New Delhi: None other than legendary MC Mary Kom had asked in 2019, ‘who is Nikhat Zareen’? Cut to 2022, well by now, the whole world knows who the Telangana boxer is… now Nikhat Zareen is a World Champion. Three years ago, Nikhat Zareen was pleading for a ‘fair trial’ against Mary Kom ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. It happened after she was denied a chance to compete in the trials for this very tournament and now she stands as the world’s best.
Zareen eventually lost the bout to Mary Kom in the trials, missing out on a chance to qualify for the Tokyo Games.
As the flyweight world champion’s name was called out Thursday, Zareen jumped with joy, punching the air ecstatically. She had finally done it. As the magnitude of the moment hit Zareen, tears began to roll down her cheeks. She had finally proven herself, shut down all her detractors.
Hardened by the difficult circumstances in her career Zareen said she has adopted a combative approach where ‘whatever happens I have to fight and give my best’”
“These two years, I focused on my game only and whatever the weaknesses were there in my game, I tried to improve,” Zareen said. “I worked on my strong points and on where I lacked in my game. I worked on the aspects where I needed to work and made myself strong. All those hurdles which I have faced in my career have made me strong. I have become mentally strong after all these and my thought process is that whatever happens, I have to fight and give my best,” Zareen added.
The 2011 junior World Champion also had to overcome a career-threatening shoulder injury. It kept her out of the ring for a year and saw her miss all the big-ticket events like the Commonwealth Games, Asiad and World Championships in 2018.
“In 2017, I dislocated my shoulder, I had to go under surgery and then I didn’t take part in any competition for a year. I came back in 2018 but I wasn’t at my peak so I missed the big tournaments CWG, Asiad and World Championships,” Zareen informed.
“But I didn’t give up and after the comeback in 2019 haven’t looked back. I have taken all competitions as an opportunity and I believed in myself. Because of that here I’m today,” The newly-crowned World Champion added.
Zareen will now prepare for the Commonwealth Games trial for which she will have to drop her weight and come down to 50kg. “In the CWG there’s a 50kg division, I will prepare for that now,” she stated.
The 25-year-old pugilist has started her preparation for the Paris Olympics but is unsure which weight category she will compete in. She’ll either have to climb up to the 54kg or come down to 50kg.
Talking about the difficulties of changing a weight class, Zareen said said it would be easier to drop weight. “It’s difficult to change a weight category whether you drop down to a weight division or move up to a weight division. It’s more difficult when one moves from a lower weight to a higher weight,” Zareen pointed out.
“I guess if I play in 50kg category, it will not make much of a difference. Normally my weight remains 51.5kg so my body will work well in 50kg. So for some time, I will continue in the 50kg weight division,” she added.
The 2019 Asian Championships bronze medallist has had a busy 2022 and her aim is to remain injury free.
“The challenge is to keep body at peak level. After Strandja, I had to give the World Championship and Asian Games trials. It was not easy as there you were playing decorated, experienced boxers in tough bouts. However, I kept my body calm and composed. I managed to win both the trials and started the preparation for World Championships,” Zareen informed. “Now I will prepare for the CWG. The main focus will be to keep the body free from injuries,” the boxer signed off.
It hasn’t however, been a pleasant journey for the 25-year-old. She had to battle with injury and her idol Mary Kom on and off the field in her formative years. However, she never lost heart.
Now with Mary Kom in her twilight years, Zareen’s win is quite assuring for Indian boxing. It can be said that the legend has a successor.