Mary Kom: From ‘no skills’ to master planner

Starting off as a "no skills, mostly strength" boxer, Mary Kom says she has now reached a point where she doesn’t like exerting herself and looks to win without conceding punches.

With a sixth World Championship gold, India's Mary Kom became the most successful boxer in the tournament’s 10-year history.   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

M. C. Mary Kom turned the clock back for a sixth gold and seventh overall medal at the Women's World Boxing Championships, making her the most successful boxer in the tournament’s 10-year history. Her record looks unlikely to be surpassed for quite a few years to come.

A “no skills, mostly strength” boxer when she got her maiden world championship medal, the 36-year-old mother of three says she has now reached a point where she doesn’t like exerting herself and looks to win without conceding punches.

READ | Mary Kom: It was my toughest World Championship

In an interview with PTI, the Manipuri trailblazer reflected on her world championship journey from 2001 in the USA, where she won a silver, to the recent one in front of adoring home fans -- an atmosphere that left her in tears.

“In 2001, I was young and inexperienced; in fact I would say I had no skill. I was only relying on strength and stamina to pull through. Just following my instincts at that time,” she said.

“But in 2018, I had the experience to ensure that I didn’t exert myself unnecessarily. I don’t want to get hit anymore, I like to win bouts without getting struck and this is what I largely managed to do this time. No wasting of efforts. I have become calculative,” she added.

Saturday was not the first time Mary won a world gold on home turf. In 2006 at Delhi, her gold was not followed by tears, but a wide grin that stayed on her face throughout the celebrations of her third world title.

“I can put it (the tears) down to the hype and pressure may be. At that time, women’s boxing was not that well known. People came but it wasn’t the same buzz. This time, I saw people in the stands chanting just my name and it overwhelmed me,” she said.

“There was this huge buzz and on the final day, it completely overpowered me, emotionally. That’s why I broke down, I couldn’t help it,” she explained.

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So does that make it the most special of her six world titles?

“Certainly among the most special medals of my career. But I can’t put a finger on which one matters more to me because each one of them has come after a lot of hard work,” she said.

“This was also among the toughest for me because there were huge expectations. I competed at the Commonwealth Games (48kg category) and got a gold this year. Because of that there was huge pressure for the world championship as well,” she said.

Mary Kom in tears after winning a World Boxing Championship gold for the sixth time in her career.   -  PTI

 

Mary Kom has been juggling between two weight categories ever since 51kg became an Olympic weight and 48kg was left out of the showpiece event. So, while her world titles are all in her “favourite” 48kg category, an Olympic bronze in 2012 came in 51kg. If she has to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which she intends to do, Mary Kom will have to bulk up again for the qualifiers scheduled next year.

“It’s not easy for me to juggle like this. I am also human and obviously it plays on my mind...obviously it is something that has consequences, I too suffer but I will try my best,” she said.

2018 has been a brilliant year for Mary. She started with a gold at India Open in January, fetched a silver among a strong field of European boxers in a Bulgarian tournament in February, and followed it up with the Commonwealth Games gold in April and a gold at a Polish tournament in October.

And then came the icing on the cake - a record sixth world title and the best boxer trophy to go with it. Seven World championships also tied her with men’s legend Felix Savon of Cuba as the most successful amateur boxer of all time.

“To be the first woman boxer to achieve all that I have achieved, I am quite pleased with how I have done. Everyone has dreams, I am no different and I am glad that I am able to live my dreams,” the seemingly ageless powerhouse concluded.