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Asian Games 2023: Nikhat Zareen floats her way into the pre-quarters, beats Worlds opponent

It was supposed to be the toughest opening draw among all Indian boxers but Nikhat Zareen turned it into a one-sided contest, dominating Vietnam’s Nguyen Thi Tam for a unanimous 3-0 win in the first round of the 50kg category on Sunday to signal her intent of going all the way here.

In a repeat of the World Championships final earlier this year in New Delhi, which Nikhat won for her second title, the 27-year old Indian gave her opponent no chance to recover at any point. Her scores read all 10-8 in the first round, all 10-9 in the 3rd while, in the second round, two judges scored 10-9 in her favour and three gave 10-8.

While she did not say it directly, Nikhat did indicate that she was determined to not give anyone a chance to dock her points.

“I didn’t expect it to be one-sided but I had planned for it. Also it’s happening in another country so I did not want to give anyone a chance for a split decision. My plan was to win the first two rounds unanimously and then maybe relax a bit in the 3rd,” she quipped.

Her plan worked to perfection. Nikhat did not give any space to move or breathe, getting her punches on target and avoiding Nguyen’s desperate reaches with ease.

ALSO READ: Asian Games 2023: In her maiden Asiad, 19-year old Ramita upstages Mehuli for bronze in shooting

“I am really happy to win this bout against the World Championships silver medallist. Normally, in the first bout, the body does not move as smoothly. So, yes, I was a little nervous initially. But I knew it would be tough from the beginning and I had to be aggressive and take the lead early on. That’s what we planned and I executed it in the ring,” she explained.

Next up will be South Korea’s Chorong Bak in the pre-quarters, someone Nikhat has never faced before. “It will not be easy since we don’t know about her. But my primary target is (Olympic) qualification and then will move for the gold,” Nikhat said.

Earlier in the day, Preeti advanced to the quarterfinals of the 54kg after the referee stopped the contest in the 3rd round while she was leading 2-0 unanimously after the first two rounds.

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