Sports

Boxing-Kom launches bid for elusive gold with hard-fought win

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics - The Tokyo 2020 Olympics Opening Ceremony - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - July 23, 2021. Mary Kom Hmangte of India and Harmanpreet Singh of India lead their contingent in the athletes parade during the opening ceremony REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files

TOKYO, July 25 (Reuters) - Indian boxing queen MC Mary Kom, a six-time world champion, launched her final bid for the missing Olympic gold with a hard-fought opening win against Dominican Republic's Miguelina Hernandez Garcia at the Tokyo Games on Sunday.

The face of the campaign to get women's boxing included in the quadrennial showpiece and flyweight bronze medallist at London 2012, the 38-year-old mother of four is set for her Olympic swansong in Tokyo.

The pint-sized boxer delved into her enormous experience to prevail 4-1 against a rival 15 years younger and set up a clash against Colombian third seed Ingrit Lorena Valencia Victoria, who won bronze in Rio five years ago.

"I have all the medals in my hand," Mary Kom, who has also won gold medals at the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games, said after winning the first bout of Sunday's second session.

"It's not easy to count them, but the difficult part is continuously winning and performing. The one that's still not in my hand is the Olympic gold medal.

"That is what is driving me and pushing me to carry on. I am trying my best, if I am able to get it then I will be so grateful. But if not then I will still be so happy for all the medals I have won."

American Keyshawn Davis's dream of winning an Olympic gold, improbable till last month, was also back on track when the men's lightweight won his debut fight with a unanimous decision on points against Dutch Enrico Lacruz.

Davis needed professional help to manage anger issues a few years back and was removed from the United States team last year after a row over attending training camps for the Olympic qualifiers. It prompted him to turn professional in 2021.

His Olympic dream revived unexpectedly when last month he was offered a quota place for Tokyo through the IOC Boxing Task Force (BTF) rankings following his two silver medals at the 2019 world championships and Pan American Games.

"The gold medal is the one and only thing that I need to put in my resume. As of right now," Davis, who won his first three fights as a pro, said after a comfortable outing against Lacruz.

"This is the only thing I'm focusing on. I never experienced anything like this before, and now that I experienced it, I'm glad that I got the opportunity to come back."

A steep task awaits Davis next as he meets Sofiane Oumiha, the French top seed and Olympic silver medallist in Rio.

Canadian boxer Mandy Bujold was also not sure of participation until few weeks ago and had to win a legal battle at the Court of Arbitration for Sport over qualification criteria to book her trip to Tokyo.

But the remarkable journey of flyweight Bujold, who was reinstated after the court ruled that the governing body must accommodate women who were pregnant or had given birth during the qualification period, came to an end with a loss by unanimous decision on points to Nina Radovanovic of Serbia.

Uzbek Tursunoy Rakhimova kicked off the proceedings on the second day of boxing at the Kokugikan Arena - the spiritual home of Japan's sumo wrestling - with a 4-1 win against Pole Sandra Drabik and will next meet top-seeded Turk Buse Naz Cakiroglu.

In men's light heavyweight, Imam Khataev, competing in Tokyo as a representative of the Russian Olympic Committee because the country was stripped of its flag and anthem for doping offences, was too strong for Morocco's Mohamed Assaghir.

The referee stopped the contest in the third round but Khataev will have a tougher outing next against Kazakh top seed Bekzad Nurdauletov.

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Stephen Coates and Pritha Sarkar

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