Mary Kom: Prove yourself in the ring, not outside

Six time world champion Mary Kom beat Nikhat Zareen in the selection trials to confirm her India representation in the 51 kg category for the Tokyo Olympic qualifiers.

Asked about future plans, Mary Kom said it would depend on how she felt beyond the Tokyo Olympics.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

The war of words between 24-year old Nikhat Zareen and 36-year old MC Mary Kom has been brewing for quite some time now – the latter a legend in Indian boxing with an Olympic medal and multiple World titles and the former considered her successor in the 51kg category.

It came to a head before the World Championships in October with Nikhat crying foul, demanding open, pubic trials and writing to the authorities including the sports minister. Mary, on the other hand, has refused to even acknowledge Nikhat or reply. On Saturday, after a 9-1 win in the trials for the Olympic Qualifiers here, she finally spoke, expressing her angst and explaining, for the first time, the entire controversy around trials.

REPORT| Mary Kom beats Nikhat Zareen

“I don’t like controversies. Already it has become too much. How many times am I going to prove myself? This is not the first time, I have beaten her many times before. I don’t like to speak outside, you just have to prove yourself in the ring,” she said.

“Santiago (Nieva) and Raffaele (Bergamasco) the foreign coaches informed all boxers that whoever achieves gold in international meets will not have to give trials for World Championships. I was the only one to do so but they don’t stick to their word and then later claim we should have trials. Why should I do so?

“Then it was said gold and silver medalists at the Worlds will not give trials but bronze medalist will have to and I was fine with it. The BFI makes rules and I only follow them. Even I was surprised when Ajay Singh (BFI president) said that no medalist will give trials but even then I was fine either way (Mary won a bronze). Then it became an issue. Now trials have been held, it’s over,” she added.

READ| Nikhat Zareen calls for fair, televised Olympic trials

Nikhat had claimed she was hurt at cuss words being used by Mary and her refusal to shake hands after the bout but Mary defended herself. “Why should I shake hands? First, you say so much outside, create this entire issue with the media and talk too much before the bout then you expect me to shake hands and smile? I don’t like this nature, I ignore it. I will respect you if you respect me. Keep whatever you feel inside and challenge in the ring, prove yourself and then speak,” she claimed.

Asked about future plans, Mary said it would depend on how she felt beyond Tokyo. “I am only focusing on upcoming big competitions. If you go by age, then Tokyo should be my last Olympics. I have been doing this for almost 20 years now. But I will stay connected to boxing in some way. Let’s see,” she signed off.