When as a 13-year-old, Nikhat Zareen took the bold step to take to boxing in 2009, many eyebrows were raised in Nizamabad. “Being from an orthodox and Muslim community there were apprehensions. Most of them feel girls should read and then can get married. But my father being a sportsman, he encouraged me to take to boxing although my mother was very worried,” recalls Nikhat.
It was a challenge for Nikhat in the initial days of her career. Her father faced a lot of criticism. “People would say: Yeh mardon ka game hain (This is a man’s sport). My mother was scared. I was sparring with boys. Once when I returned home with a bleeding nose. My mother started crying. Aare beta aap cherra karap ho jayege (your face will be spoiled). That was the funny part of the story.”
It is this combative attitude has always helped this gutsy 23-year-old pugilist to fight adversities. Nikhat plunged into boxing even though she was a sprinter at the start of her career. “During a sports meet, there was a boxing event, but there was not a single girl in the tournament. I asked my father why there were no girls in boxing? I asked whether girls should not take part in boxing. He said, ‘yes girls can fight in the rings’.”
That’s how Nikhat’s illustrious journey as a boxer started. “In 2010, I went for sub-junior nationals, where I won the gold and the Best Boxer award. My career started off with this performance. I believed that I can make a career out of boxing. I began to train very hard and represented India in 2011 Junior World Championship. I was selected for Visakhapatnam where I was given trials for the Worlds.”
Setbacks have never affected Nikhat. The boxer was in the news recently when she was denied trials in the 51 kgs category for the World Championship. It led to a national furore as seven-time world champion Mary Kom was selected directly for the world meet. “There will always be obstacles. But, these challenges make me a much stronger person. I believe the controversy happened for a good reason.”
She observes that it is good to see many girls taking to boxing now. “When I started to win medals for undivided Andhra Pradesh, it created interest among them. In Hyderabad, many girls got inspired with my performance and started boxing. It was a marked contrast to when I started boxing.” She concludes by saying, “My dream is to win a medal in Olympics. I hope in future, I can be the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal for India.”