An Olympic qualifier boxing match made news for a wrong reason today when celebrated woman pugilist Mary Kom refused to shake hands with her junior Nikhat Zareen from Telangana whom the Manipuri had defeated. Telangana’s 23-year-old Nikhat Zareen lost to six-time world champion Mary Kom in the final of the Olympic qualifier trials. Mary Kom made a place in the Indian team for next year’s Olympic qualifiers in China. However, the Telangana Boxing Council protests came into the limelight after this match.
Even after her victory, Mary Kom looked annoyed with Nikhat Zareen. The atmosphere inside the boxing hall was tense as Zareen stirred controversy by publicly demanding a trial. There was also an argument between the two boxers during the match and outside the ring.
When the result was announced, some representatives of the Telangana Boxing Association, the domestic state of Zareen, started opposing it. Mary Kom did not shake hands. after the match, Mary Kom said, “I do not like such people at all.”
After the trial match between the two today, champion boxer Mary Kom refused to shake hands with the younger opponent. When she was asked why, she said, “Why do I need to shake hands with her? If she expects respect from others, she must respect others too.”
Mary Kom said, “It was not I who created a dispute. I never said I would not come for a trial. So I cannot stand it when someone accuses me. It was not my fault and my name should not be dragged into it.”
Zareen, on the other hand, said, “I am hurt by the way Mary Kom behaved. I am a junior; it would have been nice if she hugged me after the match. But I don’t want to comment.” In fact, the Hyderabadi boxer had tried to hug the Manipuri champion at the end of the match, as is the custom, but it seemed from outside the ring that Mary Kom pushed Nikhat Zareen away.
“I think I won the first two rounds. But more than the loss, it was Mary’s behaviour that hurt me. After the fight, in the ring, she used foul language for me. I didn’t expect this sort of an attitude from an idol,” the Hyderabad boxer said to reporters.
AP Reddy, representing the Telangana Boxing Association, strongly opposed the decision. Indian Boxing Federation President Ajay Singh managed the situation by intervening. Singh asked Reddy to move away from the ring and pacify an agitated Zareen. Reddy later told reporters, “How will boxing progress in such politics?”
Singh said, ‘What can anyone say about Mary Kom? It will always be less. She is a talented boxer. As far as Nikhat is concerned, she is a hope for the future and she was impressive in this match.”
Behind the Mary Kom-Nikhat Zareen fracas
Trouble has been brewing between the two for some time. Nikhat has many a time accused the champion boxer, saying that due to Mary Kom, she is ignored in boxing. In fact, during the World Championship played in Russia, Mary Kom won bronze in the 51 kg weight category. After that victory, Singh wanted to send Mary Kom directly to Olympic qualifiers, which would have been a contravention of the rules of the BFI.
According to the rules made by the BFI in September, only players who win a gold or silver medal in the World Championship get a direct entry to the Olympic qualifiers, Trials are needed in the category in which Indian boxers have not reached the final. The BFI, therefore, agreed to hold the trials.
Meanwhile, Mary Kom had always said that she was with the selection process of BFI. However, she also tried to avoid trials by citing examples of other sports where the rule is more lenient. She asked who gave trials in other disciplines like badminton. “Have you seen Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu giving trials, but in our case it is different.”
It may, thus, be said quite safely that Mary Kom was not as peeved with Nikhat Zareen as she was miffed with the rule to appear for BFI trials.