Interview with Nikhat Zareen - Junior World Boxing Champion
If you follow boxing, one of the many things you must have realized is that - Boxing is not about your power and speed but more of your patience to wait and strike at the right time. Life is no different either.
In a cricket-crazy nation, few years back, from little-known Manipur emerged 'Magnificent Mary'. But next to Mary, there are other pugilists too who have been making us proud.
Nikhat Zareen belonging to Nizamabad of Telangana state is one of them. Here are some of her achievements.
2011 - Gold at the AIBA Women’s Junior and Youth World Boxing Championship in Turkey.
2013 - Silver at the Youth World Boxing Championship in Bulgaria.
2014 - Gold medal at the Nations Cup International Boxing Tournament in Serbia.
This is yet another glaring example of India's appalling indifference towards the lesser-known sports.
The former Junior World Boxing champion spoke about her Olympic aspirations and much more in an exclusive interview.
Q: Who introduced you to boxing?
I started boxing in 2009 in Nizamabad district. I used to go the collector's office ground for practice. Although I started with athletics, my father's friend told him, 'Nikhat ko boxing mein leke aao, ek saal ke andar usko national player bana dunga.'
Q: Why did you choose boxing? Why not cricket or football?
When I used to go for training, there were girls in almost very sport except boxing. From a very early age, I wanted to be different. Also, being a Muslim girl, I did not get support from anyone in my district. There were people who always criticized me but my family always supported me.
Q: What were the other problems you faced in your initial years?
I belong to a district where they were no proper training grounds or facilities. Not even a boxing ring. There was a 'stage' inside the ground with just one punching bag. I used to go there and train with the boys since I was the only girl. I have always been a stubborn girl, so whenever they used to hit me, I used to always hit them back.
Q: What was the reaction of your parents and the people around you?
I used to train alone. But people used to come and see me training. And when I used to get hit, I was very embarrassed. But that eventually helped me improve my game. My mom was very worried as she thought no one will marry me.
I laughed it off and convinced my mom, once I become the world champion, 'ladko ki line lag jaygi'. But marriage is not my goal. I want to win an Olympic gold.
Q: Are you an attacking player or a defensive player?
I can attack and defend equally well. Actually, it depends on my opponent. I like to play with her and change my game accordingly.
Q: So what next for Nikhat Zareen?
There will be two qualification competitions for the 2016 Rio Olympics. On 23rd March, there will be an Asia-Oceania tournament in China. And there will be a World Championship in May. Before that, there will be a trial in India next month and the selected players will go on to represent India.
Q: What happened in the qualification stage of the 12th South Asian Games? What went wrong?
I lost to Mary Kom by one point in the semi-final in the 12th South Asian Games qualification. She is representing India and I am happy for her. Also, she is 33 and I am 19. So, losing to her by a point is a big achievement for me.
Q: What are India's chances in the 2016 Rio Olympics?
If I qualify from India, I am pretty sure that I will go on to win a medal in Brazil. Currently, Mary Kom and Pinky Jangra are my prime targets. I am expecting 3 gold medals in boxing this time.
Q: What is your long-term goal?
My goal is to win an Olympic gold medal. But, my dream is to become an IPS officer because I feel I can support boxing after that and help the people in my district. I want to be their friend, philosopher, and guide.
Q: Who is your inspiration?
My inspiration is Mohammed Ali. Also, I am inspired by Mary Kom.
Q: There are many difficulties faced by the Indian women boxers of our country. What's your take?
Boxing has suffered a lot. With no national tournaments happening, the situation now is a bit uncertain. But ever since Mary Kom won an Olympic medal, women boxing has been getting a lot of support and encouragement.
Also, there are many controversies. We don't just fight with our opponents but also with the judges. The referees, judges, and the selectors are partial at times. It is still okay. I will prove myself in the ring.
Q: What is the future of boxing in India?
Boxing in India has recently gained much appreciation. Things have been improving a lot. These days, new players are participating from every state. Popularizing our sport can only be done by not allowing politics to come in between us.
'Boxing se politics hatake dekho, Olympics pe sab category mein gold aayega.'