'Mary Kom is Maradona of boxing'

The High Performance Director for Indian women's boxing Raffaele Bergamasco is on the lookout for young talent, who could step in into M.C. Mary Kom's shoes.

Italian Raffaele Bergamasco, the High Performance Director for Indian women's boxing, in Kannur for the Elite National women's boxing championship   -  Stan Rayan

She is the biggest name in boxing but she's 36 and may not hang around for long. The search is now on for girls who could step into M.C. Mary Kom's shoes.

Raffaele Bergamasco, the High Performance Director for Indian women's boxing, feels that there are plenty of talented girls in the country but it will not be easy to take over from 'Magnificent Mary', the six-time World champion.

“Mary is a very big name, something like Maradona in football. Talent like that comes only once in about a hundred years. We may not have a girl who could be another Mary but we have a very talented bunch of young boxers,” said Bergamasco in a chat with Sportstar on the sidelines of the Elite National women's championship here on Monday evening.

Before taking over as the HPD early last year, Bergamasco had worked wonders as India's national youth coach, a role which now offers him a chance to pick out the ones who could do well in future.

“There are a number of talented girls among the youth bunch. Nitu and S. Kalaivani (48kg), Nikhat Zareen, Jyoti (Gulia) in 51kg, Manisha and Sakshi (57kg) are all good. And then we have Simranjit Kaur, though she is not a young girl she is performing very well now, Lovlina (Borgohain) and Pooja Rani,” said the Italian, who hails from Napoli.

Bergamasco has been travelling around the country hunting for young talent. “I went to Rohtak for their youth and junior championships, there are some girls who are very promising,” he said.

“Also, the mentality of the girls towards sport has changed. Earlier they thought that boxing was a way to find jobs and support their families. And once they joined Railways or Police, they finished their career but now step by step, they have changed that mentality, they want to win gold in big competitions like the Olympics.”

A former multiple Italian national champion, Bergamasco mixes the European and Asian style of boxing for Indians. “Asia is very strong in women's boxing and Indian boxers have a very strong heart, they are very strong in their boxing but they have to work on their footwork. They understand this because when you combine speed with strong punches, the mix will carry you far.”