Mary Kom beats Nikhat Zareen, to represent India in Olympic qualifiers

MC Mary Kom, a six-time world champion, defeated Nikhat Zareen in a split verdict trial bout to make the Indian team for Olympic qualifiers in China.

In a bout which had very few clear punches, Mary Kom prevailed 9-1 to make the squad.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

It was a bout that had the entire boxing community in India hooked but the final result was on predictable lines. And Mary Kom proved herself the best in the country in the 51kg with an impressive 9-1 win against Nikhat Zareen in an ill-tempered bout at the trials for the Olympic Qualifiers here on Saturday.

The differences between the two had been simmering for over four months, ever since the Boxing Federation of India decided to not hold trials for the World Championships held in October and Nikhat cried foul, writing to the sports minister, demanding an open face-off.

Saturday, therefore, was about both wanting to prove a point and Mary came out the winner. The bout itself, though, had little in terms of excitement. While the first round was more about trying to assess the opponent and plan their moves, the second and third saw a lot of clinching and punch-throwing in the air with few clean ones landing from either boxer.

There were words exchanged between the two during the bout and even after it was over. Nikhat claimed Mary refused to shake hands or hug her after the bout and used foul words as well.

“The result is a different issue, it definitely was not 9-1. Anyone can see that the first two rounds were clearly mine while the third was equal, I managed a lot more clean punches. But I am hurt that someone who is so senior and is my idol behaved in this manner,” the 24-year old said.

READ| Nikhat Zareen calls for fair, televised Olympic trials

No love lost

Supporters of both boxers were vocal with AP Reddy, claiming to be from the Telangana Boxing Association, getting aggressive in his protests against the decision and declaring they would approach AIBA. He was asked to leave ringside, along with other supporters, with BFI president Ajay Singh stepping in to control the situation.

Mary, on the other hand, retorted that she would respect those who respect her. “It is already too much and I don’t like controversies. Why should I shake hands or hug? First you say so much outside the ring, talk too much before the bout. I will respect you if you respect me,” she said.

The Mary-Nikhat bout overshadowed the other four bouts on the day but there was no lack of exciting action. Youngster Simranjit Kaur overwhelmed 37-year old veteran Sarita Devi 8-2 to book her Olympic Qualifiers spot in the 60kg. Youth World champion Sakshi Chaudhary got the better of Sonia Lather 9-1 while Lovlina Borgohain overcame Lalita in the 69kg and Pooja Rani had an easy outing against Nupur in the 75kg with identical 10-0 margins to confirm their spots.

The Asia/Oceania zone Olympic Qualifiers for Tokyo 2020 would be held in Wuhan, China from February 3-14.

The results: 51kg: Mary Kom bt Nikhat Zareen 9-1; 57kg: Sakshi Chaudhary bt Sonia Lather 9-1; 60kg: Simranjit Kaur bt defeated Sarita Devi 8-2; 69kg: Lovlina Borgohain bt Lalita 10-0; 75kg: Pooja Rani bt Nupur 10-0.