Former world and Asian champion, L Sarita Devi, will mark her plunge as India’s first woman boxing professional when she takes on seasoned Hungarian Zsofia Bedo in her first bout in Imphal, Manipur on January 29, organisers announced on Thursday.
After Vijender Singh put India on the map of professional boxing, the 31-year-old Sarita will follow suit but her initiation in the professional ranks is expected to be tough as Zsofia has 59 professional bouts to her credit, with 19 victories.
“Turning professional is not just about winning or losing a couple of bouts. The most important decision of my career is also a mission for me. I didn’t want to start against any average opponent. I am entering the professional circuit quite late in my career. I will have to make longer strides to achieve my goals. The stronger the opponent, the better are the chances to improve my pro rankings,” the Manipur boxer was quoted as saying in a statement.
Sarita Devi, regarded only next to MC Mary Kom among Indian women boxers, won silver at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, but her bronze medal at the Incheon Asian Games that year descended into chaos. The Indian, upset over refeering in her semifinal after her Korean opponent was awarded the bout, refused to accept the bronze medal. Sarita Devi was slapped a one-year suspension by the world boxing body, AIBA on disciplinary grounds.
Sarita is currently preparing under seasoned American trainer Joe Clough. The 73-year-old Clough has trained former professional world champion Evander Holyfield and was part of Muhammad Ali’s coaching staff, the statement said.
Looking ahead to her professional debut, Sarita said: “Manipur is the land of warriors. We people love combat sports. Boxing lovers are going to turn up for my bout in big numbers. That’s going to be the biggest day of my career for the simple reason that I have never had an opportunity to contest such a big bout in front of my home crowd.
“There is going to be an extra pressure. But, that also pumps up the adrenalin.”