Hyderabad: It took just about 540 seconds for the tears, blood, sweat and drama that accumulated over five months to end. As the referee raised the hand of the boxer fighting out of the blue corner at the end of the 51-kg Olympic trial bout, Mary Kom sighed in relief. There was the joy of winning the bout but there was also relief that she had yearned for, for about 150 days now.
“Everywhere I went, people pestered me, ‘Why are you not fighting Nikhat? Are you scared of her?’ Some even thought I played politics and avoided my fight with Nikhat. But the truth is, I am not scared of anyone. I never run away from a fight,” Mary told after her bout. “I did not get to where I am today by being afraid. While Nikhat managed to rile one controversy after the other, I was quietly preparing for the Olympics trials that will be held in China next year,” Mary said.
“The win was a huge positive to me. Don’t get me wrong but more important than the victory was that I got to shut the negative criticism around me. I proved to myself and to everyone watching that I still am the No.1 boxer in the women’s 51 kg category in India. I needed this win to shut down a lot of people, including some from the media. One media house even played a video of me claiming not to know who Nikhat was! They could have played the whole video. But I kept quiet. Because I knew deep down, I will prove myself in the ring and that’s exactly what I did. I am the No.1,” Mary added.
Usually it takes Mary about a round, and sometimes even two, to use her potent right hook. Once she brings out her powerful weapon, the bout is hers. In the bout against Nikhat, the right hook was out within the first minute of the first round.
“I knew what her game plan was going to be. Once I got comfortable, I did not pull back my right hook. I knew she would be coming out aggressive and would play dirty. But I did not start boxing yesterday. I knew how to deal with her and did just that. The score line read 9-1 not 6-4 or 6-3. It was a 9-1 win, a one-sided bout. Hopefully, this win will keep things calm for some time,” Mary said.
On being asked if she changed her training regime for this particular bout, she replied, “For the last three months, I have been training only for one thing and that is to earn an Olympic quota for India. I got two boxers from my Manipur Academy, Hegrujam Bhimjit Singh and Naorem Babyrojisana Chanu, down here. Bhimjit is a national medallist in the 54-57 kg category while Baby is a Youth Asian champion in the 51 kg category. These two boxers are fast and quite accurate. I flew them down and have been sparring with them.”
“There was no national camp for the last one month but I trained hard, again not for the bout against Nikhat but for the Olympic trials. Chhote (Lal Yadav) used to travel by the metro and get to the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium while I would drive down to the stadium with Bhimjit and Baby. We put in a lot of hard yards while running 100-metre bursts or the 3,000 metres run. I have been training hard and eating right to be fit for the Olympics trial. I will not let India down,” Mary added.
“Let me conclude by saying, I fought my way through bureaucracy and politics when I was a nobody. The day I realise I am no good any more, I will hang up my gloves. I will never stand in between an upcoming boxer and their dreams. I love the sport. I am competing even today to win an Olympic gold medal for India. Not for myself or my state but for India. If you cannot respect me for the medals I have won over the years, atleast respect me for what I am. Respect for every human being is what makes one a good as opposed to a bad human being,” Mary said.