KOLKATA — Boxer Nikhat Zareen is not willing to let all the talk regarding her showdown with Mary Kom affect her preparations for the all-important trial for the selection trials for Tokyo Olympic qualifiers on Dec. 27.
Nikhat and Mary Kom will lock horns in the 51kg trial for the Olympic qualifiers in Wuhan, China in February.
On Dec. 17, six-time world champion Mary Kom was supposed to take on Nikhat in the ongoing Big Bout League, which is a tournament sanctioned by the Boxing Federation of India. But the London Olympics bronze medallist pulled out in the last hour due to a back injury.
Mary Kom is the captain of the Punjab Panthers franchise while Nikhat Zareen leads the North East Rhinos.
Speaking to IANS, Nikhat said: "Even I got to know yesterday night only that she is not fighting. I was ready. It was a good opportunity for me. Now I will face her in the trials only.”
"If she is not willing to play, I can't force her. It's her choice. My bad that now she is not playing. Now I have to focus on the trials only," she said.
The pair have been involved in a long-standing selection row over a spot in the Olympic qualifiers after BFI had said that Mary Kom would be exempt from trials.
Former junior world champion Nikhat then demanded a trial against the 36-year old boxer who has maintained that she would go by any decision taken by the BFI.
Initially in the Big Bout League, Nikhat was drawn to play Mary Kom after the 23-year-old Telangana boxer drafted into Odisha Warriors. However, in an unexpected turn of events, the league organisers and Odisha team traded Nikhat with North East Rhinos without the knowledge of the Nizamabad-born pugilist.
With her saga with Mary Kom never ending, and the trials knocking on the door, how is Nikhat dealing with the mental pressure?
"I am prepared. I was ready to face her in this league. I have my own strategy which I was supposed to play today, I think I have to use it in trials. That's fine."
"My preparation is going good. I am ready. We have only 10 days left for the trials. I will keep myself physically and mentally fit. I have to give my best," she said.