Mary Kom vs Nikhat Zareen in finals of trials for Olympic Qualifiers

Mary Kom vs Nikhat Zareen in finals of trials for Olympic Qualifiers

Referee raises the hand of boxer Mary Kom after her win against Ritu Grewal during the trial for Olympic Qualifiers in New Delhi. PTI

New Delhi, December 27

Six-time world champion MC Mary Kom and Nikhat Zareen will clash in the 51kg category finals of the women’s boxing trials for next year’s Olympic Qualifiers after claiming unanimous victories in their respective first-round bouts here on Friday.

Former junior world champion Zareen defeated reigning national champion Jyoti Gulia, while multiple-time Asian champion Mary Kom got the better of Ritu Grewal.

The two-day competition will end on Saturday after the finals.

Zareen had kicked up a storm a few weeks ago by demanding a trial against the iconic Mary Kom after the Boxing Federation of India’s flip-flop on the selection policy for the Olympic Qualifiers.

Mary Kom had maintained that she would abide by the selection policy laid down by the BFI, which ultimately decided to have trials.

This was after BFI President Ajay Singh triggered the storm by announcing at a felicitation ceremony that Mary Kom would be selected for the Olympic Qualifiers without any trial due to her consistent international performances.

An irate Zareen then demanded a “fair chance” against the celebrated Manipuri, who is also a Rajya Sabha member.

Despite registering a unanimous win, the Performance Director of Indian women’s boxing, Raffaele Bergamasco, was not satisfied with Mary Kom’s performance.

“She (Mary Kom) won but she was nowhere near to her best today. I didn’t like her bout. She has to improve a lot,” he said without elaborating further.

Zareen, Mary Kom’s next opponent, said she just can’t wait to take the ring on Saturday.

“I am just waiting for tomorrow’s bout. I am eagerly looking forward to that bout. I will give my 100 per cent. There is no pressure on me right now because I wanted the fight to happen for a long time and I am excited,” Zareen said about the much-awaited contest.

“I just want to give my best. At last I got an opportunity to face her (Mary Kom) and I will make sure that it turns out to be a memorable bout.

“I was always looking forward to this bout. I am well prepared for tomorrow. I will make sure that it’s a clean bout tomorrow without any clinching and wrestling. I will play fairly and clean and beautiful boxing,” she added.

Contrary to Bergamasco’s observation, Zareen said Mary was the clear winner on Friday against Ritu in the intense first round of the 51 kg qualifiers.

“I watched Mary di’s bout, she had clear scoring. Her bout today was more involved in clinching and wrestling but scoring wise she had an upper hand,” she said.

In other trial bouts on Friday, world youth gold-medallist Sakshi Chaudhary defeated Asian silver-winner Manisha Maun in a split 7-3 verdict in the 57kg category, while former national champion Simranjit Kaur got the better of Pavitra by an unanimous verdict in the 60kg opener.

Former world champion veteran L Sarita Devi will be Kaur’s opponent in the final. Sarita got the better of former youth world champion Shashi Chopra 9-1 in her preliminary bout.

Former world silver-medallist Sonia Lather will face Sakshi in the 57kg final after defeating Sonia Chahal 7-3.

In the 75kg category, former Asian Games bronze-medallist Pooja Rani defeated Indraja 10-0 to make the finals.

In 69kg, world championship bronze medallist Lovlina Borgohain beat Anjali by a unanimous 10-0 verdict to set up a clash against Lalita, who defeated Meena Rani 9-1.

In the last bout of the day, Nupur defeated Saweeta 9-1 in the 75kg category. She will face Pooja Rani in the final round on Saturday for a place in the Olympic Qualifiers bound squad.

The Olympic Qualifiers are scheduled to be held in China next year from February 3 to 14.

All five categories in women’s boxing are being decided by trials as none in the 51kg, 57kg, 60kg, 69kg, and 75kg divisions managed to make the finals of the world championships.

The two-day trials for men will be held in Bellary, Karnataka starting Sunday. — PTI

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