Nikhat Zareen became the first Indian prizefighter in 14 years, other than Mary Kom, to win the IBA Women’s World Boxing Championship as she defeated Thailand’s Jutamas Jitpong in the 52 kg final in Istanbul on Thursday. She’s now only the fifth Indian woman to win the world crown in any weight class.
The order ends a distressing period for Nikhat, who missed out on last year’s Tokyo Olympics after losing to Mary Kom in a rather contentious Olympic trial. And her dominance in the ring in Istanbul was clear — she won each of her four bouts by a 5-0 amicable decision, meaning each of the five judges felt she was the better prizefighter in the ring.
As she has throughout the competition, Nikhat began the first round with phenomenal aggression and laid out a sublime combination of attacks to have Jitpong heaving for air. With 135 left on the timepiece, Nikhat launched into a flurry of punches to stun the Thai prizefighter, who plodded to keep up with Nikhat’s intensity. Nikhat took the opening round 5-0.
Jitpong, who had lost to Nikhat when they last contended at the 2019 Thailand Open, made a strong start to the alternate round. She bullied Nikhat around the ring, caught her with a series of left-handed punches, and maintained her distance from the Indian prizefighter. What turned it around for Jitpong was how she pulled her bases down from Nikhat and stayed down from her range, meaning the ultimate fell suddenly on her punches. Jitpong skipped around while Nikhat punched the air at the Sinan Erdem Dome. She did just enough in the alternative round to win it 3-2.
For Jitpong, the third round was all or nothing. She demanded all five judges award her the round to seal a comeback, while Nikhat demanded just one. Jitpong was reading Nikhat’s game better and continued to pull down as Nikhat reached in to make contact. Nikhat’s base refused to take her near to Jitpong as she continued to poke the air.
With a nanosecond and a half left, Nikhat turned on the afterburners to combine a bunch of important hooks with many-body blows to swing the drift in her favour. She sealed the round with a monstrous right hand with 13 seconds on the timepiece.
Nikhat knew she had it in the bag, but Jitpong replied as she did too. She flashed a wide smile, punched the air, and was veritably certain she would win gold. Seconds later, the adjudicator raised Nikhat’s hand as the winner.
Path to Gold
The palm also continued her unbeaten streak in 2022. She won the Strandja Memorial, Europe’s oldest boxing event, in February and became the first Indian prizefighter to win two gold orders at the event. What made it sweeter, by her own admission, was that she would beat two big names in the process: Buse Naz Cakiroglu, who won tableware at the Tokyo Olympics and three-time European champion Tetiana Bob.
What has marked her performance since missing out on Tokyo is her new boxing style, slipping her protective game to transfigure into an each-out attacking prizefighter.”People used to say I’m not really aggressive, but I’ve worked veritably hard on my attack andre-attack,” Nikhat told media on Wednesday.
The change meant she had to make the transition from boxing on the aft bottom to now leading with her frontal bottom. She had to attack, step back, shirk the opponent’s punch, and also begin the counterattack.
” Now she’s aggressive, but with control, not eyeless aggression,” Bhaskar Bhatt, principal trainer of the Indian women’s boxing platoon, told media before the final. Her experience helps her greatly in this aspect. Aggression with control that’s the crucial aspect. “
For a long time, Nikhat had been restrained to the murk. Rigours had been a constant companion-a shoulder injury that commanded surgery, a lockdown that rendered her with no outfit, and a foul-long-standing dogfight with an elderly prizefighter that had spoiled her name. The murk is now fading. The limelight is forcefully concentrated on India’s newest world champion, Nikhat Zareen. You’ve surely heard of her.