The Mary Kom I know is one who is aggressive inside the ring. She has always been like this. If she doesn’t land punches she used to get frustrated. I met her even before she learnt to box, when she was in Class VI (around 12-years-old). She used to come to watch other boxers train at the Sports
Authority of India centre in the Khuman Lampak Stadium in Imphal. When I asked her why she kept coming, she said she wanted to become a boxer.
She was frail and small. But there was hunger in her eyes. Little did I think that one day she would be standing on the podium at the Olympics.
What stood out even then was her keen sense of observation and her ability to adapt. Maybe her initial struggle with life, when she was tilling the field as well as looking after her brother and sisters, infused that survival instinct. Even now she calls me from London before a fight and asks for advice. Since I am not there, she tells me whether her opponent is stronger or taller. Then I tell her what needs to be done.
Not that she needs my advice. She has grown as a boxer but that shows her humility and maybe she gets confidence by talking to me. Against the Polish boxer (Karolina Michalczuk), I told her she should try and stay away from her reach because she was taller and more powerful and cut in from the outside. But she has her own strategy and is quick to learn.
The only worry is that she is meeting Nicole Adams, who has beaten her in the world championships. On top of that, she will enjoy the home advantage.
But the way Mary is fighting, anything is possible. One more thing, when she is in Manipur or even in the national camp, she also spars with men who are in higher weight categories. For a woman who has surmounted so many challenges in life, this is just a blip. She is an attacking boxer and will never hold back.
The writer is mary kom’s first coach and Dronacharya Awardee