Nikhat Zareen added another feather to her crown by beating Thailand’s Jutamas Jitpong to claim a World Boxing Championship gold in Istanbul. The Indian pugilist beat Tokyo 2020 quarterfinalist 5-0
The former junior world champions and two-time winner of the prestigious Stradja Memorial tournament, who also works as a banking officer at Bank of India, displayed immense grit to bring home the gold following the footsteps of Indian greats such as MC Mary Kom, Sarita Devi, Jenny RL and Lekha KC.
Indian boxing sensation Zareen was born into an Islamic household in Nizamabad, Telangana. She revealed that she had to endure and overcome the age-old patriarchal belief of boxing not being well suited for women.
“I had to work hard and overcome hurdles including talk that boxing is not for women,” reflected Zareen.
“I had to tell people that nothing will happen to my face and my beauty will be intact”, said the pugilist.
In fact, she has spoken about how her father’s caution about the societal challenges women athletes might face egged her on to win all that she has.
“I can still feel my father’s voice echo in my head – ‘boxing is not for women, is what society thinks & that it’s a men’s sport’,” Zareen has quoted.
“These very words challenged me and I wanted to go out there and prove that boxing doesn’t care whether you are a man or a woman. It’s the desire and aspiration that should matter. Boxing for me is more to do with the attitude and my sense of pride.” said the boxer from Telangana in a heartfelt manner.
Multiple national titles and a swarm of international medals now adorn the trophy cabinet of the 25-year-old.
Having achieved as much as she has in her nascent boxing career it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for her as she was caught in a heated debate as she voiced her disappointment regarding the direct selection of Indian boxing icon MC Mary Kom.
A young Zareen was disheartened by the direct selection of Mary, one of India’s finest and most successful athletes in the world of sport, to represent India at the Tokyo Olympics without any trials.
The fighter in Zareen pushed her to raise the issue and bring it to the attention of the then sports minister Kiren Rijiju who made sure that the youngster’s call for a fair trial and selection process was taken into consideration and implemented.
However, Mary dominated the sanctioned fight against Zareen flaunting her superiority and establishing her right to represent the tri-colour as she has done so many times in her long and illustrious career.
But, Zareen’s fight wasn’t with Mary Kom. Rather, it was against the established order and the existing system. Having swallowed the hard pill handed out to her by the boxing legend, Zareen set her sight on improving her ability and has now come to represent the next crop of talent in Indian boxing. And it wouldn’t be remiss to say she had lived up to her massive potential and has made the country proud on the international stage.
Zareen has been on a rampage at the 12th edition of the WBC as she thrashed opponents from Mexico, England and Brazil by a score of 5-0 in each of her bouts en route to the final of the tournament.
With the win, she joins Mary Kom, Sarita Devi, Jenny RL and Lekha KC as the fifth Indian to win a gold at the World Boxing Championships.
Her inspirational performance on the grand stage is sure to inspire young ones to take up the sport and drive the standards and conditions of Indian boxing up a notch.
Road to World Championship glory:
Pre-Quarters: India’s Nikhat Zareen beat Mexico’s Herrera Alvarez (5-0).
Quarterfinal: India’s Nikhat Zareen beat England’s Charley-Sian Davison (5-0).
Semifinal: India’s Nikhat Zareen beat Brazil’s Caroline De Almeida (5-0).
Final: India’s Nikat Zareen beat Thailand’s Jutamas Jitpong (5-0)