Nikhat Zareen clinches gold at Women’s World Boxing Championships
NEW DELHI: Indian boxer Nikhat Zareen lived up to the expectations as she clinched the coveted gold in flyweight (52kg) division with a facile 5-0 victory over Thailand’s Jitpong Jutamas in the Women’s World Championship final in Istanbul on Thursday. Capping off a stupendous campaign that saw her dominate all her rivals, the Telangana boxer out-punched her Thai opponent to win via unanimous verdict with judges scoring the bout 30-27, 29-28, 29-28, 30-27, 29-28 in her favour.
With this win, Zareen, a 2019 Asian Championship bronze medallist, became only the fifth Indian female boxer to be crowned world champion. Six-time champion Mary Kom (2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2018) Sarita Devi (2006), Jenny RL (2006) and Lekha KC (2006) are the other pugilists who have won the world title. This is India’s first gold medal in four years. Mary Kom (48kg) had won the last title in 2018.
Incidentally, it was the legendary Mary Kom who had participated in the flyweight category in the 2019 edition of the tournament.
Zareen had been refused a trial by the Boxing Federation of India (BFI), which decided to go by Mary Kom’s consistent performances while making the choice and the Manipuri claimed her eighth world medal, a bronze. The 25-year-old Zareen produced some beautiful combination of punches to outclass Jutamas.
Jutamas had a better start of the two but Zareen soon made up and took the upper hand. The first round was fought on an even keel but Zareen’s blows were more powerful and her punches eye-catching.
The Indian took the first round comfortably but Jutamas made a strong comeback in the second. The Thai boxer took advantage of her longer reach as she countered Zareen’s attacks from a distance, while landing punches herself to take the round via a split verdict. There was very little separating the two boxers but strength proved to be a key factor as Zareen used her powerful right hand and some produced beautiful combinations in the final round to seal the deal.
As the winner was announced Zareen was overcome by emotion and she jumped with glee and couldn’t hold her tears back. This is Zareen’s second victory over Jutamas. She got the better of the Thai boxer at the Thailand Open back in 2019 as well. The Hyderabad pugilist has been in stellar form this year. She became the first Indian woman boxer to claim two gold medals at the prestigious Strandja Memorial in February.
Apart from Zareen’s gold, Manisha Moun (57kg) and debutant Parveen Hooda (63kg) will return home with bronze medals. A 12-member Indian contingent was sent to participate in the competition and while the medal haul has decreased by one, an Indian has been crowned world champion after four years, Mary Kom had last won the gold in the 48kg in the 2018 edition.
India’s best performance in the event remains the one in 2006 when the country snared eight medals, including four gold, one silver and three bronze. India now have won 39 medals, including 10 golds, eight silver and 21 bronze in the women’s world championships.