Dr. Sonia Kanwar Jarial becomes India's First Female Boxing Official to pass the IBA Exam

By: WE Staff | Friday, 25 November 2022

Dr. Sonia Kanwar Jarial, 44, informed her husband Rajiv Jarial, their children Naisha Jarial and Virajveer Jarial, and herself as soon as she received the International Boxing Association (IBA) email confirming her passing the IBA 3 star referee and judge examination.

Dr. Sonia passed the IBA exam in Maribor, Slovenia, last month, making the Chandigarh referee the first female boxing official in India to do so. She is now qualified to officiate in both the Olympics and world championships.

“It has been a long journey for me as a referee in boxing. It has been a long wait for me since taking the exam in Slovenia about the result. Both my children are always excited to see me officiate in national as well international competitions and they too were awaiting the result along with my husband. To pass the exam and become the first Indian women referee to achieve the 3 Star IBA rating is a special moment for the whole family,” stated Jarial, who is working as an assistant professor at Sri Guru Gobind Singh College, Sector 26.

Dr. Sonia grew up in Chandigarh and chose to practise judo at the Judo Training Hall in Sector 23 because her father worked for HMT, Pinjore. Before choosing boxing, she won the All India Inter-University Judo Championship for three straight years in the late 1990s. She only competed in boxing at the state level, but she was motivated to take the exams for the position of judge and referee by her desire to work in the sport.

Dr. Sonia officiated at the Asian Women's Boxing Championship in Mongolia in 2004 after receiving the 1 Star IBA rating for referee and judges. Dr. Sonia has officiated in numerous national competitions, the Indian team's trials for the CWG and Asian Games, as well as the 2008 Asian Women's Championships, 2018 Strandja Cup, 2019 Australian Open Boxing Championship, 2021 Asian Youth and Junior Championship, and 2022 Elorda Cup over the past 18 years.

“When I initially started as a boxer, I would also watch the boxers train during practice at the Sector 23 hall. My interest in being a referee and judge grew and I passed the IBF judge exam first before clearing the IBF referee judge. While I obtained the IBA 1 Star in 2004 and 2 Star rating in 2018, officiating at the international level gave me the necessary exposure. Initially, I too made some mistakes as the reflex system was not fast. As a referee, our main concern is the safety of the boxers. While men boxers are usually more aggressive as compared to women boxers, they are also prone to more head injuries or cuts. So we have to take care of that aspect too apart from the rules and conduct of the bout,” said Dr Sonia.

Dr. Sonia recently served as an official at the Khelo India Youth Games. Aside from the current world champion Nikhat Zareen, she has presided over international fights involving Mary Kom, a six-time world champion and bronze medalist from the 2012 London Olympics. Even though a referee is supposed to be impartial, Dr. Sonia has always favoured Kom.