World Champion Nikhat Zareen was once criticized for wearing shorts, father Mohammad Zaleel recalls

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Nikhat Zareen
The boxing career of Nikhat Zareen began under her father, who trained her for a year.
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Following her gold medal-winning performance at the 52kg division of the 2022 IBA Women’s World Boxing Championships, Nikhat Zareen has turned into a sought-after celebrity, with every detail of her life covered by the media. Her father’s recent comments underline how Zareen overcame societal prejudices to become a world champion.

Nikhat Zareen
The boxing career of Nikhat Zareen began under her father, who trained her for a year.

DESPITE BEING SUCCESSFUL, NIKHAT ZAREEN WAS FAIRLY UNKNOWN BEFORE THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP GOLD

Mohammad Zaleel, a sportsman, introduced daughter Zareen to athletics at a young age, but she later shifted to boxing. The young pugilist first started training under her father. After learning the basics from her father, she started training under Dronacharya Award-winning coach IV Rao at the Visakhapatnam centre of Sports Authority of India (SAI).

Despite winning multiple medals in national and international competitions both at youth and senior levels, Zareen was fairly unknown – she competed in the same weight category as MC Mary Kom – before the World Championship Gold medal catapulted her to widespread fame.

 

ALTHOUGH SHE RECEIVED FAMILY SUPPORT, SHE WAS CRITICIZED BY FRIENDS AND RELATIVES FOR WEARING SHORTS

Speaking to The Indian Express, an understandably emotional Mohammad Zaleel spoke about the prejudices his daughter had to battle in her journey to becoming a world champion. Calling her an inspiration for girls all across the nation, Zaleel discussed the time and effort he spent trying to help his two younger daughters.

“While Nikhat’s two elder sisters are doctors, I had to spend time on Nikhat’s training as well as her younger sister, who plays badminton. When Nikhat told us about her willingness to become a boxer, there was no hesitation in our minds,” he recalled.

While there was no hesitation in the collective mind of Zareen’s immediate family, society did not exhibit a positive reaction to a girl attempting a career in boxing. Boxing requires participants to wear shorts, which was looked down upon by certain conservative friends and relatives of the family.

“But sometimes, relatives or friends would tell us that a girl should not play a sport where she has to wear shorts. But we knew that whatever Nikhat wanted, we would support her dream,” Zaleel said.

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