Nikhat Zareen's Golden Moment! Star Boxer Bags Gold at World Championships
Nikhat Zareen qualified for the final after winning all her matches with a 5-0 scoreline.
She's had more than her fair share of roadblocks and setbacks in her young career but 25-year-old Nikhat Zareen has bagged her life's biggest medal yet - a gold at the Women's Boxing World championship.
Nikhat thrashed Thailand's Jitpong Jutamas 5-0 without breaking a sweat in the flyweight category final on Thursday night in Antalya, Turkey, with the judges scoring the bout 30-27, 29-28, 29-28, 30-27, 29-28 in the Indian's favour.
The Nizamabad (Telangana)-born boxer became the only fifth Indian woman to bag a gold at the World Boxing Championships after record six-time champion MC Mary Kom (2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2018), Sarita Devi (2006), Jenny RL (2006) and Lekha KC (2006).
It was also India's first gold medal since boxing great Mary Kom last won it in 2018.
Final Bout Won 5-0
In the final, Nikhat got off to a lively start and hit some sharp punches to quickly take the upper hand in the opening three minutes against confident Jutamas, who came into the match defeating the three-time World Championships medallist Kazakhstan's Zhaina Shekerbekova.
The 25-year-old Indian took full advantage of her long reach and maintained her dominance against the Thai boxer, whom she had beaten in the 2019 Thailand Open semi-final-the only meeting between the two, en route to her silver medal finish.
However, Jutamas tried to fight back in the second round with a counter-attacking display but hardly managed to only cause any trouble for the swift-moving Nikhat, who looked in complete control.
Hitting straight and clear punches, strength proved to be a key factor as Nikhat threw caution to the wind in the final round and kept attacking relentlessly before securing the gold quite comfortably.
A Rough Journey
This was Nikhat's second appearance at a World Championship, but the first in her preferred flyweight category.
She broke into the scene back in 2011 by winning the gold medal at the Junior World Boxing Championships but has since been biding her time as Indian boxing legend MC Mary Kom also competes in the same category as Nikhat's. The 25-year-old was forced to write to the Sports Minister to ask for his intervention in 2019 when she was denied a trial for the World Championships with Mary being declared the automatic qualifier.
'I was ready for the bout and all warmed up and they came and told me there will be no trial in the flyweight category. That really hurt me, it made me feel like I wasn't even good enough to try to compete,' Nikhat told The Quint in an interview in May.
However, after much controversy, there was a trial but not for the World Championship- for the Tokyo Olympics, that Mary won with ease. A bout that was shrouded in controversy with both sides flinging allegations of poor sportsmanship after the match.
Three years have since past and this 2022, Nikhat has been winning some big bouts to put forward her name as the premier contender in the flyweight category, having won the nationals and the trials for the World Championships and the Asian Games.
In February, she beat the Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Busenaz Cakiroglu to bag the gold at the 73rd Strandja Memorial Boxing Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria. MC Mary Kom has also announced that she will not be competing at the Worlds or Asian Games this year, ensuring no controversy involving two of Indian boxing's greats will be reignited.
(With inputs from IANS)
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