Mary Kom opens up on her real life love story, twin sons, returning to the ring after a two-year sabbatical and plans for the future.
How much has the popularity of boxing grown since you entered the ring? If your daughter wanted to follow in your footsteps would you encourage her?
(Smiles) I don’t have a daughter but I have adorable twin sons and if they want to take up boxing, I will support them. My boys seem to have decent eye-hand coordination but let’s give it a little more time before we comment on their potential.
The popularity of the sport has grown with every passing year. Where once it was completely ignored, today there are over 50 women boxers of repute in India. Of course, we still have a long way to go.
Seems some of the male boxers are miffed, because with women’s boxing entering the Olympics finally, one weight
category has been dropped.
I haven’t come across any male boxer who has communicated his displeasure to me. On the contrary, several of them, who are my friends, have congratulated me.
You took a two-year sabbatical to deliver the twins. How difficult was it getting back into the ring and surprising the world with a win?
I just put my mind to the task on hand. You don’t forget the skills you have learnt. It was the physical training to get back into shape that was difficult. Fortunately, it has never been difficult for me to maintain a constant weight of 46 kgs. I have never had to go on a crash diet and after being conscious of what I eat for so long, the craving for certain foods have gone away. I train hard, eat in moderation and let my body take care of the rest.
How difficult is it leaving your children at home when you go for training or for a competition?
I face the same challenges any other career woman who is a mother and a wife faces. The only difference is that may be the media scrutiny is higher in my case.
I try to spend as much quality time with my family as is possible and am lucky to have a loving husband, Onler, who has uncomplainingly taken up my task of raising our children. I’m sure the boys miss not having me around all the time but in their own little way, I think they understand.
How difficult is it for Onler to be both mother and father?
Onler understands the situation as he is a national level footballer himself. Without him, I don’t think I could have managed my career and the children.
We first met at a restaurant through our families in Manipur. During our first conversation itself, Onler got extremely excited when told that I was a boxer. His reaction was so different from that of other people I had interacted with who tended to thumb their noses at my chosen career. It was something that intrigued me to take the relationship further.
Did you think of quitting?
Not yet, there are still goals to reach. Perhaps, I will think about retiring from competitive boxing after the London Olympics. But I do emphasise the word ‘perhaps’.
Who do you see stepping into your shoes when you retire? Will you become a national coach or open a boxing academy?
I’m already mentoring several young boxers at my husband’s boxing academy. Some of my students are winning medals at the state and national level.
Has boxing given you what you deserve in terms of monetary benefits?
National pride is what I play for and not monetary benefits. But yes, I do need a reasonable income that unfortunately has not always been forthcoming. There is undoubtedly a shortage of funds and corporate interest in women’s boxing. I’m optimistic that sponsors will soon see the potential in women’s boxing soon, the way they have with our male counterparts. My sports management agency, Infinity Optimal Solutions, is working hard to build my brand.
Vijender Singh’s Olympic bronze medal has made him a household name. How many know of Mary Kom?
Not as many as Vijender may be but a fair few do know about Mary Kom. (Smiles) Perhaps a few more will, after this article. Vijender’s achievement merits household fame. I’m so proud that an Indian boxer brought home an individual Olympic medal.
Like Vijender Singh, are you open to modelling contracts and movie offers?
I haven’t thought about a movie but if it’s boxing related, why not? I enjoy singing and play the guitar well. I will be in the BBC documentary and have been featured in an issue of Vogue. I’m in the process of signing an endorsement deal too.
Will you write an autobiography?
I don’t think I am capable of writing an autobiography but if it could benefit potential boxers, give them some sort of motivation and inspiration, then I could consider getting someone to pen a biography.
Have you ever thought of turning professional?
I haven’t given the matter serious because it has always been my dream to compete on behalf of the country and that is something I can do only as an amateur.
What about politics?
Again, it’s not something I have thought of. I will sit down to think about my future only after the London Olympics.
Million dollar Mary
Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom (MC Mary Kom) was born on March 1, 1983 and was brought up in a family of farmers. She worked in the fields, cutting woods, making charcoal and fishing. After standard eight, Mary went to Imphal.
Initially, she was into athletics but inspired by Dingko Singh and a demo of women boxers at the 5th National Games in Manipur, she started dreaming of becoming a world-class pugilist.
She joined Sports Authority of India, Khuman Lampak and underwent intensive training from coach, Ibomcha Singh. Soon after, Manipur State coaches Narjit Singh and Kishan Singh took her under their wings. Manipur government even gave her the post of Sub-inspector of police in 2005. She was promoted to inspector of police in 2008 and again promoted to the post of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) in 2010. Mary married K Onler Kom whom she met in Delhi. Her most awaited gold medal will be at the London 2012 Olympics.
Go for gold
* Gold medal in the 5th Asian Women’s Boxing Championship in Kazakhstan, in May 2010
* Gold medal in the Indoor Asian Games in Hanoi Vietnam in 2009
* Gold medal in the Indo- Sweden Dual Match Boxing Tournament in Gothenberg Sweden in 2009
* Gold medal in the 5th World Women Boxing Championship in Ningbo China in 2008