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The Times of India
The Times of India
Sabi Hussain | TNN

Our paths will cross and it'll be Indian boxing's loss: Nitu Ghanghas on rivalry with Nikhat Zareen

NEW DELHI: An interesting battle for supremacy is brewing up in the women’s boxing’s flyweight division. And, it’s the Indian boxing which will be at loss, as the two central figures in this rivalry are both medal prospects at the upcoming Asian Games and Paris Olympics 2024.

We are talking about women’s World champion Nikhat Zareen and two-time World youth champion Nitu Ghanghas – both a CWG gold medallist at the recently-held Games in Birmingham. While Nikhat won the gold in the light flyweight (50kg) division, the Strandja memorial champion Nitu came out trumps in the minimumweight (48kg) competition.

But, the scenario will change for the Hangzhou Asiad in September-October next year and the Paris Games. Nikhat will drop down from her non-Olympic weight category of 52kg – in which she had won the Worlds gold – to 50kg to push her case for inclusion in the Olympic-bound boxing squad. Similarly, Nitu will come up to 50kg from her preferred 48kg division to challenge Nikhat.

For the uninitiated, the Olympic women’s boxing will feature six weight classes – 50kg, 54kg, 57kg, 60kg, 66kg and 75kg. Talking about the Asian Games, the women’s competition will be held across five weight categories – 51kg, 57kg, 60kg, 69kg and 75kg. According to the two, their body weight kept hovering in the range of 51-52kg during the non-competition days before cutting it down to the specific limit for the event. For them, competing in the light flyweight category is their best shot to medal glory and Nitu is ready to throw up a challenge to her senior pro.

The 21-year-old from Haryana knows that their paths will collide during the selection trials to pick the team for the Asian Games and for the Olympic qualifiers next year. Before that, the two would look to brush up their skillset at the women’s World championships in May-June at a venue yet to be decided.

“I am ready for Nikhat’s challenge. I know that we will soon be facing each other at the trials. I fear no opponent after my CWG triumph,” Nitu declared. “For the Asiad and the Paris Games, I have to move to the 50kg division. Both of us don’t have any option,” she told TOI on Friday.

“But, for Indian boxing, it’s not good. It would have been better had there been different weight categories available to us. We both could have individually brought medals for India from the Asiad and Olympic Games. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to do that. Indian boxing will have one medal less from these two events,” she added.

Apart from Nitu, Nikhat will also have to stave off the challenge from 2019 World Championships silver medalist Manju Rani. Earlier, Nikhat’s biggest competitor in her weight category was her idol and six-time world champion, Mary Kom. But since there’s an age bar for boxers above 40 years to compete at the national and major international events by the international boxing body (IBA), Mary Kom, in all likelihood, had played her last competition at the Tokyo Olympics, where she had made the pre-quarterfinal exit. The London Games bronze medallist will turn 40 in November this year.

Talking about her CWG campaign, Nitu informed that the Indian boxing team’s two-week long training trip to Belfast in Ireland before the Games helped her prepare for the event. “At the camp, I had sparring sessions with England’s Demie-Jade Resztan, whom I defeated in the CWG finals. We used to have friendly bouts together and that helped to read her game and technique. She was a bronze medallist at the 2019 women’s Worlds, so it was always going to be tough against her. I knew her game well and exploited her weaknesses during the final bout.”

Nitu also revealed that she hadn’t had home-cooked food for eight months training for the CWG at the national camp since January this year and it was after her gold medal triumph that she visited her village Dhanana in Bhiwani district and had a plateful of ‘dal, baati and choorma’ prepared by her mother. “Our camp will probably start next month. Till then, I’ll have cheat days all these coming weeks. There will be no restrictions to what I eat, choorma or whatever,” she signed off.

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