Nikhat Zareen was carrying the burden of expectations, to repeat her feat of last year and win a second world title at home. Boxing legend MC Mary Kom was the only Indian with more than one world title – she has six. On Sunday, Nikhat became only the second Indian boxer to achieve that.
Nikhat had raised the bar by winning gold in Istanbul last year, but it was a far bigger challenge this time. With the Paris Olympics qualification about to start, many boxers had changed weight categories. Consequently, the draw for 50kg – the lowest of six Olympic categories – was crowded. Nikhat also had to dropped to light fly from flyweight (52kg). It was a big test for her. On Sunday, by winning in a new category, Nikhat proved she is strong enough to be a title contender at Paris. By reaching the final, she had already been selected for the Asian Games – an Olympic qualifier.
Nikhat holds the Istanbul title ‘special’, but said the win in New Delhi was ‘tougher’.
“To become world champion for a second time, and that too coming to a home crowd who supported me so much, I am so happy. I dedicate this medal to the country,” said Nikhat, who had a visible upper lip cut suffered in the frantic final round against Vietnam’s Nguyen Thi Tam.
“This was a tougher challenge because this win came in an Olympic category. In the last world championships, I did not have to put too much effort to control my weight. In this new category, I had to strictly follow diet, and be very disciplined. After the nationals I did not get much time to prepare, but I gave my full effort.”
She had to grind out win after win – six bouts – the most she has had in a tournament.
“This is my first competition after the Commonwealth Games. In CWG, there is not much competition. The best from the world is here. It was a new experience for me. I had back-to-back matches, so my body was a bit slow in some matches. I will take my lessons, do more hard work and try and come back stronger in this weight class.”
“Today’s bout was the toughest in the tournament. In a way it is good because my next target is the Asian Games. Hopefully, I will improve.”