Nazym Ichshanova in a split verdict to enter the last-four stage, assuring herself of her second medal at the event.
She is a former silver-medallist at the continental meet.
A very aggressive Sonia had Ichshanova on the backfoot early on, the sheer ferocity of her punches standing out.
Although Ichshanova tried her best to match the power, the Indian did just about enough to get a split verdict in her favour.
Earlier, India were not off to a great start as Nation's Cup gold-medallist Neeraj (51kg) went down in a unanimous verdict to Chinese Taipei's Chol Mi Pang in her quarterfinal contest.
The Haryana boxer was decidedly off-colour even though her right hook did come off well occasionally.
However, that was never going to be enough against a resolute rival, who did not miss any opportunity to connect on the counter-attack. In the end, it wasn't a surprise when the judges gave a unanimous verdict in favour of the Taipei boxer.
Yesterday, Olympic medallist M C Mary Kom (48kg), Priyanka Choudhary (60kg) and Shiksha (54kg) had advanced to the semifinals.
(With PTI Inputs)