The Mary Kom of Andhra

Nikhat Zareen is only 17… but she has decided to brave it out in boxing. V.V. Subrahmanyam profiles the teen.

Exploring new frontiers! Well, the 17-year-old Nikhat Zareen, from Nizamabad district has decided to enter the boxing ring, which only a few girls have dared to from Andhra. And, not surprisingly, the five-time World champion Mary Kom is her inspiration.

What is significant is that this Intermediate second year student of New Kakatiya College (but now in the Indian camp in Vizag under the tutelage of Dronacharya I. Venkateswara Rao), is charting out her own world of achievements.

First spotted by SAAP (Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh) boxing coach Omkar Yadav, Zareen had shown abundant promise very early and to all those who followed her career it was not surprising that she won the 2011 Turkey World junior boxing gold (flyweight) after being adjudged the ‘Best Boxer’ in the Erode Nationals. And, as if to prove that it was no flash in the pan, this highly talented boxer has recently won a highly creditable silver (bantamweight) in the World Youth championship in Bulgaria.

It was never easy for Zareen to keep moving ahead even as her father, Mohammad Jameel Ahmed (a real estate agent), faced some embarrassing questions from his own community.

“That was really tough. But, once we decided that we should make it big in the world of sport and that too in boxing, there was no looking back,” Zareen had said once. Regarding the World Youth championship final against Chinese boxer Yunzi Yuan, Zareen recalls, “Well, after the semi-final win against another world junior champion, my confidence was on a high. But I must admit in the final, I was up against someone who was really good and superior to me.”

Former national coach Emani Chiranjeevi who had a close look at Zareen a couple of years ago did feel that this Andhra girl had the potential to go a long way. “When you look at a boxer, the intensity in the eyes is one of the defining factors whether one can be good in the ring or not. There was a lot of hunger for success in her eyes and her hand-eye coordination is God’s gift to her,” the famous coach, who guided the destinies of at least four Olympians from India, said.

Nikhat Zareen, who won a silver in the recent World Youth women's boxing championship in Bulgaria, seen with her father Md. Jameel Ahmed.-V.V. SUBRAHMANYAM

And, once Zareen enrolled with the reputed SAI coach Venkateswara Rao, there was no looking back.

Clearly buoyed by her impressive outing in Bulgaria, Zareen now looks far ahead. “It may sound odd but I am determined to win an Olympic medal in the 2016 Games in Rio. And God willing, nothing less than gold,” emphasises the athlete-turned boxer.

Zareen’s father continues to be her friend and guide. He keeps a tab on her diet and even makes it a point to watch the training sessions, making critical analysis whenever he finds time.

Not content with her silver, this champion boxer’s immediate goal is to win gold in the coming Youth Olympics in China.

By all means, her splendid achievements mean that the Andhra Pradesh ‘Women Force’ in the world of sport is not confined only to the likes of Sania, Saina, Humpy and Harika.

“Yes, it is a great feeling when people start recognising you. Definitely things change a lot when you keep winning important events. I sincerely wish that I live up to the expectations,” she says to a query.

What were the lessons from Bulgaria? “The final itself was a reminder that at this level, merely attacking all out will not yield results. For, in that final, the Chinese girl’s defence was too good. So, there is always scope to keep learning and improving fast,” she signs off.