Telangana’s Nikhat Zareen wins boxing gold at World Championships

Published : May 20, 2022 18:13 IST

Nikhat Zareen after winning gold at the Women's World Championship against Thailand's Jitpong Jutamas in the flyweight (52-kg) category. in Istanbul on May 19, 2022.

Nikhat Zareen after winning gold at the Women's World Championship against Thailand's Jitpong Jutamas in the flyweight (52-kg) category. in Istanbul on May 19, 2022.

Nikhat Zareen of Hyderabad is the toast of not just Telangana but the whole of India, having won gold in the women’s 52-kilogram category at the Women’s Boxing World Championships in Istanbul.

She beat Thailand’s Jutamas Jitpong on May 19 and entered the record books as the fifth Indian woman boxer to win gold at the World Championships. The win has been a victory not only for herself but also legions of aspiring youth, serving as an example of how grit and determination can triumph the steepest of hurdles and how a determined youngster has won, and won big.

Nikhat Zareen has become a trailblazer and an inspiration. Thanks to her exploits, more Muslim girls are taking to boxing today. But the going has not been easy for Nikhat. India’s newest world champion has faced a fair share of societal and family pressures, and was frowned upon for sporting boxing shorts and cut-sleeve sweatshirts.

The third in a family of four daughters of middle-class parents, Nikhat trained to be a sprinter, even winning gold at the district level and finishing fourth at the State level, and took to boxing in 2008 as a 12-year old, on a whim.

But a girl training in the boxing ring in the small town of Nizamabad, 160 kilometres from Hyderabad, was a rarity, and to many in both her family and the neighbourhood, not what a ‘good’ young Muslim girl must be engaging in.

But Nikhat had a staunch supporter in her father Mohammed Jameel Ahmed. So staunch was his faith in his daughter that Ahmed, who worked as a sales assistant in Saudi Arabia for 15 years, decided to move back to Nizamabad to support her boxing dreams.

The young Nikhat won gold at the junior Nationals and was also adjudged Best Boxer. She honed her skills at the SAI camp in Visakhapatnam and won gold at the 2011 Junior and Youth World Championship in Turkey, defeating Ulku Demir of that country.

In 2016 she made her mark in the senior ranks, winning her maiden senior national title at Haridwar when she defeated Manisha Moun in the final of the flyweight category.

A shoulder dislocation in 2017 during the All India University Games and a subsequent surgery kept her away from the ring for a year, but she bounced back and competed in the Nationals in 2018, and then won the title in the Belgrade international the same year.

Medals at the 2019 Asian Championships and Thailand Open propelled her forward, but she did not make the Indian squad for the 2018 Commonwealth and Asian Games.

But the young boxer, who used to train at the Artillery Regimental Centre in Golconda, kept her resolve up. In the last three years, she has won over the likes of former light-flyweight (51-kg) world champion Ekaterina Paltceva of Russia and two-time former light flyweight world champion Nazym Kyzaibay of Kazakhstan. She beat Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Buse Naz Cakiroglu of Turkey in the Strandja Memorial prior to the World Championships.

Blessed with speed, Nikhat, who is now looking to move to the 54-kg weight category, will need to work on her core strengths and add power and stamina if she has to become a force at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

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