NEW DELHI: In a major controversy, six-time world champion MC Mary Kom has been selected for the upcoming 2019 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships without taking part in trials. The move by the Boxing Federation of India has not gone down well with fellow 51kg competitor and former junior world champion Nikhat Zareen.
Twenty-three-year-old Zareen was initially part of the trials and was set to face Vanlalduati of All-India Police. She had travelled to the capital along with her father from Hyderabad. Much to her surprise, when she came to the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, her name was nowhere to be seen. It is learnt that Mary Kom did not want to take the trials even after BFI officials tried to reason with her.
Zareen alleged that chairman of selectors Rajesh Bhandari stopped her from competing. She wrote two mails to protest — one to Bhandari and another to BFI president Ajay Singh, both of which are with TNIE.
“As per our discussion yesterday (Tuesday) & your assurance that my 51kg bout for the World Championships trials will surely happen today (Wednesday), I’m surprised to see that the schedule list which was circulated this morning, my name & weight category doesn’t feature... I request an urgent explanation as to what is happening & what is the final decision in this regard,” the pugilist wrote to Bhandari.
Bhandari has refuted these claims. He says the BFI top brass was consulted before taking the decision and they came to this conclusion around three days ago.
“We got a representation from Mary’s coach Chhote Lal Yadav. And after careful consideration, we felt Mary deserved her place in the team and did not need to participate in trials,” he told TNIE after Wednesday’s trials.
According to the selection committee, Mary has already gotten the better of Zareen in the India Open semifinals while her showings in the national camp are proof that she is the undisputed No 1.
“There was no weigh-in for 51kg category. We are not against Zareen. She is a fine boxer and one of our brightest hopes. She still has age on her side and I tried to explain this to her. For now, Mary deserves her slot,” Bhandari added.
Frustrated with BFI’s stance about the entire episode, Zareen was forced to write to the BFI chief. “I’m writing this email out of sheer frustration & feeling of helplessness... To my utter surprise & disappointment, I was today informed just before the bouts were supposed to start by the Chairman Selection Committee, Mr Rajesh Bhandari that my bout will not happen today & there are some internal discussions happening to ensure I’m protected for future & avoid getting exposed at a young age in World Championships. I’m really surprised by this action as I have already participated in World Championships in 2016 and if I was fine then, so in 2019, I surely cannot be young and this cannot be the reason.
“I, as a citizen of India & a boxer under BFI, only request that a fair trial should happen for all boxers under your leadership. If there is a rule for all of us, it needs to be consistent for all of us irrespective of whatever stature a particular boxer is. Unfair practises should not be used for boxers trying to avoid participating in the trials. I look forward to your immediate intervention & restoring the faith of every boxer in India,” the mail read.
This issue sets a dangerous precedent and if only weightage is given to names, the younger crop will surely feel disheartened especially with the Olympics just around the corner. Another senior boxer, L Sarita Devi is set to take part in the trials on Thursday.
Full name: Nikhat Zareen
Honours board: Youth world champion and Asian C’ships bronze medallist