When it all boiled down to one day, one bout, one last round, it was the six-time world champion Mary Kom who came out on top of a budding boxer demanding 'fair trial' as she beat Nikhat Zareen 9-1 to claim her spot in the upcoming Tokyo Olympic qualifiers.
The intense bout which was preceded by a war of words between Kom and Zareen outside the ring was to determine who would represent India in the prestigious 2020 Olympic games' qualifiers in China. However, while one would have expected the matter to have been settled with Kom's victory on Saturday, the drama rather intensified as Zareen and her home state Telangana's Boxing Association cried foul once the result was declared in favour of Mary Kom.
Back in October, 36-year-old Mary Kom grabbed her eight medal at the World Boxing Championships as she had to settle for a bronze after her semi-final defeat against Busenaz Cakiroglu of Turkey. Soon after her victory, speculations arose that Kom might skip the trials and earn a direct qualification for the 2020 Olympic qualifiers. However, according to the announcement by the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) earlier, only gold and silver medallists were to be exempted from the qualification.
This invited the ire of Nikhat Zareen, who had made her mark in several tournaments, as she alleged that when she had arrived in Delhi for the World Boxing Championships selection, the selection was cancelled and Mary Kom was sent without any prior explanation.
Zareen then strongly demanded a 'fair trial' against the veteran boxer to decide who would represent India in the Olympic qualifiers in 51 kg Boxing. The 23-year-old shot to the spotlight as she even wrote to Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijuju demanding 'fair trails.' The Minister was swift in his response as he assured Zareen that the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) would take a fair decision.
While Zareen alleged that the six-time world champion was being favoured, Mary Kom did not mince her words at all, as while speaking to Republic TV, she questioned who is Zareen to demand trials in a tweet. "Who is she? I am really shocked by all this. I have won eight World Championship medals, including six gold. Let the Boxing Federation of India decide whom they want. How can she cry like this? She cannot lobby to get a place in the Indian team. This is not done," Mary Kom told Republic TV.
Nikhat Zareen had also demanded a fair Olympic selection trial and asked the national federation (BFI) to telecast live the fight after her much-anticipated showdown against MC Mary Kom in the Indian Boxing League was cancelled. "I wanted to play the league just because everyone would have seen the bout on TV and know me. Now I have to prepare for the trails but I want the trials to be televised live on TV and not in close doors so that people can know what happened in the bout," she had added.
After an intense off-ring feud, the BFI on December 21 finally announced a "quadrangular trial" in the women's 51 kg category for the Tokyo Olympics qualifier in Delhi on December 27-28. Apart from Zareen and Mary Kom, Jyoti of Railways and Haryana's Ritu Grehwal were the two names mentioned in the trial. Zareen, defeated Jyoti Gulia, a youth world gold-medallist and the reigning national champion in a unanimous verdict while Mary Kom claimed victory over Ritu Grehwal for Kom and Zareen to lock horns in the finals on Saturday, which ended 9-1 in Mary Kom's favour.