Not very long ago, Indian boxing had found itself mired in controversy after Nikhat Zareen demanded a fair trial at the Boxing Federation of India’s decision to send six-time World Champion Mary Kom for the Olympic qualifiers. With the launch of BFI’s first-ever professional league, namely the Big Bout League, an indignant face-off between the two seemed imminent.
The BFI on Tuesday released the list of team owners and players for the league. While Mary Kom has been roped in by NCR Punjab Royals team, arch-rival Nikhat will turn up for Odisha Warriors in the league scheduled to begin on December 2. Interestingly, this is set to be the first collision between Mary Kom and Zareen ever since the two stoked a major controversy regarding selection trials in August this year. In an unprecedented move, the BFI had prevented Zareen from fighting against the Manipuri veteran at the selection trials for the recently concluded Ulan-Ude World Championships. As a result, Mary Kom, competing in the same weight category as Zareen, was selected for the Worlds.
The league will feature a total of six teams with five men and two women boxers in each team. Each team is required to have a total of three foreign players in their squad. With Mary Kom and Zareen drafted in opposite teams of their 51kg lightweight category, World Championship silver-medallist Amit Panghal has been roped in by Adani Gujarat and Mary Kom’s long-standing rival, Pinki Rani will be competing for Bengaluru.
Incidentally, the league is set to clash with the Women’s National Boxing Championships, scheduled to run from December 2 to 8 in Kannur, Kerala. While the junior team will participate in the South Asian Games to be held in Nepal, the best crop of experienced pugilists, including Mary Kom and Zareen, will participate in the Big Bout League. The rest of the female boxers will be sent to compete in the Women’s Nationals.