Nikhat Zareen Opens Up About Her Journey To Becoming A World Boxing Champion

Nikhat Zareen

“Take pride when they say you punch like a girl,” Nikhat Zareen writes in one of her Instagram captions. The 25-year-old boxer comes with an unwavering determination to punch above her weight and break stereotypes, one jab at a time. On 19th May 2022, Nikhat won against Thailand’s Jutamas Jitpong with a unanimous 5-0 verdict and brought home the gold medal in the 52-kilogram category at the World Women’s Boxing Championship in Istanbul. She is the fifth Indian woman boxer to win a gold at the IBA World Boxing Championships. From making headlines back in 2011 when she became a junior world champion to winning the title of world champion eleven years later, her journey between the two golds hasn’t been one without challenges. We sat down with the athlete to find out more:

ELLE: How did you prepare for the Women’s World Boxing Championship? Could you take me through your daily workout routine and diet that you followed?

Nikhat Zareen (NZ): I took one step at a time. After coming back from the Strandja cup, I revisited my bouts on YouTube and learnt all my mistakes. I made sure to work on them in my training, prepare myself well for the world championship, and never repeat the same mistakes. We had our daily training session twice a day, 6 days a week. My diet plan was regulated by the dietitian provided to us by SAI. It was very beneficial as I had to keep my weight under control throughout the preparation and tournament days.

ELLE: What sparked your interest in boxing? 

NZ: I wanted to prove to society that women are no less than men and I had the urge to make a name for myself. Initially, my parents had some doubts, especially my mother. My father has been very supportive since the beginning. He wanted me to become a top athlete who could win a medal for India.

 

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A post shared by Nikhat Zareen (@zareennikhat)

ELLE: What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a woman athlete?

NZ: Being a woman athlete and especially a Muslim athlete, it was really tough to handle all the social pressure. People usually criticise me for wearing shorts and sandos. They told me to stay inside the house because according to them boxing is not a sport for women. When I suffered a shoulder injury in 2018, because of which I had to undergo major surgery, people thought that my boxing career was over, and they said that I would not be able to make a comeback. It was a very difficult time for me, but I pushed through and made by return by winning a gold medal at the Strandja cup, a bronze medal at the Asian championship, and another gold at the Thailand Open. In 2021, I finished the Bosphorus tournament with a bronze medal where I defeated the world champs and Olympic medallists. I won nationals later that year, won gold in Strandja yet again in 2022 and now I’m world champion. It hasn’t been easy but I didn’t stop chasing my dream and fought through all of it.

 

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A post shared by Nikhat Zareen (@zareennikhat)

ELLE: Do you think the training and facilities etc have improved in India?

NZ: Yes, it certainly has improved a lot. Now we have foreign coaches who give us world-class training. Also, the infrastructure has improved a lot. Morden and top-level equipment are being provided for us. That being said, there’s still a long way to go. 

 

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ELLE: If your biopic is made, who would you want to play you?

NZ: Alia Bhatt without a doubt! I feel we have some physical traits in common and I absolutely love her acting. It’s great to see the Indian film industry’s interest in the sport. Boxing movies like Mary Kom and Toofan have certainly sparked the younger generation’s interest to take up this sport and choose them as their idols— to fight like the heroes in the movies and fulfil their dreams.

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