Istanbul (Turkey) : India’s Nikhat Zareen won the gold medal in the 52kg category at the Women’s World Boxing Championship with a win over Thailand’s Jitpong Jutamas in the fly-weight final in Istanbul, Turkey on Thursday.
Nikhat thus becomes only the fifth Indian women’s boxer after Mary Kom, Sarita Devi, Jenny RL and Lekha KC to win a gold at the World Championships.
The 25-year-old Zareen is a former junior youth world champion. Against her Thai opponent in the final, Nikhat fought with brilliance and brought home the gold medal. The judges scored the bout 30-27, 29-28, 29-28, 30-27, 29-28 in the Indian’s favour.
Zareen was in top form as she used her technical acumen and covered to court well to outwit her nimble-footed opponent. Nikhat managed to impress all the judges in the first round as she landed far more punches than the Thai boxer.
The second round was tighter and Jitpong clinched it 3-2. Needing to get just one judge on her side in the final round, Nikhat went all in and slammed the door on her opponent to eventually record a 5-0 unanimous decision in her favour.
The Nizamabad (Telangana)-born boxer became the only fifth Indian woman to secure gold medal at the World Boxing Championships after record six-time champion Mary Kom (2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2018), Sarita Devi (2006), Jenny RL (2006) and Lekha KC (2006).
I want to dedicate this victory to all Indians: Telangana’s Nikhat Zareen
Telangana boxer Nikhat Zareen has gone through numerous hurdles, not just in the ring but off it too to pursue her dream. Whether it is battling injuries or fighting the system to get a shot at the Olympics demanding trial against legendary Mary Kom, she never bogged down from a fight.
And on Thursday, the 25-year-old stands tall as the new world champion. The feeling of becoming the world champion is very emotional moment for the youngster. “This victory is very emotional for me. I have won a gold for the country after a long time. I want to dedicate it to all Indians who supported me through the tough times,” she said from Istanbul.
She was visibly emotional and was in tears after her victory. When asked about the reason, the Nizamabad boxer said, “I was thinking about my parents. Whenever I called them after the bout, they would always be praying for me. I am very happy for them. My father is very supportive. This is all because of my family support. When I was going through tough times, my family supported me a lot. I felt like hugging my parents after the bout. So I became emotional.”
Speaking about her dominating 5-0 victory, she said, “My focus was to win the bout with unanimous decision as split decision could go either way. After the split decision in the second round, I wanted to win big and did that with the third bout.”
Despite becoming the world champion, Nikhat says there is a long way to go. “My focus is firmly on the Paris Olympics. My goal is to win gold in the Olympics. Of course, I focus only on one tournament at a time. My focus was completely on this World Championships. Now, I will shift my focus to the Commonwealth Games,” she explained.
She also said that the challenges throughout her journey made her a tough individual. “I suffered an injury in 2017 and was out of boxing for a year. Then I came back and struggled. I missed the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in 2018. It was a tough period. But I decided to keep fighting and that is what made me who I am today.”
Nikhat was all excited when she was told that she was trending on Twitter. “Am I trending on Twitter? That is one of my dreams. I am very excited,” she said with a wide grin.
She also revealed that she worked hard on her game in the last two years. “The last two years, I focused on myself and worked on my weaknesses. I knew where I lagged and lost bouts. So I worked on them and I made myself strong,” she concluded.
It was also India’s first gold medal since boxing great Mary Kom won it in 2018.
Nikhat got off to a lively start and hit some sharp punches to quickly take the upper hand in the opening three minutes against confident Jutamas, who came into the match defeating the three-time World Championships medallist Kazakhstan’s Zhaina Shekerbekova.
The 25-year-old Indian took full advantage of her long reach and maintained her dominance against the Thai boxer, whom she had beaten in the 2019 Thailand Open semi-final—the only meeting between the two, enroute her silver medal finish.
However, Jutamas tried to fight back in the second round with a counter-attacking display but hardly managed to cause any trouble for the swift-moving Nikhat, who looked in complete control.
Hitting straight and clear punches, strength proved to be a key factor as Nikhat threw caution to the wind in the final round and kept attacking relentlessly before securing the gold quite comfortably.
“Winning a medal at the world’s is always a dream and Nikhat could achieve it so early is extremely commendable. We, at BFI, are proud that our boxers have not only made all of us proud but each of their boxing journeys is inspiring for the upcoming generations,” BFI President Ajay Singh said.
“On behalf of the Boxing Federation of India, I congratulate Nikhat and bronze medal winners Parveen and Manisha as well as the coaches and support staff for this achievement. Our eight boxers qualified for the quarter-finals which was joint most and shows the strength of Indian boxing,” he added.
With Manisha (57kg) and Parveen (63kg) signing off with bronze medals after their semi-finals finish, Indian contingent concluded its campaign with three medals at the world’s biggest boxing event, which witnessed exciting competition in presence of record 310 boxers from 73 countries and also marked the 20th anniversary of the Women’s World Championships.
Out of 12 participating Indian boxers, eight made it to the quarter-finals in this year’s tournament—the joint highest alongside Turkey.
With the addition of three medals in Istanbul, India’s overall medal tally has gone up to 39, including 10 gold, eight silver and 21 bronze, in the 12 editions of the prestigious event—third highest after Russia (60) and China (50).