Nikhat Zareen, the former junior world champion, on Friday progressed to the final of the 51 kg category women’s boxing trials for next year’s Olympic Qualifiers after defeating Jyoti Gulia in New Delhi. Zareen will now face six-time world champion MC Mary Kom in the 51 kg category finals after both claimed unanimous victories in their respective first-round bouts.
Zareen, who has a gold medal from the Strandja Memorial in Bulgaria to her credit, defeated Gulia, also a youth world gold-medallist and the reigning national champion, in a unanimous verdict in the opening bout of the two-day competition, which will end on Saturday.
Zareen had kicked up a storm a few weeks ago by demanding a trial against iconic six-time world champion MC Mary Kom after the Boxing Federation of India’s flip-flop on the selection policy for the Olympic Qualifiers.
In other bouts, world youth gold-medallist Sakshi defeated Asian silver-winner Manisha Maun in the 57kg category, while former national champion Simranjit Kaur defeated Pavitra in the 60kg opener. Both the results were unanimous verdicts.
The Olympic qualifiers are scheduled to be held in China in February next year. All five categories in women’s boxing are being decided by trials as none in the 51 kg, 57 kg, 60 kg, 69 kg, and 75 kg divisions managed to make the finals of the world championships.
Mary Kom had maintained that she would abide by the selection policy laid down by the BFI, which ultimately decided to have trials. This was after BFI President Ajay Singh triggered the storm by announcing at a felicitation ceremony that Mary Kom would be selected for the Olympic qualifiers without any trial due to her consistent international performances.
The trials will be conducted by two-star AIBA judges and a referee from India, and will be recorded on camera. There will be no review of the bouts. Zareen and Kom faced each other in Guwahati in the semi-finals of the India Open where the six-time world champion won a close bout.
“I have watched the video of that bout again and again and I have learnt from my mistakes. I am prepared this time,” Zareen had said during the Big Bout League, where she was scheduled to face Kom twice, before the latter pulled out due to back pain.