It's a tournament that she has dominated for years but the Asian Boxing Championship this time is more than just a medal-winning opportunity for M C Mary Kom, who is "desperate for competition" before the Olympics after training in India was thrown haywire by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mary Kom (51kg) has collected one silver and a staggering five gold medals from her seven appearances at the continental showpiece.
The six-time world champion can't wait to land in Dubai for the upcoming edition, which starts on May 24 because all she wants right now is a "good slugfest".
"I have been so eager to compete, there has hardly been any training because of the pandemic and I need this desperately to assess myself before the Olympics," the 38-year-old Manipuri said from Pune, where she has been training for the past few days.
She had to move to Pune, along with a couple of other Olympic-bound women boxers, after the national camp in Delhi was forced to shut down because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the bubble created at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium last month.
"It has not been easy. I was at home after coming back from the tournament in Spain (in March). My children were not well, we had to manage that and it comes with its own set of anxieties. Then, the camp in Delhi was called off because of COVID," she said.
"Something or the other kept affecting the training schedule. So the Asian Championship is important because I get to compete and there is nothing better than a good competition to help preparations," she added.
The few days of training that she has got in the highly-rated Army Sports Institute at Pune have been beneficial, according to the legendary pugilist, who also got her first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine there.
"I feel confident about my body. But as I always say, I will give my best, whether it would be enough to get a medal is something that only time will tell," said Mary Kom, reiterating her long-held pre-tournament position on medal expectations.
"I have also got the first dose of vaccine, so that's also a bit reassuring," she added.
The reassurance of being vaccinated was important for Mary Kom as she has been vocal about her apprehensions of travelling abroad for training amid the pandemic.
In fact, the Asian Championship was to be originally held in India but was moved to Dubai after COVID-19 cases soared in the country and international travel restrictions came into force.
"Look, how quickly the world has changed and we plan and plan and plan. Kuch pata nahi chalta (you never know). It is so important to stay in the present," said Mary Kom, offering a philosophical take on the uncertainty that has crept into daily life amid the pandemic.
She won't have her personal coach Chhote Lal Yadav to guide her in Dubai as he has only recently recovered from COVID-19 and his name could not be included in the delegation for the event.
Yadav is confident that Mary Kom will adapt well to the situation.
"She is experienced, for her, coming good in challenging situations is routine matter. She will be fine," he said.
All four women boxers bound for Tokyo Olympics -- Mary Kom, Simranjit Kaur (60kg), Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) and Pooja Rani (75kg) -- will be in action at the event along with six others.
From the men's Olympic-bound group, defending champion Amit Panghal (52kg), Vikas Krishan (69kg) and Ashish Chaudhary (75kg) will fight it out along side seven others even as Manish Kaushik (63kg) and Satish Kumar (+91kg) continue their recovery from COVID-19.
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