Winning a fifth World Championship title is unthinkable for most boxers, but M.C. Mary Kom, who achieved this feat on 18 September in Barbados, has had no time to think about it.
She was back in the practice ring the day after her final fight at the Women’s Boxing World Championship, training for a second round of Asian Games trials in Delhi on 22 September because the Indian Boxing Federation felt the first round was “inconclusive”. She landed in Delhi on the night of 20 September, and spent most of the next day fielding questions at press conferences.
“These last few days have been harder than winning the World Championship,” Kom says, “which I felt was actually easy for me throughout. I was not nervous at all, and even in the final, I knew I was going to win.”
Kom, 27, has now won medals at each of the six Women’s World Boxing Championships, five of them gold. Both feats are unmatched in her sport, and have prompted the International Boxing Federation to describe her as the “world’s best female boxer”. She really did stroll through to her fifth title in the 48kg category, conceding only 3 points until the quarter-final stage, where she beat Lynsey Holdaway of Wales 9-2. In the pre-quarters, the referee decided to end her bout after she raced away to a 9-0 lead against Australian Jenny Smith in the first round. In the final, Kom beat Steluta Duta of Romania 16-6.
Packing a punch: Kom says the only challenge left is an Olympic gold. Priyanka Parashar/Mint
“Who will not be happy?” asks Kom’s husband K. Onler Kom. “Wherever she goes, she is unbeatable—it’s incredible. Imagine the national flag is being lifted for her and the national anthem sung for her throughout the world.”
Kom, who made a triumphant return to boxing by winning the 2008 Women’s Boxing World Championship in China after a two-year sabbatical when she gave birth to twins, credits her husband for the comeback.
“After motherhood, it took me about two months of hard training to get back into shape physically,” she says. “But mentally, it was harder. Lots of people were against me going back in to the ring. My neighbours, even my father, told me that I should quit boxing and take care of my family now. So that was the real challenge, and I decided to fight it head on. Only my husband encouraged me throughout.”
Her husband agrees that it was the toughest time the couple had faced since their wedding in 2005.
“Athletes who sprint or do long jumps don’t get angry easily,” he says. “But boxing is an aggressive sport, and when boxers like Mary go through mentally hard times, it can be really hard to control it. But we did our best, we did everything we could. She supports everything I do, so I realized that I should support what she does.”
The couple have also been running a boxing academy at their house in Imphal since 2007. It currently houses 30 trainees—10 girls and 20 boys, aged 14-21.
“We pay ourselves for their food, lodging as well as coaching,” Kom says.
Kom is unhappy that the Commonwealth Games in Delhi will not feature women’s boxing, but feels that its inclusion in the 2010 Asian Games and the 2012 London Olympics more than makes up for it.
“Olympic gold is the last challenge left for me,” she says. “I have the will and desire to continue till 2012 and win gold, and then I’ll be done. I’ll retire and concentrate on coaching at my academy.”