Comeback in any sport strains the toughest. Champions have often, in the past, been clueless when confronted with the thought of performing on their comeback trail. But MC Marykom is one of a kind.
The pint-sized boxer has just returned to the ring after a two-year self-imposed exile. And how. She clinched an unprecedented fourth gold medal in the AIBA World Championships at Ningbo City in China on Saturday.
By out-punching Romania’s Steluta Duta, her opponent in the title-bout, by a comprehensive 7-1 margin, the 26-year-old pugilist also proved a point to those who thought she would never be able to don the gloves.
Incidentally, Marykom had floored Duta in the title-bout of the previous edition in Delhi in November 2006. The strategy she employed was pretty similar to what she often does — try and cramp the opponent so that she doesn’t get a chance to free her arms. What must have also helped Marykom is that she is not the kind of boxer who relies only on technique and strength. Marykom is a cool customer and uses her mind to great effect.
“My height is around just five feet, but I make up for that with my fitness,” she had said once.
Even though India failed to retain the team gold in Ningbo City, Marykom left her mark by winning India her only gold medal.
Marykom’s is a moving rags-to-riches story. Steeped in poverty, the unassuming boxer from Kangathei village in Manipur has carved a niche for herself, against all odds.
While exploits in the ring have helped her earn the sobriquet of ‘million-dollar baby’, the world champion is not really earning in millions. “The job with Manipur Police has been a help,” said Marykom, now a mother of two. “But it was only after I was promoted to the post of inspector that things started looking up for the family.”
A farming background suggests life was not a bed of roses. “My father is a farmer and my mother a housewife. I had to struggle a lot initially. Lack of proper infrastructure was also a deterrent,” she reminisced before leaving for the World Championships.
The countless obstacles notwithstanding, Marykom did not succumb. The determination and dedication can be gauged from the fact that despite battling high fever and cold, she took to the ring and floored her opponent in the quarterfinals of the 2006 World Championships.
Though she failed to retain her title, Marykom broke a two-year hiatus by winning the silver at the Asian Championships in September. Then came the national title earlier this month. The two performances must have helped her in preparing for the World Championships.
With the admission of women’s boxing in the 2012 London Olympics, Marykom aims to represent India in the biggest sporting event.
Given her dedication and hard work, qualities that pitch forked her to the top, that should not read like an overstatement.