India’s male boxers have hogged the limelight so far, but don’t be surprised if their female counterparts out-punch them at the London Olympics. At least that’s what the male boxing fraternity feels. Of the 19, who are part of the Indian contingent set to participate in the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships (final qualifier for the London Olympics), beginning in China today (May 9–20), three fighters — Mary Kom (51kg flyweight), L Sarita Devi (60kg, lightweight) & Pooja Rani (75kg middleweight) have a strong chance of making it to the Games. And with it, an Olympic medal is more than a certainty. Here’s why…
“Since women’s boxing is being introduced at the Olympics for the first time in London, there are only three weight categories (51kg, 60kg & 75kg) to start off with. Also, the number of entries per category is pegged down to just 12, which means the Olympic competition will begin with the Round of 16 that will comprise four byes. Then, there will be the quarter-finals, followed by the semis. So, effectively, if any of our women make it to the Olympics and are fortunate enough to get a bye in the opening round, they will be just one match away from an Olympic medal since the semi-finalists are assured of a bronze,” explained veteran boxer and Beijing Olympics bantamweight quarter-finalist Akhil Kumar.
Beijing Olympics bronze medal-winning middleweight boxer Vijender Singh also marveled at the not-so-hard task. “While we guys have to fight our way through three to four rounds to make it to the medal round, the women will have it easy. But that’s good because the sport is new and will only get popular through this. I believe five-time world champion Mary Kom and L Sarita Devi who is also a world champion and five-time Asian Champion should make it to London, and thereby assure themselves of a medal,” Vijender told MiD DAY from the National Institute of Sport in Patiala yesterday, where he is currently training with the national team.
National coach Gurbux Singh Sandhu too pinned his hopes on Mary and Sarita. “Both of them are vastly experienced. Mary is strong-willed while Sarita is a determined fighter too. Both should be able to make their way to London from this tournament in China. And that will be the best thing to happen for women’s boxing in the country.,” said Sandhu.