We’ll cross paths, and Indian boxing will suffer as a result: Rivalry between Nitu Ghanghas and Nikhat Zareen

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In the flyweight class of women’s boxing, an intriguing power struggle is developing. And it will be Indian boxing that suffers because the two main players in this competition are both expected to win medals at the forthcoming Asian Games and the Paris Olympics in 2024.

We are referring to the recent CWG gold medalists from the Birmingham Games, Nikhat Zareen, the women’s world champion, and Nitu Ghanghas, the two-time world youth champion. The Strandja Memorial Champion Nitucame outperformed Nikhat in the minimumweight (48kg) category while Nikhat took home the gold in the light flyweight (50kg) class.

However, the situation will be different for the Paris Games and the Asiad in Hangzhou in September and October of next year. Nikhat will go down from her non-Olympic weight category of 52kg, where she had won the Worlds gold, to 50kg in order to strengthen her claim for membership in the boxing team headed to the Olympics. Similar to how Nitu will face Nikhat by moving up to the 50kg class from her favourite 48kg division.

For the uninitiated, there will be six weight classes available in the Olympic women’s boxing: 50 kg, 54 kg, 57 kg, 60 kg, 66 kg, and 75 kg.

Speaking of the Asian Games, there will be five weight categories for women’s competitions: 51 kg, 57 kg, 60 kg, 69 kg, and 75 kg. The two claim that during the days before competitions, their body weight stayed around 51–52 kg before being reduced to the designated limit for the event. For them, fighting in the light heavyweight division is their best chance to win an Olympic medal, and Nitu is prepared to confront her senior pro.

The 21-year-old from Haryana is aware that their paths will cross when the team for the Asian Games and the Olympic qualifiers is chosen at the selection trials next year. The women’s world championships, which will take place in a venue that has not yet been determined, will give the two a chance to sharpen their talents before that.

I’m prepared to take on Nikhat’s challenge. I am aware that the difficulties will eventually pit us against one another. After my CWGtriumph, I have no fear of opponents,” Nitu proclaimed. “I must switch to the 50kg category for the Asiad and the Paris Games. We both have no other choice.

But it’s not good for Indian boxing. It would have been better if we had had access to other weight categories. We both could have brought medals from the Olympic and Asian Games for India. We won’t be able to do that, regrettably. From these two competitions, Indian boxing will receive one less medal, she added.

In addition to Nitu, Nikhat will have to fend off Manju Rani, who won the silver medal at the 2019 World Championships. Previously, Nikhat’s biggest opponent in her weight division was Mary Kom, her idol and six-time world champion. However, as the international boxing body (IBA) has an age restriction for boxers over 40 years old to compete at major international and national competitions, Mary Kom likely competed in her last match at the Tokyo Olympics, where she made the pre-quarterfinal exit. In November of this year, the bronze medalist from the London Olympics will be 40.

Nitu mentioned that her preparation for the CWG campaign was aided by the Indian boxing team’s two-week pre-Games training trip to Belfast, Ireland. “At the camp, I sparred with Demie-Jade Resztan of England, who I defeated in the CWG finals. We used to engage in friendly fights, which made it easier to understand her strategy. It was always going to be difficult competing against her because she won the bronze medal at the 2019 women’s worlds. In the final fight, I took advantage of her shortcomings because I was familiar with her strategy.

After winning the gold medal, Nitu visited her hamlet of Dhanana in the Bhiwani district and ate a plateful of her mother’s homemade “dal, baati, and choorma,” which she hadn’t tasted in eight months while preparing for the CWG at the national camp. Our camp is likely to begin in the following month. I’ll have cheat days throughout the upcoming weeks till then. There won’t be any limitations on what I eat, choorma, or anything else, she promised.

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