Devi starts pro career with overwhelming win

Laishram Sarita Devi pins Zsofia Bedo against the ropes on Sunday. Devi, who was making her professional debut, won the contest by a unanimous decision at the Khuman Lampak Stadium in Imphal, India.
Laishram Sarita Devi pins Zsofia Bedo against the ropes on Sunday. Devi, who was making her professional debut, won the contest by a unanimous decision at the Khuman Lampak Stadium in Imphal, India.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW DELHI • India's Laishram Sarita Devi made a winning start to her professional boxing career, silencing the taunts of her Hungarian opponent who had vowed to leave her in tears.

Devi, who became famous after she tearfully refused to accept a medal at the 2014 Asian Games, won the five-round bout on Sunday against Zsofia Bedo by a unanimous decision in front of her home fans in the state of Manipur.

Bedo, a veteran of 59 professional fights, had vowed to reduce Devi to tears once again ahead of their contest.

But the 29-year-old Hungarian was totally outfought by her Indian opponent, who was cheered ringside by her family and fans.

"The victory was sweet as I outplayed an experienced boxer. The sacrifice made over the past decade has paid off," the 31-year-old Devi said after her fight.

Her quest to become India's top female boxer hit a roadblock in 2014 when she refused to accept a bronze medal at the Asian Games, earning her a one-year ban by the International Boxing Association.

Devi accused judges of pandering to her hometown opponent by declaring South Korea's Park Ji Na the winner on points in their semi-finals, denying her a shot at gold.

But the 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medallist has moved on as she seeks a spot on the national stage alongside Vijender Singh, her Indian male counterpart who has won all four fights since turning professional.

Devi decided to turn pro after more than a decade as an amateur, a period in which she also won gold at the 2006 Women's World Amateur Boxing Championship.

She said: "The Asian Games incident was very painful, but I had to erase those sad memories. That was a big reason I decided to turn pro."

She had been working with Joe Clough, an American coach with experience training former heavyweight world champion Evander Holyfield.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 31, 2017, with the headline 'Devi starts pro career with overwhelming win'. Print Edition | Subscribe