The three-day trials for the AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships came to an end at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, in New Delhi on Thursday with usual suspects Sarita Laishram (60 kg), Neeraj (57 kg) and Jamuna Boro (54 kg) making the cut, along with seven others. Legendary boxer MC Mary Kom (51 kg) is one of them, but her qualification without taking the ring has put the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) in a spot.
The boxer-politician from Manipur, along with Lovlina Borgohain (69 kg), have already booked their respective spots in the 10-member Indian squad for the World Championships to be held in Ulan Ude, Russia from October 3-13 as the BFI deemed it unnecessary to hold the trials for the two weight categories.
But the BFI's decision to go by the reputation and recent performances, especially in the case of Mary Kom, has come under severe criticism from Nikhat Zareen, who was supposed to challenge the six-time World Champion.
Zareen was the Junior World Champion in 2011 and Youth World Silver Medalist in 2013.
As reported on Wednesday, the chairman of the selectors Rajesh Bhandari "had told the boxers after the selection committee meeting on Tuesday" that there will be no "trials in 51kg and 69kg categories."
The BFI's move came as a rude shock for Zareen, forcing her to shot a letter to the officials. She requested for an explanation on why the trial for her category was cancelled even though she had seen her name on the list when the schedule was first released.
According to the initial draw, Nikhat Zareen and Vanlal Duati were to face off in the first bout on Tuesday, with the winner taking on Mary Kom. But the BFI reportedly received a request from Mary Kom on Saturday seeking exemption from trials on the basis of her recent performances.
"As per our discussion yesterday and your assurance that my bout for the 51-kg for the World Championships trials will surely happen today, I'm surprised to see that the schedule list which was circulated this (Wednesday) morning, my name and weight category doesn't feature.
"This is in light of the fact that yesterday my name and weight category was there in the schedule and was supposed to be the first bout.
"I request an urgent explanation as to what is happening and what is the final decision in this regard," she said.
In an email to president Ajay Singh, she wrote: "I'm writing this email out of sheer frustration and feeling of helplessness. To my utter surprise and disappointment, I was today informed just before the bouts were supposed to start by the Chairman Selection Committee, Rajesh Bhandari, that my bout will not happen today and there are some internal discussions happening to ensure I'm protected for future and 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 and 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. I look forward to your immediate intervention and restoring the faith of every boxer in India."
She represented India at the World Championships at Kazakhstan in 2016 and also won a Bronze in the recently concluded Asian Championship.
Kom, who won her record sixth World Championships gold in New Delhi last year, in the 48kg category has since jumped up to 51kg as the light flyweight is not a part of the Olympic programme. After shifting to the 51kg, Kom has won two gold medals — at India Open and President's Cup.
Meanwhile, here are the Indian boxers qualified for the World Championships: Manju Rani (48kg), Mary Kom (51kg), Jamuna Boro (54kg), Neeraj (57kg), Sarita Lashram (60kg), Manju Bomboriya (64kg), Lovlina Borgohain (69kg), Saweety Boora (75kg), Nandini (81kg) and Kavita Chahal (+81kg).