It’s Official: Nikhat Zareen Gets Dec Date For Trail With Mary Kom

The decision was confirmed to The Quint by Jay Kowli, secretary-general of Boxing Federation of India (BFI).

2 min read
File picture of Mary Kom and Nikhat Zareen after a bout.

After days of uncertainty, it is now official that young boxer Nikhat Zareen will face six-time world champion MC Mary Kom in a selection trial to decide who will represent India in the 51 kg category for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualifiers to be held in January next year. The trials are expected to take place during the end of December, later this year.

The decision was confirmed to The Quint by Jay Kowli, secretary-general of the Boxing Federation of India (BFI).

“There will be a trial at the end of December. This decision was taken by the performance directors, coaches, selectors and other coaching officials.”
Jay Kowli, secretary-general, Boxing Federation of India

This means that not only Mary, but also Lovlina Borgohain will now have to appear for a trial in the 69 kg weight category.

A decision in this regard was taken on Thursday, 7 November, after a meeting at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) headquarters in New Delhi. The meeting was attended by BFI office bearers, SAI officials including director-general Sandeep Pradhan, an official from Sports Ministry and the two foreign coaches Raffaele Bergamasco and Santiago Nieva.

Kowli said Boxing Federation of India president Ajay Singh was informed of the decision through office staff on Friday, 8 November. He was quick to explain that it wasn’t a new decision, but just a reconfirmation of an earlier decision.

“A document regarding the selection trial was circulated long ago. We are now only reconfirming what we had decided earlier. We never changed our stance.”
Jay Kowli, secretary-general, Boxing Federation of India

The Quint has accessed a BFI statement, dated 5 September 2019, which mentions that in the women’s category, only the gold and the silver medallist at World Championship 2019 will qualify directly for the first Olympic qualifier to be held in Wuhan in China, whereas for the men’s category, all the medallists of AIBA World Championship 2019 will be sent directly to the first Olympic qualifier.

Controversy was stirred and confusion created when BFI president Ajay Singh made a statement that there should be parity in men’s and women’s boxing, and that medal winners at the respective Worlds from both the categories should automatically be nominated for Wuhan qualifiers.

This meant that both Mary and Lovlina were exempted from trials since the duo won bronze at the Worlds in Ulan-Ude in Russia last month.

But an automatic entry for Mary meant, the doors were shut for Nikhat. This forced Nikhat to write a letter to Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, demanding a trial and a “fair chance”. Mary didn’t appear to be too pleased with Nikhat’s demand. In an interview to Republic TV she even said, “Who is Nikhat Zareen, I don’t know her.”

But on Saturday, Kowli clarified that Mary always knew about the trials and she never had any problem facing Nikhat for the same.

“Mary has no problem with the trials. She has written about it in the past. She is ready to face Nikhat in the trials. Even Raffaele has also said in the past that Mary is ready for the selection trials.”
Jay Kowli, secretary-general, Boxing Federation of India
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