SAG: All eyes on Mary Kom and Co.

Mary Kom is the star attraction. There are other good boxers, too, who make the event one of the most anticipated in the Games. The online tickets for the event have been sold out.

Mary Kom said she is yet to regain full fitness after giving birth to her third son in 2013.   -  M. Moorthy

When Olympic bronze medallist and five-time World champion Mary Kom enters her flyweight (51 Kg) bout on Saturday at the NEHU-SAI Sports Complex here, one can be assured there would hardly be any place to watch the fight in a stadium with a capacity of not more than 600.

The focus, however, will not just be on Mary Kom. There are other boxers who make the event one of the most anticipated in the Games The online tickets for the event have been sold out.

The 2014 Incheon Asian Games bronze medallist Sarita Devi (60 kg, lightweight), World championship bronze medallists, Shiva Thapa (56 Kg, bantam) and Vikash Krishan Yadav (75 Kg, middleweight), among others, will be the favourites to win titles.

Playing it safe

G. S. Sandhu, India’s head coach, preferred to play it safe when asked of India’s chances in the SAG. “We cannot say for sure as it depends on the form of boxers on the day. Moreover, there are some good boxers from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka,” he said.

The Indians were one of the earliest to train at the practice venue on Friday, and all eyes, of course, were on Mary Kom.

The 32-year-old star said, “This SAG is like any other big competition. I am extremely happy that the SAG is being hosted in the North-East. We will try our level best to win gold medals.”

Mary Kom said she is yet to regain full fitness. “After the delivery of a baby (her third son was born in May ’13), it is not easy. I am not giving 100 per cent, only 70-80 per cent,” she said.

Qualification will be tougher

According to Mary Kom, this time, qualifying for the Rio Olympics will be tougher, but said she would make the grade.

“There is the World qualification tournament, which happens to be the World championship in Astana, Kazakhstan from May 19 to 27, which is tough. The Asia-Oceania Olympic qualifying tournament in Qian’an, China (from March 23 to April 3), will be easy. I will do my best,” she said.

For Sarita Devi, the SAG will be her first International tournament after the one-year ban imposed on her by AIBA (International boxing federation). Sarita, said the SAG would be a great way to train for the coming Olympics.

“The SAG will be a good motivating tool for us. After the ban, opportunities have become lesser, so SAG is good for us,” she said. Her wrist injury healed, Sarita competed in Qian’an in a training-cum-tournament late last year, and is fully prepared for major events in the run up to the Rio Olympics.

A change in rules

Sandhu said it would be difficult to expect many boxers to qualify after the International body changed its Olympic qualification rules. “It is difficult now because of the change of system of qualifying," he said.

"Earlier, there was no quota for the World Series of boxing and APB (AIBA Pro Boxing), but now there are 63 seats. Before, in the world championships, quarter-finalists used to qualify. This time even the medallists have not qualified. Right now India does not have any boxer in the WSB and APB, so that quota of 63 is gone,” he explained.

“It is a difficult phase. We expect a total of four boxers to qualify for Rio.”