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Nikhat Zareen: Golden fists forged in the fires of adversity

Nikhat Zareen’s steely resolve — hardened by the challenges she has confronted each inside and outdoors the boxing ring — took her all the approach to the high at the World Championships. She has now set her sights on the 2024 Paris Olympics

Nikhat Zareen’s steely resolve — hardened by the challenges she has confronted each inside and outdoors the boxing ring — took her all the approach to the high at the World Championships. She has now set her sights on the 2024 Paris Olympics

There can’t be a greater image of rapprochement in Indian sport than the one posted on social media by newly topped boxing World champion Nikhat Zareen. The picture together with her idol M.C. Mary Kom not solely depicts the finish of a three-year feud between the two World champions, however it additionally sends a feel-good message to anybody who desires to discover boxing as a profession possibility.

It additionally signifies Nikhat’s standing as one of the few high achievers in girls’s boxing in the nation.

The undeniable fact that the soon-to-be-26-year-old, hailing from Nizamabad in Telangana, is the solely Indian lady apart from Mary to say the World crown in the final 16 years makes Nikhat’s feat, in the 52kg class at the Istanbul World Championships final month, all the extra particular. Leaving apart Mary, who’s a six-time World champion, three others — Sarita Devi, Lekha Okay.C. and Jenny R.L. — gained their World titles (together with Mary) in a special period in New Delhi in 2006.

Bold choice

Growing up in a spot the place girls’s boxing was not widespread, Nikhat, earlier than getting into her teenage years, made a daring choice to give up sprinting and don the gloves. She made the change simply to show some extent after being informed that boxing was meant just for ‘powerful boys.’ Her father Mohammad Jameel, who has all the time been a pillar of assist, backed her to the hilt.

She confronted some resistance from these with conservative notions however that might by no means discourage the energetic Nikhat.

She first hogged the limelight when she gained the World junior title (50kg) in Antalya in 2011. That clearly confirmed her potential, however she had miles to go in order to determine herself at the elite stage.

Gloves on: Nikhat switched from sprinting to boxing simply to show some extent to those that felt that the sport was meant just for ‘powerful boys.’
| Photo Credit: Getty Images

So, the household moved to Hyderabad in search of a greater coach and was fortunate to search out E. Chiranjeevi. Under the steerage of Chiranjeevi, a former Services boxer who believes that there’s logic behind each punch, Nikhat honed her abilities to style success at high home competitions.

But a significant shoulder harm in 2017 stole a yr away from the proficient boxer, forcing her to begin afresh. Again, she was lucky to search out one other in a position information in American Ronald Simms, who was employed with the Inspire Institute of Sports (IIS), Vijayanagar.

“Ron has made a big contribution in my growth because when I was injured in 2017 and started from the basics after my rehab, I trained under him. He was a dedicated coach and I enjoyed training under him,” says Nikhat.

Everything went easily and Nikhat bagged a bronze medal at the Asian Championships in April 2019. But she bumped into bother at the India Open in Guwahati the following month when she stated she must put up a powerful struggle to beat Olympics bronze medallist Mary.

A misunderstanding triggered bitterness between the two as Mary believed that Nikhat was difficult her.

Months later, when the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) cancelled the choice trials for 51kg at the final minute to let Mary compete in the World Championships, Nikhat raised her objection. The subject attracted additional consideration when she demanded a good choice trial for the Olympics qualifier.

Mary gained the trial, however the episode ended with some undesirable publicity.

Nikhat Zareen, when she won the world junior women’s boxing gold. File photo.

Nikhat Zareen, when she gained the world junior girls’s boxing gold. File picture.
| Photo Credit: The Hindu Photo Library

All via, Nikhat behaved in a dignified method however caught to her rightful demand with out getting slowed down by the strain.

When Mary sportingly congratulated Nikhat for her World title, the latter rapidly buried the hatchet and fortunately accepted the respect she deserved.

Nikhat’s willpower helped her overcome difficulties inside the ring and outdoors it. “I believed in myself [and thought] whatever happens, happens for a good reason. The struggle and whatever I faced in the past made me stronger,” says Nikhat.

Another hurdle

The pandemic was one other hurdle, however Nikhat used the problem to push herself to get higher. She was so eager to enhance her sport in the post-pandemic interval that she spent from her personal pocket to coach at the IIS for about three months as her sponsorship had concluded.

Nikhat’s efforts have been mirrored in the outcomes — she beat two world champions at the Bosphorus event to get a bronze medal final yr, gained the gold medal at the Strandja memorial occasion and secured the World crown this yr.

Even as adversities made her grittier, Nikhat picked the greatest out of each coach she labored with to raise her sport in varied points — aggressiveness, combos, assault, counter-attack and preventing from a distance. “I worked on how to face different styles of boxers. I worked with [chief coach Bhaskar] Bhatt sir on this. I normally discuss with Ron, present IIS coach John [Warburton] from England, Bhatt sir and Chiranjeevi sir.”

In addition to Bhatt, Simms was the go-to man after each bout in the World Championships.

With expertise, Nikhat’s method to the sport has modified. Now she tries to throw right punches to maintain accidents at bay.

Hungry for more: This is just the start. I will have a bigger responsibility as a World champion, says Nikhat.

Hungry for extra: This is simply the begin. I’ll have a much bigger duty as a World champion, says Nikhat.
| Photo Credit: Getty Images

Areas to enhance

World Cup bronze medallist V. Devarajan, who has been working as a coach and was half of the 10-member judges’ panel that witnessed the trials bout between Nikhat and Mary three years in the past, feels Nikhat can land an Olympic medal if she works on sure points of her sport.

“At present, she is World champion, but soon you may see her as an Olympic champion. For that, she has to improve her game as the whole world will have her video now. She needs to work on her coordination of punches, feigning and keeping her guard up. She must use her presence of mind more often during a bout,” says Devarajan.

Boosted by her new-found confidence, Nikhat is eager on shining at huge occasions, together with the forthcoming Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, and the Paris Olympics in 2024.

“This is just the start. I will have a bigger responsibility as a World champion. My next goal is to win a gold medal in the Paris Olympics,” says Nikhat.

Gifted with steely resolve and the willingness to work arduous, and backed by a battery of environment friendly coaches, Nikhat has all the things at her disposal to lift her sport additional and obtain her dream of standing on the podium in Paris two years from now.

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