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Mary Kom’s Fist of Fury Beckons Golden Farewell

With experience her primary weapon, Mary Kom aspires to stake claim at gold in her final hurrah at Tokyo Olympics. 

Published
Boxing
4 min read
Boxing stalwart Mary Kom aspires to bow out with an Olympic gold.
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Nine Indian boxers will unleash their punches at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, making this the nation's biggest-ever boxing contingent at the quadrennial event. Four of these pugilists are women, with six-time world champion and London Olympics bronze medalist, Mary Kom, the most senior of the lot.

Into the third decade of her illustrious career, India’s pride, Kom, has swept the board when it comes to boxing accolades. Her trophy cabinet showcases a record six gold medals at the World Championship, the coveted bronze at the 2012 London Olympics, five titles at the Asian Championships and a gold apiece at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.

If longevity is an art, Kom is surely the artist.

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The 37-year-old agonisingly missed the bus to Rio 2016 but is gearing up for a final hurrah in the Japanese capital after securing bronze at the Asia-Oceania Boxing Qualifiers in 2020. What better way to walk into the sunset than with an Olympic gold dazzling around her neck.

Having transitioned to the 51kg category in the recent past, Kom arrived for the Olympic qualifiers on the back of her victory over Nikhat Zareen in what was a tetchy national trial in December last year.

While Zareen, the rising star in the division, swung heedlessly and telegraphed her shots in order to land a decisive blow, the seasoned campaigner boxed within her limitations and pounced on her opponent’s clumsy lunges.

It was a glowing testimonial of Kom’s ring intelligence, win-at-all-costs mindset, and virtues that have been fostered over the years as she rose from humble backgrounds to boxing royalty.
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Mary Kom trains incredibly hard to stay at the pinnacle of her game. 
Mary Kom trains incredibly hard to stay at the pinnacle of her game. 
Image: PTI

Backs Against The Wall, Mary Kom Charts Her Own Course

Born and brought up in an impoverished family in Manipur, Mary Kom fought against all odds to chase her dream. Inspired by the late boxer Dingko Singh, who made his motherland proud by clinching gold in the 1998 Asian Games, she donned the gloves and ventured into the unknown.

The path was littered with thorns and spikes as the ambition to pursue boxing, a male-dominated sport in the India of yesteryear, was met with staunch resistance from her family as well as the community. A norm-defier at heart, the unfazed Kom set out to shatter the glass ceiling.

She headed to Imphal to learn the nitty-gritty of boxing under the tutelage of coach K Kosana Meiteim. It was when the youngster made a mark in the state championship that her parents softened up and began supporting her cause.

The distinguished athlete has never looked back since then and earned a host of laurels for the nation before taking a two-year sabbatical from the sport after giving birth to twins in 2007. Speculation grew that she might not return to the ring but Mary Kom was firm in her belief that she was destined for bigger things.

Mary Kom’s Finest Hour: 2012 London Olympics

It was far from easy to spring back into action from the maternity leave, but her silver medal at the Asian Women’s Boxing Championship in 2010 proved otherwise. Kom had let her gloves do the talking, shutting down naysayers who had mistaken her move of stepping back for quitting.

She rode the wave of success at the AIBA Women's World Boxing Championship in 2012 to qualify for the London Olympics, where women’s boxing found acceptance as an Olympic sport, more than a century after it featured as a demonstration sport at the 1908 Games.

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Experience the Key to Claim Elusive Olympic Gold

However, the competitive scale will be a few notches higher at the Tokyo Olympics than what she experienced in London. Kom will have to win at least three bouts to break into the semis, and then prevail in another two to lay her hands on the gold. Korea's Chol Mi Pang and Turkey's Busenaz Cakiroglu are ahead of her in the AIBA world rankings and safe to say, it won’t be a smooth-sailing ride to the top.

But then again, Kom is no stranger to obstacles. With experience, by her own admission, serving as her primary weapon, India’s boxing dynamo wants to settle for nothing less than gold in her swansong.

“Experience allows me to control the pace of bouts. I face a lot of aggressive and fast girls now but what they don’t have is experience and I ensure that it becomes my biggest weapon,” she was quoted as saying by the PTI.

“You can be the fittest and the fastest boxer around, but I will always have the experience to dictate how the bout goes. This is what is going to be my biggest advantage at the Olympics,’’ Mary Kom added.

“What keeps me hungry is Olympic gold. Once I win that, I think I will be satisfied,” she said.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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