Nikhat Zareen with her performance at the prestigious Strandja Boxing Memorial tournament in Bulgaria has emerged as one of the hottest commodities in Indian boxing. Expectations are now high from the 22-year old that she will be the flagbearer of the rich legacy of Indian boxing in the near future.
It was the manner of her performance which left an impression on one and all, as she was in dominating form throughout the tournament, finally clinching the Gold in the 51kg category beating Irish Magno from the Philippines with a convincing 5-0 scoreline.
Despite keeping the intensity high during the tournaments, Nikhat is quite a bubbly and charming personality off it, always willing to engage in a variety of conversations.
In an exclusive chat with Sportswallah, Nikhat speaks on what made her choose boxing over athletics, her love for selfies and biryani, being a good bathroom singer, the role of JSW Sports in her development and finally, her historic Gold medal at the Strandja memorial.
Q. When did you fall in love with boxing? Anyone in particular that you idolized?
Nikhat: In 2009. Initially, I started my career in athletics, so I did not have any idols in boxing. PT Usha was my inspiration. Then when I took up boxing, Mohammad Ali became my inspiration. At the time, Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson were the popular figures in the sport.
Q. Can you tell me something about the scene back in your hometown?
Nikhat: I’m a native of Nizamabad district. But right now I have shifted to Hyderabad.
Q. Did you shift to Hyderabad because there was a lack of facilities back in your hometown?
Nikhat: Yeah. And also because of the coach. I’m a JSW sponsored athlete and my personal coach was based in the city. I was training under him in Hyderabad. That was one of the main reasons for my move to Hyderabad.
Q. How is your fitness routine like heading into a tournament?
Nikhat: Right now, I box in the 51 kg category, so I need to cut some weight. My general weight is around the 53-54 kilo mark. For that, I need to follow a strict diet. I can’t eat beef, butter, ghee, and fast food. I just eat a lot of boiled vegetables, salads, oats and such food.
Q. Is your diet always so strict or is it because you are aiming to cut your weight?
Nikhat: No I’m only following a strict diet because I need to cut weight. Agar 60-kg ke weight category mai khelti toh khaate peete rehti. Daily biryani khaati (laughing).
Q. Away from boxing, what are your other hobbies?
Nikhat: There are many interests. I make TikTok videos. I also love to get photographed. I love to click selfies as well. I’m also a very good bathroom singer.
Q. Being a good bathroom singer, any particular artists that you adore?
Nikhat: There is Shreya Ghosal and Arijit Singh. Arijit’s songs bring out a variety of emotions from me. Many times, I cry after listening to his songs. I love his voice!
Q. Coming to the Strandja Memorial Boxing tournament, how does it feel to win a Gold medal?
Nikhat: Of course, I felt happy. This was my second competition and my first international competition in 2019. In the nationals, I lost to Pinky (Jangra) by a split decision. Still, I got the chance to represent India at the Strandja Cup. There were two boxers from India in the 51 kg category. I was the second option. Despite being the second option, I wanted to prove to everyone that Nikhat is one of the better boxers in India.
Q. Would you like to dedicate this medal to someone?
Nikhat: Yes, to the CRPF jawans who lost their lives in the Pulwama attacks in Jammu and Kashmir.
Q. Women’s day is coming up soon. Do you have any message to the women in India who want to pursue a career in sports?
Nikhat: I only give one message that women are as strong as men. Whatever you want to become, go ahead. Log toh kehte rahenge, logo ka kaam hai kehna.
Q. Finally, you train under JSW. How much have they helped you in order to succeed?
Nikhat: JSW has been my main backing so far. I’m always thankful to JSW for being so supportive. After my surgery, there was no one with me except JSW. Of course, I had the support of my family as well. But after them, JSW was the main part of my story.