"You can expect the North Koreans to spring a surprise," said pugilist MC Mary Kom, who has put India on the international women’s boxing map.
Such is her aura that the cover of the brochure brought out by the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) for the Women’s World Championship — scheduled to begin on Friday in the Capital — reads: “Mary Koms of the world… welcome to India.”
But the Manipuri girl is not flattered. "I am just focussing on the competition and you can bet it is going to be very tough with teams like Korea, Turkey and Hungary in the fray."
“But my greatest competition is going to come from North Korea simply because they bring a different girl each time. I won a silver in 2001 and gold in 2002 and 2005, and on each occasion, I encountered a different Korean girl in the final,” the pin-weight (46kg) champion said.
However, if the Koreans have good bench strength, the Indians are not lagging behind either, with Sarita Devi (52 kg), Lekha KC (75kg) and Chhotu Laura (50kg), all in great form.
“We have been training hard and have the home advantage, so I am sure, we will come out with flying colours,” said the Manipur Police sub-inspector.
Coach Anoop Kumar too has the same opinion. “We have been training since March this year and there is no reason why the girls cannot make it to the podium.”
Elaborating on the team’s preparations, he said, “March and April we trained in Bangalore, then in May and June we were slogging it out in Mumbai. Later, we had a camp in Kolkata from July to September and now we are here.”
However, Lekha KC sounded more realistic. Said the Kerala boxer, “This is the first time I am competing in the 75kg category (light middleweight). Earlier, I always competed in the 80kg category (middleweight), so I can’t say what kind of competition I am going to face.
“But, still, our training has been very strenuous, so you never know I might just end up among the top three.”
Asked if weight reduction would give her some advantage over her rivals, the Asian champion said, “Now I will have to react more swiftly, as lesser the weight, quicker the bouts.”