With a world title on the line in Istanbul, Nikhat Zareen closed her eyes and prayed. Her opponent Jutamas Jitpong of Thailand had taken the final to the last round but Zareen had thrown enough punches to not leave it to fate this time. She had sealed it with a thumping third round against the Tokyo Olympics quarter-finalist. Or so she thought.
When her hand finally went up, Zareen roared, her face became a mélange of emotions before tears rolled. She clutched India coach Bhaskar Bhatt and sobbed on the side of the ring. Two-and-half years after losing a bitter, highly-charged selection trial to legend MC Mary Kom for a berth in the Tokyo Olympics qualifiers in the flyweight (52kg) division, Zareen was a world champion.
A 12-member Indian delegation was dispatched to compete, and while the medal count has dropped by one, one Indian has been named global champion for the first time in four years. Mary Kom won gold in the 48kg category in the 2018 event.
ONE FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS ✍️ ?— Boxing Federation (@BFI_official) May 19, 2022
⚔️@nikhat_zareen continues her golden streak (from Nationals 2021) & becomes the only 5️⃣th ??woman boxer to win?medal at World Championships?
Well done, world champion!??♂️?@AjaySingh_SG#ibawwchs2022#IstanbulBoxing#PunchMeinHaiDum#Boxing pic.twitter.com/wjs1mSKGVX
Besides Nikhat, Manisha Moun (57kg) and Parveen Hooda (63kg) collected bronze after losing their semi-final bouts to Irma Testa and Amy Broadhurst respectively.
Living up to the expectations, Nikhat thrashed Jutamas without breaking a sweat in the 52kg final with judges scoring the bout 30-27, 29-28, 29-28, 30-27, 29-28 in the Indians favor.
Nikhat got off to a lively start and hit some sharp punches to quickly take the upper hand in the opening three minutes against confident Jutamas, who came into the match defeating the three-time World Championships medallist Kazakhstans Zhaina Shekerbekova.
The 25-year-old Indian took full advantage of her long reach and maintained her dominance against the Thai boxer, whom she had beaten in the 2019 Thailand Open semi-final--the only meeting between the two, en route to her silver medal finish.
Jutamas tried to fight back in the second round with a counter-attacking display but hardly managed to cause any trouble for the swift-moving Nikhat, who looked in complete control.
Hitting straight, clear, and powerful punches proved to be a boon as Nikhat threw caution to the wind in the final round and kept attacking relentlessly before securing the gold quite comfortably.