India's Mary Kom(L) reacts after she defeated Poland's Karolina Michalczuk in their Women's Fly (51kg) Round of 16 boxing match during the London 2012 Olympic Games. Reuters photo/Murad Sezer
India's MC Mary Kom blazed her way into history on Sunday as women's boxing made its Olympic Games debut, but the five-time world champion had one regret.
"It's a very emotional day for me," said the 29-year mother of two twins. "It's my sons' fifth birthday and I can't be with them today."
The fighter known as Magnificent Mary, boxing as a flyweight, had to overcome a three-inch height disadvantage to see off Poland's Karolina Michalczuk.
Having to step up from her usual light flyweight division, she was in tears after her hard-fought 19-14 win.
"Every athlete wants to compete at the Olympics and I have been waiting and waiting 12 years for this chance to fight here.
Seasoned fight commentators were curious to see how the action would unfold even if it meant the occasional shock to the senses.
"It's tough enough to see a man get hit .... This sounds wrong, but it's tougher to see a woman get hit," admitted NBC boxing analyst Teddy Atlas.
"A lot of people don't like to see women taking punches (in the ring), but they're good and committed. Why not?"
There are 36 women fighting for gold in the fly, light and middleweight categories with the finals to be held on Thursday.
Russian flyweight Elena Savelyeva won the first bout at the ExCel Arena and admitted she was proud to throw some of the first punches for her sport on the Olympic stage.
"I was very proud to have been making history, it was a pleasure," said the 28-year-old, who had few problems against Kim Hye-Song of North Korea, leading throughout to claim a 12-9 points win.
"I tried to show pride out there, I was more nervous today than I was at any world championships.
"Women's boxing is normal in Russia, there is no discrimination. My coach just saw talent in me and trained me up."
With the boxers wearing singlets and headgear just like the men, the enthusiastic crowd gave their full vocal support to Britain's Natasha Jonas in her lightweight bout win over Quanitta Underwood of the United States.
Having lost the opening round, Liverpool's Jonas had to dig deep before sealing a convincing 21-13 victory.
"I have never had support on that scale before," she said. "It was so important, 10,000 people behind you rather than your 10 team-mates clapping is unbelievable.
"Most of that performance went down to the crowd. I'm here to box, making history is an added bonus, but I am not here just to make up the numbers."