'It feels good to see God make my dreams come true,' says a smiling Nikhat Zareen as she celebrates her second Boxing World Championship gold within 10 months.
In just the last one year, the 26-year-old has gone from being 'the girl who challenge Mary Kom' to a two-time World Champion and a Commonwealth Games gold medallist. Her rise has been meteoric, but that's exactly what she had promised when she asked for a trial against the legendary senior boxer in the Olympic weight category they both shared.
Nikhat sat down for an interview with The Quint a day after successfully defending her World title at her home World Championships in New Delhi. Here are some excerpts from the interview.
Nikhat Zareen, 2 World Championship gold medals within 10 months. We know it took you a decade to just get to where you are and be able to represent your country, and now you have two golds to show for all your hard work
I don’t know, I never imagined that I would win back-to-back gold medals for my country but I am glad that I could win them and defend my title in the World Championship. I hope I will keep winning the way I am winning medals for my country in future as well.
We of course know boxing is a very physically demanding sport but this was one of the first times we saw the physical evidence on your face, when you won the final. I think your lip is still swollen. I am sure your mother had a reaction to that right after the bout?
In the final bout in the second round I got hit on my lip. So because of that, it burst and I started bleeding and that skin came out. So, that is why everyone could see that my lip was swollen and I was bleeding.
When I met my mom after the match the first thing she said was - “ye kya hogaya, arey khoon nikal raha hai, kuch lagalo aise aise na.” It was not congratulations or I am so proud of you. The first thing was, she was like, “chot kaisa hai tera, jaldi icing lagale, kuch cream lagale, khoon nikal raha hai.”
That is how mom is. But I could see that happiness on her face. It was her first experience of watching me playing live inside the ring. So, I am really happy to win gold medal in front of her and defend my title.
Nikhat, now looking ahead to the Olympics, some Indian boxers will need to change weight categories because while at the World Championships there were 12 weight categories, Paris will have just six.
You usually fight in the 51-52kg category but you fought in the 50 kg category because that is now the Olympic category. Just tell us physically, how does that change you. We think it’s the difference of just 1-2 kgs but to you, every kg matters. How much does it affect your agility, your technique just by moving down 1 category?
I am used to losing weight and playing lower categories rather than gaining weight and playing 54 kg. Even 54 kg is an Olympic category but to gain weight and box in the upper weight category takes a lot of time to work on it.
We have to gain muscles and not the fat. People think it’s easy to gain weight by eating anything but no you are not gaining the muscle, you are gaining the fat. Fate makes you slower. It reduces your stamina, endurance level and speed. That is why, I have decided to come down to 50 kg because I think I will get the advantage of my height in 50 kg category.
Unfortunately, now what happens is that you and Nitu (48kg World Champion) end up competing in same Olympic category.
So, are there conversations you have with Nitu about having to compete against each other? Because for Nitu, if she's not fighting you, she has to gain 8kgs and move up 2 categories to 54kg.
I mean we have never spoken about playing in the same category because we know that one day we will have to face each other, not only Nitu but others in the 48kg category as well. Then there's boxers from the 52kg category also who might come down to box in the 50kg category.
So, everyone will join the category this way. But everyone’s target in the camp is to win the Olympics gold medal for India. So, since there are only 6 categories, we will have to face the clash.