Nikhat Zareen aims to make it big with Commonwealth and Asian Games in sight

Having missed out on the Olympics next year, Indian boxer Nikhat Zareen is eyeing the Commonwealth Games and the Asiad to establish herself in the 51kg category.

By Naveen Peter ·

With her Olympic dreams on hold, one of India’s finest NextGen boxers, Nikhat Zareen, has trained her sights on the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, both in 2022.

Having lost out to boxing great MC Mary Kom in the 51kg category at the national trials ahead of the Asian Boxing Olympic Qualifiers last year, Nikhat Zareen’s hope of making it to the Games was cut short after Mary Kom booked her place at Tokyo 2020.

But that hasn’t stopped Nikhat Zareen from dreaming big. The 24-year-old pugilist is looking forward to establishing herself in the coming years. The Hyderabadi believes that the journey will begin with the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

“Currently, my only focus is the 2022 Commonwealth and the 2022 Asian Games. That’s what is in my head currently,” she told the Olympic Channel.

“I am not sure if I will have any competitions next year, but I want to ensure that I stay on top of my fitness and not lose touch with my game. It’s been a difficult few months with the pandemic and the lockdown, but I am looking forward to resuming my training soon.”

The new year will see the remainder of the Olympic Boxing Qualifiers and a few tune-up events ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. This leaves Nikhat Zareen in a tight spot, a problem she hopes to tackle soon.   

“It’s relatively easier when you know that there’s a competition coming up in a few months. Then you end up paying emphasis on your fitness, your game, your weight and so on,” said Nikhat Zareen, a former junior world champion.

“My walking weight is around the 53-54kg range, so if there’s a competition, I start to lose some weight. But now, it’s difficult for me to stay in shape. I am hoping that when competitions resume, I will get to compete in a few events and get back to my routine.”

‘We need to prove ourselves every day’

While Nikhat Zareen is disappointed at missing out on the Olympics, she reckons it could also prove to be a blessing in disguise.

“I think it’s a bit of both. Yes, I get more time to prepare for the Games if I start now. But then in the next four years, you don’t know the kind of talent that will come up in this weight category,” she reasoned. 

So far, we had Mary Kom as our benchmark. Going ahead, it’ll be hard to say what’s the best in the 51kg category. Right now, I don’t know what I am training for. What’s my competition going to look like?

“Yes, the Olympics is a one-in-four-years thing, but for us, we need to prove ourselves every day. If we lag, we are left behind. For me, it’s about taking one step at a time. I want to ensure I clear every hurdle on the way well and then look at the biggest challenge.”

The challenges begin in Asia. While Mary Kom and the two-time Olympic medallist, China’s Ren Cancan, have been a force to reckon with in the past, joining this list is the latest sensation, Yuan Chang of China.

And if her performance at the Asian Boxing Olympic Qualifiers was anything to go by, the 26-year-old Yuan Chang looks set to dominate the Asian stage in the years to come. 

“It’s a tough challenge. I have an eye out on the Chinese boxer,” Nikhat Zareen admitted. 

"I lost to her at the Thailand Open. I have a score to settle. She’s a fine boxer and I like the way she goes about in the ring. She enjoys being in the ring. Moves around well. But at the Asiad, I want to beat her,” Nikhat Zareen signed off.