On 15 February 1978, when in a bout between two undisputed World Heavyweight champions, Muhammad Ali lost to Leon Spinks on a split point decision, the latter is said to have made the statement, “He is the greatest but I am the latest.” There is a similarity of sorts when one compares the achievements of Mary Kom with the latest 52 kg category world champion, Nikhat Zareen.
In 2019, Mary Kom was India’s automatic choice for the World Championships, a choice that was challenged by Nikhat. However, Nikhat did have a chance to redeem her claim in qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics but was outclassed by Mary Kom by nine points to one. However, with Mary Kom well beyond her prime, Nikhat Zareen is undoubtedly the latest.
Nikhat is the fifth Indian woman boxer to win the World Championship. Mary Kom heads the list with six titles to her name, the titles coming in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2018. The year 2006 was definitely India’s golden year for women’s boxing. It was not only Mary Kom but three other boxers, Laishram Sarita Devi (lightweight; 52 kg), Jenny RL (63 kg) and Lekha Kozhummel Chettadi (75 kg) who won gold medals in their respective weight categories. However, after Mary Kom, she is the second woman boxer to win a World Championship outside India.
Nikhat was born in Telegana’s city of Nizamabad on 14 June 1996. After a basic education in her native town, she moved to Hyderabad for her graduation. In February 2015, she was adjudged as the ‘Best Boxer’ in the All India Inter University Boxing Championship. She works now as an officer in Bank of India at Hyderabad.
Gp Capt Achchyut Kumar has been associated with The Teenager Today for more than 50 years; initially as a reader and later as a contributor on varied topics. Having worked in the Indian Air Force and in India’s oldest company, Forbes & Company Limited, he is now practising as a lawyer in Nainital High Court.