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‘Who knows what life would have been if I wasn’t Mary Kom the boxer?’

The five-time boxing champ on her big win, being the only non-participant ambassador of CWG and medal chances of her male counterparts.

entertainment Updated: Sep 28, 2010 13:23 IST
Roshmila Bhattacharya
Roshmila Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times

On September 18, MC Mary Kom made history by winning her fifth World Women’s Boxing title at Bridgetown, Barbados. The Manipuri braveheart had bagged her four previous golds in the 46 kg category. This time, she switched to 48 kg and outclassed her Romanian opponent, Duta Seluta, 16-6.

Quiz her on her reactions to the milestone moment and she smiles, “Winning a final bout puts you in a state of shock, followed by immediate exhilaration. It is a vindication of all the sacrifices you’ve made and an affirmation of your abilities.” She has a special word of praise for K Onler Kom: “He is the most amazing husband a woman can ask for. And as always, he was delighted I’d won again and happy I was finally coming home. The twins are still too young to understand much about what I do but they know that their mother is a boxer.”

Asiads next
The champion was back in the ring, two hours before she caught the flight home, and despite being exhausted, went straight into the Asian Games trials, nudging out a confidant L Sarita Devi, and making her place in the team in the 51 kg category. “I didn’t want to take a break because I was in the flow after the World Championships and knew this was a good time for me to fight the selection bouts,” she reasons. “Sarita is a very good boxer and I respect her but I knew that I would be selected if I continued to put in
my best.”

Magnificent Mary admits that having boxed in the 46 kg category all her life, it took a little time getting used to another weight category but it wasn’t that difficult a task either. “I have two of my biggest anti-depression talismans in my husband Onler and my kids, they always bring a smile to my face. I took a break when my sons were born but I will start thinking about hanging up my gloves only after the London Olympics in 2012.”

Mary Kom is the only CWG brand ambassador who won't be a part of the Games. She’s disappointed but hopes woman’s boxing will be included in the next Commonwealth Games.

“It is great to play before a home crowd. I’m hoping that the crowds will come and cheer for the Indian boxers, even if it is not me. The revamped Talkatora stadium is excellent,” she asserts.

That can’t be said for the rest of Delhi, the CWG Village in particular. Mary Kom sighs, “It would have been nice if we were ready a little earlier for an event of this magnitude and avoided the adverse publicity. Still, till the Games conclude, it would be premature to say whether they have been a cause of embarrassment or pride. I hope we make these the best and biggest games ever.”

She’s however optimistic that the men’s boxing contingent will win a lot of medals, hopefully of the gold variety. “I’m not going to predict on the number of medals since even the best can lose on a bad day. But I would be disappointed if we weren’t the ones winning the most medals,” she says.

Tell her that she is an inspiration for the men boxers and she smiles, “I didn’t know that, do let me know who said that so I can thank him the next time I see him.”
She wanted to be a tennis player but the sport was too expensive for her family. “I’m sure that I would have been a sportsperson even if I wasn’t a boxer. But I don’t knows if I would have achieved even a little of what I have managed in another sport,” she says candidly. “Who knows what life would have been like if I wasn’t Mary Kom the boxer? Fortunately, there is no reason to think about it!”

India’s million dollar baby
Unfortunately, I missed the Oscar winner. It’s one of the movies I will watch as soon as possible. I haven’t thought about acting in a movie but I’d love to do something related to boxing, provided it is in keeping with my sensibilities.

I have recently signed on with Herbalife, a good brand that a lot of international sporting stars endorse.

My agency IOS is working hard to procure more commercial opportunities for me. One can only wait and see whether the fifth gold medal catches the eye.

Cricket vs Boxing
Comparing cricket and women’s boxing in India at this point is taking the apple and oranges comparison to the extreme. We still have a long way to go before we
can whip up the same sort of passion and following that cricket has. And till that happens, there is no reason to grudge cricketers earning more money than boxers.
Monnet Ispat sponsors the IBF, under whose umbrella both men’s and women’s boxing fall. So we have the same corporate support as the men. But Indian boxing needs more funds. I hope that as all of us achieve more on the international stage, the much-needed money power will be forthcoming.

Her chances at the Asiads and the Olympics
I would say my chances of winning the gold at both events are more than decent, fitness permitting. There are several good women boxers coming up and I’m hopeful that several of them will make a mark on the international platform.

I am not the one to appoint a successor, but do look out for L Sarita Devi and Kavita Goyat, who are both very good boxers. Kavita won bronze medal at the recent World Championships. Women’s boxing is improving, but like anything new, it needs time to develop and establish itself.

The Mary Kom no one knows
I can sing a little and play the guitar. I love old Hindi songs. I chill out with music and Onler.
I love to cook and am actually half decent at it.

Retirement and after
I already run my own boxing academy where we are training girls who I hope will be the next generation of Indian boxers. It would be an honour to be offered the role of national coach and something I would consider seriously in the future. At this point though, I’m concentrating on more immediate goals.

Twins and Tennis
Becoming a mother to twins was the biggest high in my life. Nothing quite beats the feeling. I want my boys to take up tennis because I want them to be safe. It’s a contradiction of sorts, but my maternal instincts are overriding my instincts as a boxer!

Now that we are financially better off as a family, we can afford to train our children in tennis, should they decide to take it up. I have so many favourite players — Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Steffi Graf to name a few.

First Published: Sep 28, 2010 13:15 IST