Exclusive | ‘I almost thought of quitting boxing,’ says Manju Rani
Manju Rani’s boxing journey has not been easy. Like a true fighter she has overcome many obstacles in her life. As a young girl she used to play kabaddi but Olympic medallists Vijender Singh and Mary Kom’s exploits lured her to boxing.
“I used to watch boxing matches of Mary Kom and Vijender Singh. Boxing is an individual and defensive sport so I developed interest in it. My uncle Sahab Singh Narwal advised me that I should take it up as a career. He was a kabaddi coach. So he would learn boxing tactics and then teach me. Slowly, I started growing in the sport,” Rani told Hindustan Times.
Rani’s journey came full circle when she went on to win a silver medal at the World Championships in Ulan-Ude in Russia last week, emulating Mary Kom’s 18-year-old record of winning a silver on debut at the Worlds.
“I had not won a single medal for so many years. And in a short span of time, when you win so much... it is hard to describe how happy I feel. I feel proud of this achievement. My family members are equally happy,” she said.
Rani defeated Venezuela’s Rojas Tayonis Cedeno 5-0 in the first round and then stunned top ranked North Korean Kim Hyang Mi 4-1 to enter the quarter-finals. She defeated Thailand’s Chuthamat Raksat 4-1 to make it to the final, where she lost to Russia’s Ekaterina Paltceva 1-4 in a tough fight to settle for a silver medal.
“I was a little worried during my fight against the top-seeded North Korean boxer. I knew it would be a tough challenge. But I kept a cool head. The coaches told me what to do and how to face the challenge,” said the 19-year-old.
“My mother was watching my bouts live. After I defeated the top-ranked boxer, she had tears in her eyes. She felt all my hardwork has finally paid off.”
Losing her father, a BSF jawan, back in 2010 came as a big jolt. The family was already facing financial constraints. When she started boxing, people back in her village Rithal in Rohtak district of Haryana, warned her not to take up the sport. But her mother Ishwati Devi was a constant support.
“My mother always stood behind me. From my diet to training schedule, my mother managed everything. She never let me feel upset about not having a father or never let me worry about financial constraints,” she said.
There was no end to Rani’s struggles. Competing for Haryana she found it hard to break among the ranks.
Despite giving good performances she was not picked up for the state team. Rani almost thought about quitting the sport at that time.
“I almost made up my mind to quit boxing. My uncle and coach motivated me. He paid all my expenses. I started staying with him (in Rohtak). He got me admission in Lovely Professional University in Punjab, which gave me a new platform and redeveloped my career,” she said.
In 2017, Manju switched to Punjab and quickly grew in stature in domestic circuit. She won Nationals in January, and then followed it up with a silver at the Strandja Memorial in February. In May, she won bronze in the Thailand Open and followed it up with another bronze at the India Open.
Competing in 48kg weight division, which is not an Olympic category, Manju’s next target is to win gold in the upcoming U-22 Asian Championships. However, competing in Olympics is a long time goal and she hopes to make it to the 2024 Olympics.
“I still have a few shortcomings and I plan to work on them. I have won a silver medal at Worlds, and next time I will do everything to change the colour to gold,” she signed off.