“Thank you for your love and support,” a teary-eyed emotional Mary Kom exclaimed after winning the World Boxing Championships 2018. “I don’t have anything to give except for a gold to the country.”
Mary Kom won her sixth World Championships title on November 24,2018 making her the most successful boxer in history matched only by Cuba’s Felix Savon. At 35, and after being written off by many, Mary Kom overcame greater odds and became World Champion again. It was in 2010 that the pugilist won her last World Championships title.
Mary Kom was born on March 1, 1983 in Kangathei village, Churachandpur district of rural Manipur. The eldest of three siblings who were children of jhum farmers, Mary Kom’s from-humble-beginnings-to-international-acclaim story is one of inspiration.
In 2001, Mary Kom won her first Silver medal at the World Championships. The next five medals would come in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2010. They were all Gold.
In the finals of these past World Championships Mary Kom took on Hanna Okhota of Ukraine. The 13-year age difference between Mary Kom and her opponent mattered for little when she decisively beat her by a 5-0 unanimous decision.
Her next challenge is a seventh World Championship title and then the elusive Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020. At the Tokyo Olympics, Mary Kom, a mother-of-three will be 37, and while age and fatigue could be major factors especilly against younger opponents, she is determined. “The next step is to start preparing for Olympic qualification, I will need to change my weight category, and as a result, the training and diet will also completely change,” she elaborated.
While her gold medal in the World Champoinships was in the 48-KG divison, the Olympics does not have a 48-KG division, and so in Tokyo, she will be competing in the 51-KG division like she did when she won Bronze in London in 2012.
“It is difficult to remember the earlier gold medals but this one is very tough because of the pressure and change of weight also,” Mary Kom explained in an intercation with the media after her Gold in the World Championships. “ I won my last World Championships gold in 2010 and then there is this change of weight category for Olympics.”
“There was pressure on me and I don’t know how to put this gold alongside the earlier five,” she added.
Expereince has never been more imporant for Mary Kom at this stage in her career.
“If you see my bouts in the initial seven years of my career and now, you will see a lot of difference,” she explained. “Earlier, I was like a bullfighter, I was always charging and I would be totally tired and could not even raise my hand after the fight.”
Now, Mary Kom understands that she is smarter and her strategy is to figure out the game of her opponent and make changes to her game plan, if necessary, in the middle of the ring.
Mary Kom has had to balance her personal and professional life. She took a short hiatus from boxing after getting married in 2005 but soon returned back to training.
In 2014, the Bollywood film Mary Kom was released to commerial and critiacal success. Priyanka Chopra, the internationally-acclaimed-and-known actress and former Miss World played the title role.
In a recent interview with Republic TV’s Editor-in Chief Arnab Goswami, Mary Kom however stated, “I am angry that the movie did not show my real emotions and did not depict the unfair decisions taken against me during the final match at the 2008 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships.”
Five time Asian Boxing Championship winner, a Rajya Sabha MP, an Arjuna award, a Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and a Padma Bhushan- these are just more accolades adding up to her impressive career.
Mary Kom has sealed her legacy as one of the greatest boxers in the world. In a country obsessed with Cricket, a few are able to make a lasting impact, and Mary Kom is one of that few. Mary Kom is far from done and will continue to achieve more. Passion drives her and this is evident in her perfecting her craft. She defies all stereotypes and instead is like a fine wine- only getting better with time.
In 2016, Mary Kom was unable to compete in the Rio Olympics and so she hopes she will have another chance at Olympic glory at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. “Four years ago, I was not able to qualify for Rio and I am still suffering from that and I know it will be a bit difficult for me to win gold in Tokyo as I will have to fight in 51 kg and because of their reach, the taller boxers in that category will have advantage but I am still dreaming about winning the gold in 2020 Olympics.”
Author: Jessica Passah
Jessica Passah is a Staff Writer. She has a B.A in English Literature from Hans Raj College, New Delhi, and an M.A in Public Administration from the Indira Gandhi National Open University.