Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

India’s ‘Magnificent Mary’ driven by Ali in bid for more boxing gold

She is a five-time world champion, mother of three and member of parliament, but Indian boxer Mary Kom believes that at 35 there is plenty more glory in the ring to come.

Dubbed “Magnificent Mary” for a glittering career that has already inspired a Bollywood biopic, veteran Kom last month defied critics who wrote her off by winning a record fifth Asian women’s championships title in Vietnam.

Driven on by the legacy of three-time world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, she has now set her sights on the Commonwealth Games in April, and even the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 where she hopes to improve on the bronze medal she won in London.

“I am really inspired by Muhammad Ali, who was a legend across the world. He is my mentor and my only inspiration (is) his achievements,” she told AFP.

“And he was such a great boxer — that is why I am still able to do this.”

The Asian title in November was her first gold at international level since winning the Asian Games in 2014.

But Kom has long rejected the doubts of those who have highlighted her age and questioned her ability to combine boxing with being a mother and an MP in India’s upper house.

“I am still fit. Some people talk about the X-factor and say ‘she cannot perform’. That is always the mindset.

“So I say there is no X-factor … I have more experience and I am getting better and better,” added Kom.

In her bid for gold, she has dropped back down to the 48kg category she fought in when she first grabbed headlines at the 2001 world championships.

“The Games will soon be here,” she said referring to the Commonwealth event in Australia’s Gold Coast. “I am trying my best to improve day-by-day.”

Kom said the Indian government and much-criticised Boxing Federation of India (BFI) were providing “good facilities” so she has no excuses for not being ready.

Early struggle

It is a far cry from recent years. Infighting in the Indian federation led to Kom failing to make the 2016 Rio Olympics. No Indian boxers took part in qualifying.

“It was very unfortunate because the reason was there was no federation, they were fighting each other to hold power, be president,” said Kom.

But businessman Ajay Singh’s election as BFI president last year has ended the turmoil.

Like her hero Ali, Kom had her own struggles growing up, with her rise from an impoverished family in the remote northeastern state of Manipur being made into a 2014 Bollywood movie starring Priyanka Chopra.

“In the beginning it was difficult to get my own gloves, it was difficult to even buy one glove and my family did not support me in the beginning,” Kom said.

“They were worried that if I got injured, who will take the responsibility?

“Everything moves with money only. If we want something to eat or to buy clothes or do anything, without money you can’t do anything,” she said with a laugh.

Blessed with three sons, Kom is now happy juggling roles as a mother, lawmaker and gym owner. But she insists that boxing remains her top priority.

“That is obviously very difficult. People might also say how can she maintain all these things? How can she keep performing? It is a question of will and mindset,” she said.

“Whether I am going to a parliament session or programme or my own personal programme, that is secondary. The first priority is training, the rest comes second and that is why I am still performing.”

© Agence France-Presse

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Padmanabha Rao
Padmanabha Rao works from Bengaluru, India. Professor, Writer, blogger Padmanabha Rao has over 43 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Cabinet reshuffle not on cards yet

There are calls for the president to act against ministers said to be responsible for the state’s slow response to the unrest, but his hands are tied

Rwanda’s involvement in Ramaphosa phone surveillance will further strain relations

But experts doubt the South African intelligence community has the capacity even to establish whether Ramaphosa’s phone was compromised

More top stories

IEC to ask the courts to postpone local elections

The chairperson of the Electoral Commission of South Africa said the Moseneke inquiry found that the elections would not be free and fair if held in October

Daily new Covid-19 cases drop, but recent civil unrest might...

Acting health minister Mmamoloko Kubayi says 120 private pharmacies were destroyed and 47 500 vaccines lost in KwaZulu-Natal

Western Cape closes roads to end deadly taxi violence

The closure of the Mbekweni/Paarl and Bellville route comes as negotiations between taxi operators fail and will affect thousands of commuters

Cabinet reshuffle not on cards yet

There are calls for the president to act against ministers said to be responsible for the state’s slow response to the unrest, but his hands are tied
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×