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Intriguing cast of women boxers take to stage

The sport is awash with larger-than-life characters. And with the introduction of women's boxing into the Olympics for the first time, there is a whole new list of intriguing back stories to tell.

india Updated: Aug 07, 2012 14:40 IST

You can see why Damon Runyon and Norman Mailer just loved to write about boxing.

The sport is awash with larger-than-life characters. And with the introduction of women's boxing into the Olympics for the first time, there is a whole new list of intriguing back stories to tell.

Indian police officer Mary Kom, the mother of five-year-old twins, was gulping with emotion after battling her way into medal contention just 24 hours after her children's birthday back home.

"I speak to them every day ," the diminutive, but feisty, figure told a phalanx of Indian reporters clustered round after her victory over Tunisian Maroua Rahali.

For her, this was a real milestone.

"It is not easy. How many years have we been waiting for the Olympic Games to include us?"

American Marlen Esparza is the new face of Cover Girl Cosmetics. She puts on makeup and perfume before each match. Her icon is US talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

One of the biggest problems she faced in her bout against Venezuela's Karlha Magliocco was keeping her hair in her headgear.

'"My hair is really thin. That is why I braid it. But it got pushed out because this new headgear is so tight as it's new," she explained.

Britain's Natasha Jonas, a self-confessed chocoholic, took up boxing seven years ago to lose weight. Now she is in the history books as one of the first women boxers at the Olympics.

"I am amazed just to be here. People don't realise the struggle I had to get here," she said after defeat by Ireland's Katie Taylor who listens to worship songs to get warmed up.

True Love
Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics in 1896, said women "should refrain from practising violent sports." He claimed that women competing was "not a proper spectacle."

Try telling that to the crowd who shouted themselves hoarse in an epic Anglo-Irish encounter that sent the decibel counter soaring.

Canadian coach Charlie Stewart knew he had a star on his hands when watching Mary Spencer knock out her first opponent in just 26 seconds. So Spencer's shock defeat to China's Li Jinzi was a bitter blow.

"Half the job is mine. He did his job, I didn't pull off my end," she confessed afterwards.

Boxing brought true love to New Zealander Alexis Pritchard.

"Cameron Todd, my coach, decided that I would make a good boxer and I said, 'Let's go with it.' I decided to marry him a few years later. It was a good decision," Pritchard said.

The boxing world sure knows how to deliver its sound bites with panache.

Who could ever forget the punchlines of Muhammad Ali who boasted he could "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee".

At London 2012, US assistant coach Charles Leverette said of the American team: "We have brought our picks and our hard hats and we are digging for gold."