The Madhya Pradesh pugilist first beat Strandja Cup bronze medallist Pwilao Basumatary in the semifinal before upsetting 2017 world youth champion Ankushita Boro to stake a claim in the India team that will travel to Yekaterinburg, Russia, for the World Championships starting September 7.
"I was beaten by both the boxers before, but this time I was confident of my abilities. I managed to secure good victories in both the bouts," she said. The wins ensured her a place in the Indian contingent alongside veterans Mary Kom and Sarita Devi.
With 64kg being a non-Olympic weight category, Manju said that she will take a decision on changing her weight class after the World Championships.
"I have got a chance and I want to make full use of it. For now, I am focussing only on the World Championships after which I will decide whether to change my weight category," she said.
Manju's situation was quite different about two years ago when she was thinking that her boxing career had ended even before it took off. She was selected for the senior national camp after her first nationals and was making steady progress when an injury sustained during training in March 2017 put a spoke in the wheel.
"Apart from the physical pain, there was a lot of emotional trauma during that time. My parents have always been supportive of me but there were other members in my family who felt that I should give up the sport," she said.
Manju, who hails from Bhopal, said that this has always been the case her parents would support her in her career but they would often be the only ones in the extended family to do so.
"My father is a farmer and my grandparents are very conservative. In my household, the norm is that after a girl completes Class XII, she stays at home and marriage plans start being drawn. But my parents always supported me... if I have to credit anyone for helping me become a boxer and get through my injury, it has to be them," she said.
Manju had sustained an ACL injury to her knee which required surgery. She then joined JSW's Inspire Institute of Sports in Vijayanagar, Karnataka, in June 2017 where she trained with American head coach Ron Simms. Her knee recovered in February 2018 and a bronze medal at the 3rd Elite Senior Women's Nationals helped her get back into the national camp.
When asked if there has been any change in her style compared to what it was before the injury, Manju said that apart from the technical knowledge she gained from training under Simms, she felt much stronger now.
"I can say now that it was good that I went through this so early in my career. When I was injured I was thinking why such things were happening to me, but now I feel whatever happened was probably part of God's plan for me," she said.
(Rohit Mundayur can be contacted on rohit.m@.in)
( With inputs from IANS )