Nikhat Zareen moved one step closer to winning her second IBA Women’s World Boxing Championship title by defeating Columbia’s Ingrit Valencia in the 50kg semifinal on Thursday.
Nikhat, who won gold in the 52kg class last year, will face two-time Asian champion from Vietnam Nguyen Thi Tam in the final.
Going into the fight, this looked like an even contest on paper: Nikhat, the hometown favorite and reigning champion against Valencia, a former Olympic bronze medalist and Worlds 2022 silver medalist.
The fight was also tied to a bit of history: Valencia was the boxer who had eliminated Mary Kom from the Tokyo Olympics. And Nikhat… we know the equation of her with Mary.
Not that Nikhat’s credentials don’t back it up (Strandja Memorial, World Championships and Commonwealth Games last year), but this fight was an opportunity for Nikhat to show that she truly belongs there…the space that Mary once used to rule. .
���� Nikhat Zareen storms into the final (50kg) of the World Boxing Championships�� The defending champion defeated Olympic bronze medalist Ingrit Valencia by a unanimous verdict of 5:0 #Boxing #WWCHDelhi�� pic.twitter.com/VudJH2ixv6
— Doordarshan Sports (@ddsportschannel) March 23, 2023
Round 1: Valencia launched herself at Nikhat with a three hit combo and continued to be the aggressor, keeping her guard down and betting on her reflexes. Nikhat took advantage of the down guard as he attacked with a flurry of combo punches, combining his powerful left hooks with straight right jabs.
Nikhat’s left hooks are a thing of beauty: a full arm extension was followed by a full drive punch that ended with his left fist slamming into Valencia’s left cheek. Nikhat did enough to win the first round 4:1.
Round 2: Nikhat showed no signs of slowing down: he quickly got to his feet and crawled around the ring. Valencia, thinking that she had Nikhat in trouble, chased her into the ropes… but it was all part of Nikhat’s plan. She countered with a round of solid left-right combinations, eventually forcing Valencia to take a higher stance.
Nikhat had fun with his counters, effortlessly shifting his weight from rear foot to front foot and landing plenty of hard-hitting blows to bag the second round by a 4:1 margin.
Round 3: The third round was a repeat of the previous round: Nikhat let Valencia push her into the corner before countering and moving back to the center. Valencia was running out of options and Nikhat limited herself to what she did best: counterattack. Nikhat raised both fists in celebration as soon as he finished the final round and claimed victory. Valencia also seemed confident that they had done enough to beat Nikhat.
As the referee held up both hands before the winner was announced, both boxers had one hand raised to suggest they had won.
Go back one year and four months and the frame was exactly the same: Valencia and their Indian opponent raised arms late in the fight to claim victory after their pre-quarterfinal at the Olympics.
The difference, however, was that the Indian boxer’s hand went up this time. His name of him? Nikhat Zareen.