The new Tiger in town: Nikhat Zareen, out of Mary’s shadow & now World Champion

Nikhat Zareen has an open, expansive and unrestrained personality outside the boxing ring. It’s not exactly bragging about the open goalkeeper inside the ring that would invite a crushing dash. But there were leftovers of off-field exuberance, which needed to be reined in and some tightening, if it was to emerge from the shadow of MC Mary Kom in the women’s flyweight division, and make an international imprint. Strandja’s gold, by winning the Olympic silver in March, was a start. The world title in Turkey, he was announcing her fitting arrival.

The 25-year-old had boldly fought a war to claim that he was even the contender before the last Olympics, and asked Mary Kom to bring the trial. Having secured her spot as a contender now with Mari stepping aside and more importantly Nigat getting the victories under her belt, there was now the start of the actual battle – internationally, starting with the May World Championships. Someone has clearly kept her on a straight and narrow streak at a “planet athlete who thirsts for success,” as she prevents herself from self-rating a 10/10 when questioned about her feet. “I want to look modest. So, Chloe, Thicke, 9/10 for footwork,” I laughed softly.

Dancing and dancing as she broke out in the 51kg ring, Mary Kom danced through the motions of her glistening foot. Nikat thinks she is not a pioneer at all, far from it. But since there are miles to go before Paris comes, she keeps the ratings conservative with plenty of room for improvement: “Speed ​​7/10. Power in punches 8/10.”

Strandja’s gold, by winning the Olympic silver in March, was a start. The world title in Turkey, he was announcing her fitting arrival. (BFI)

The cumulative coolness of being a fan of the hardcore Salman Khan? 10/20. “Very big fan. Van Kea, A.C. Samjo. I think he’s not married yet, because he’s waiting for me,” she says in a silly tone, an engaged boxer, whose voice before blows before blows is a screeching sound, uttered for effect.

Although not a fan of Dabangg here. “I used to be a huge fan of Hum Saath-Saath Hain. That innocence on his face. ’90s Salman,” says Bhai-buff, although for someone born only in 1997, Nizamabad’s movie mania must have It started much later, he remembers, “I’m waiting for his new movie, Tiger.”

But at first boxing came in serendipitous ways, to the girl who started a runner.

early days

Nikhat’s father, Muhammad Jamil Ahmad, is the real Blue Hyderabad. That is, he played cricket in style, and his love for sports extended to football and athletics, without any prerequisites for elegance at that. “He was an athletics fan, so I ran 100/200 meters. We were watching Urban Games once and I asked him why there was no boxing. He said there, but people think ‘ladkiyon mein dum ni hota.’ I took that statement as a challenge. I wanted To change people’s mindset that a woman can do anything,” she says.

But the women in the 51 kg division in India had to do more – jump over a very high gate, in addition to her aura. Kill the legend, MC Mary Kom, and for Nikhat, there was no weight fluidity to maneuver around the rock in that class. Far from deep when they met in the trials before the qualifying meet for Tokyo, she was plump for her time, hitting her level playing after a bit of a tactical lick.

Nikhat with her father, Muhammad Jamil.

“I needed to go home after that. Eat my mom’s food. Play with my nephews,” she remembers, for little kids aged 4, 2, 7 and a half. “Of course I felt bad that the Olympics wouldn’t come for another 4 (3) years. But I always thought there was more to come. And maybe Tokyo wasn’t my destiny. I didn’t look back and I didn’t get ahead.”

Boxing has always been about “winning and learning” for Nikhat. In 2017, she tore her shoulder and forearm. It was bad condition. I never imagined I would suffer such an injury. It was painful and took a year to recover. But I think I’m wiser and more mature after that injury. God wanted me to become mentally stronger.”

She may be in full swing, but there has been and still is so much about making the episodes that Nikhat knows she’ll need to work on, to be talked about in the same multi-world champion, Mary Kom. “The experience was the big difference,” she said when talking about her recent semi-final match against Turkey’s Boss Naz Çakıroğlu, silver medalist from Tokyo.

“It was nice revenge because I lost to her last year in the semi-finals. I worked out my mistakes and knew what her strength was, and I had a strategy to not let her play her game,” she says.

At the Bosphorus Boxing Championships in Istanbul last year, Nigat defeated two-time world champion Nazim Kizibay of Kazakhstan, a day after he knocked out 2019 world champion Baltseva Ekaterina of Russia in the quarter-finals. With gold medalist Stoica Kresteva, in her late thirties, unlikely to be in Paris, waiting for a new crop, the outlines of which will appear in Worlds and Asia.

Aside from its 9/10 footwork and modestly rated agility, the Nikat feels confident about its right and left hooks – something that it reaches its maximum with its 163cm chassis. (BFI)

She was the chairwoman of the new women’s team, Bhaskar Bhatt, at the Nikat Corner in Strandja. “I have never worked with him at an elite level before. But he is very hardworking and humble and gave me a lot of support in the semi-finals.” Nikhat was very nervous, and memories of last year’s loss haunted her more than the medalist’s reputation in Tokyo. “I wasn’t sure how I was going to fight once in the ring because I lost last year by unanimous decision. He shrugged me off the shoulder, looked me in the eye and said, ‘Punch Rockn Nahi Shaheh.’ It was so motivating, that I was excited.”

Required upgrades

Aside from its 9/10 footwork and modestly rated agility, the Nikat feels confident about its right and left hooks – something that it reaches its maximum with its 163cm chassis. However, tactically speaking, there is a lot of work to be done. “Of course, you always have to change things up. They can’t be the same, because people are reading to you,” she says. One of Marie Kom’s enduring abilities even as speed was reported but she bravely clung to position, was her anticipation of opponent’s range, when to enter everything and when to dodge from distance. It came from years of experience and a shrewd mind.

Nikhat, who hasn’t been picky about tricks yet, realizes that she needs a lot of variety to get her to do tricks. “I need a game that can confuse people where they say, ‘iska samajh ni aata (hard to read). I should be able to switch between a very defensive style and a change of style in a few seconds.”

Nikhat uses her past of running mostly to help put on weight now. You’ve outgrown the single cadence of sprinting blindly fast on the track – freely and fiercely. She’s learning to keep her cards close to her in the ring now – zeal, and the sometimes upbeat front.

Nikhat Zareen had to wait for her turn at 51kg with legend Mary Kom sitting there until recently. (BFI)

EDOT: Why is the number 51 perfect for Nikhat

Nikhat Zareen had to wait for her turn at 51kg with legend Mary Kom sitting there until recently. The last time Nikhat went to the world championships in bantamweight (54 kg) was in 2016 and made a quarterback. But she feels very upset about the escalation of the situation. “It’s not just about height and strength,” says the 163cm boxer. “The 54kg class is also where a lot of their 57kg lose weight and they step down and fight.” So technically a wide variety of fighters were encountered in that bridge class, and Nikhat found herself domineering and defeated with her previously limited group. Mary also practiced in her normal 48kg bodyweight and 51kg Olympic class, while others like Sargopala Devi went pro, and Pinky Jangra waited. Although Nikhat is normal at 51 kg.

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