India’s Nikhat Zareen won gold at the IBA Women’s Boxing World Championships in Istanbul after beating Thailand Boxer Jitpong Jutamas in the 52kg category final by an unanimous 5-0 decision on Thursday.

Living up to the expectations, Nikhat thrashed Thailand’s Jitpong Jutamas without breaking the sweat in the 52kg final with judges scoring the bout 30-27, 29-28, 29-28, 30-27, 29-28 in the Indian’s favour.

The Nizamabad (Telangana)-born boxer became the only fifth Indian woman to secure gold medal at the World Boxing Championships after record six-time champion Mary Kom (2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2018), Sarita Devi (2006), Jenny RL (2006) and Lekha KC (2006).

It was also India’s first gold medal since boxing great Mary Kom won it in 2018.

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Nikhat got off to a lively start and hit some sharp punches to quickly take the upper hand in the opening three minutes against confident Jutamas, who came into the match defeating the three-time World Championships medallist Kazakhstan’s Zhaina Shekerbekova.

The 25-year-old Indian took full advantage of her long reach and maintained her dominance against the Thai boxer, whom she had beaten in the 2019 Thailand Open semi-final—the only meeting between the two, enroute her silver medal finish.

However, Jutamas tried to fight back in the second round with a counter-attacking display but hardly managed to cause any trouble for the swift-moving Nikhat, who looked in complete control.

Hitting straight and clear punches, strength proved to be a key factor as Nikhat threw caution to the wind in the final round and kept attacking relentlessly before securing the gold quite comfortably.

While Nikhat had pulled off a comprehensive 5-0 win against Brazil’s Caroline De Almeida in the 52kg semi-final to book a place into the semi-final, Jutamas had stunned the two-time World Championships medallist Kazakh boxer Zhaina Shekerbekova 4-1 in the semi-final.

Nikhat has been in red hot form this year. The former junior youth world champion not only outpunched several Indian counterparts to make it into the Indian contingent for the IBA Women’s World Championships and Asian Games, but also clinched gold her second gold medal at the Strandja Memorial Boxing Tournament after beating Ukraine’s Tetiana Kob.

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Earlier in the tournament, Nikhat defeated Mexico’s Herrera Alvarez by unanimous decision to start off her campaign. She then beat Mongolia’s Lutsaikhan Altantsetseg by an unanimous 5-0 verdict to sail into the quarter-finals of the 52kg category. In the quarter-final, she assured India of its first World Championships medal by clinching a dominating 5-0 win against England’s Charley-Sian Taylor Davison.

Nikhat, who had previously featured in the 54kg category at the IBA Women’s Boxing World Championship in 2016, was the first Indian to assure a medal this tournament by reaching semifinal. Two other Indians – Manisha (57kg) and Parveen (63kg) – finished with bronze.

Here’s how the three rounds panned out on the scorecard:

“Winning a medal at the world’s is always a dream and Nikhat could achieve it so early is extremely commendable. We, at BFI, are proud that our boxers have not only made all of us proud but each of their boxing journeys is inspiring for the upcoming generations,” BFI President Ajay Singh said.

“On behalf of the Boxing Federation of India, I congratulate Nikhat and bronze medal winners Parveen and Manisha as well as the coaches and support staff for this achievement. Our eight boxers qualified for the quarter-finals which was joint most and shows the strength of Indian boxing,” he added.

With Manisha and Parveen signing off with bronze medals after their semi-finals finish, Indian contingent concluded its campaign with three medals at the world’s biggest boxing event, which witnessed exciting competition in presence of record 310 boxers from 73 countries and also marked the 20th anniversary of the Women’s World Championships.

Out of 12 participating Indian boxers, eight made it to the quarter-finals in this year’s tournament—the joint highest alongside Turkey.

With the addition of three medals in Istanbul, India’s overall medal tally has gone up to 39, including 10 gold, eight silver and 21 bronze, in the 12 editions of the prestigious event—third highest after Russia (60) and China (50).