Olympics-India's Zareen ready to step out of Mary Kom's shadow, says coach

  • Boxing
  • Wednesday, 10 Apr 2024

Commonwealth Games - Boxing - Women’s Over 48kg-50kg Light Fly - Round of 16 - The NEC Hall 4, Birmingham, Britain - July 31, 2022 India's Zareen Nikhat reacts during her round of 16 fight with Mozambique's Helena Ismael Bagao REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Two-time world boxing champion Nikhat Zareen is ready to step out of fellow Indian MC Mary Kom's shadow with a medal at the Paris Olympics, coach Blas Iglesias Fernandez has said.

Six-time world champion MC Mary Kom has been the face of women boxing in India and her illustrious career inspired a Bollywood biopic in 2014.

She won the flyweight bronze at the 2012 London Olympics to cement her legacy and announced her retirement earlier this year.

Zareen will make her Olympic debut in the 50kg event in Paris and Fernandez expects the 27-year-old to return with a medal around her neck.

"This is Nikhat's time to prove herself," the Cuban said in a Sports Authority of India (SAI) media release on Tuesday.

"It's true that she had lived in the shadows of Mary Kom but now it's her chance to prove herself and make India proud."

Since 1990, Fernandez has worked with India's top boxers, including Mary Kom, and is the only foreigner to have won India's highest award for a coach.

Currently India's high-performance coach, the 68-year-old was particularly pleased by Zareen's ring awareness.

"I love the boxing (style) of Nikhat. She is very intelligent. She has good ring tactics," he said.

India could expect a second boxing medal in the women's event if Lovlina Borgohain, who won the welterweight bronze at the Tokyo Olympics, could find her "killer instinct", Fernandez said.

"Lovlina has to show more killer instinct," he said of the boxer, who had to move from 69kg to 75kg after the Olympic categories were revised.

"I have seen some of her bouts and I think she lost them because Lovlina was not aggressive and proactive enough.

"If she can box to her potential, she can finish among the medals in Paris."

India have bagged four women's quota places for Paris.

Fernandez was hopeful the male boxers would give a good account of themselves at the world qualifiers in Bangkok where India can potentially clinch nine Paris spots.

"I reckon Nishant Dev and Amit Panghal can bag Paris quotas. They both have the potential to do this," he said.

"Men's boxing is very tough and should not be compared with women's where the competition is relatively easier."

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Stephen Coates)

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