Nikhat Zareen gears up for Mary Kom bout after Strandja gold

Strandja Memorial gold medallist Nikhat Zareen will head straight into preparations for a bout against Olympics bronze medallist M.C. Mary Kom.

Nikhat Zareen beat Filipino Irish Magno in the finals of the Strandja Memorial boxing tournament to clinch the gold.   -  Special Arrangement

Fresh from her gold-medal performance in the 70th International Strandja boxing championship in Sofia (Bulgaria),  Nikhat Zareen is now training her guns on what she believes to be the biggest battle of her career - taking on the indefatigable six-time world champion Mary Kom - as she begins her pursuit to be on the road to making it to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

“I know that I have to beat the great Mary Kom to be in with a chance to qualify for the next year’s Games being in the same weight category of 51 kg. And, I am aware it is not going to be easy too,” Zareen told Sportstar  in a chat from Delhi after returning home. 

“Well, the last time I fought against her was in the South Asian boxing championship in Guwahati. Then, I was just into the seniors category. Now, with three years of experience and having faced the toughest in the ring, I am wiser and better prepared for the huge challenge of taking on Mary,” she says.

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What impresses you the most about Mary Kom? “Her hunger for success even now. She is a remarkable athlete, a huge inspiration for many of us.

“In fact, my journey on the road to Olympics begins with the Asian championship trials in March and then the World championship selections. For these two are the main qualification events for the Indian boxers for Tokyo Games,” says the boxer, still hoping for a job in Telangana Police.

“With JSW backing me completely, I am ready for the bigger battles. Have literally nothing to worry. I am grateful to them for taking care of me when I was really down and out due to the shoulder injury,” Nikhat said.

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The former world junior champion said the final Irish boxer Filipino Irish Magno (5-0 verdict) was the toughest for her even as the competition was very tough right through. “What pleased me is the way I could raise the bar under pressure consistently,” she said.  

“My immediate goal is to win gold in the Asian and the India Open championships and then the ultimate goal is not just to make it to Olympics but to win gold too,” signs off a confident Nikhat, who makes it a point to dedicate her latest gold to the martyrs in the Pulwama terrorist attack recently.