Indian boxing has hitherto primarily been only about men and one woman, MC Mary Kom. But in 2014, women’s boxing has truly come to the fore.
It began with Sarita Devi winning a hard-fought silver medal (57-60kg), and the young Pinki Jangra (just 24 years old) winning the bronze (48-51kg) at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games (23 July to 3 August 2014). Remember, Pinki had beaten none other than five-time world champion and London Olympics bronze medalist Mary Kom for a place in the Indian team that traveled to Glasgow.
Boxer Mary Kom celebrates with the Indian tricolor after winning the gold medal in the flyweight (48-51kg) category at the Asian Games in Incheon. Pic/PTI.
Soon however, ‘Magnificent Mary’ returned the favour to Pinki as she confirmed her own spot in the 13-member Indian boxing contingent for the Asian Games (Sept 19-Oct 4) in the South Korean city of Incheon. The 31-year-old, mother of two went on to strike gold (48-51kg) in Incheon, almost in salutation of a fine career that was translated into celluloid around the same time and went on to gross millions at the box office, thanks to Priyanka Chopra’s apt portrayal of the Manipuri’s sacrifices on the personal and professional front.
Mary’s gold was followed by bronze medals from Pooja Rani (69-75kg) and Laishram Sarita Devi (57-60kg). The latter led to India’s and probably one of the world’s biggest (women’s) boxing controversies when the Manipuri refused to accept her bronze medal atop the podium citing improper judging.
Sarita claimed that she had convincingly beaten her semi-final opponent Park Ji-Na of South Korea, but was denied entry into the gold medal round as the judges favoured the host nation’s boxer over her.
Video footage of the match did indicate that the 29-year-old Indian was right, but her confidence of standing up to the all-powerful international boxing association (AIBA) only went on to show that India’s women boxers have realised their international worth.
Finally, it was double the joy for Indian women at the 8th AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships (13-24 November) in Jeju, South Korea with Sarjubala Devi (just 21) and Saweety both bagging silver medals in the (48kg) and (81kg) respectively as India improved on its performance (of just one bronze) in the previous edition of the prestigious tournament. India’s young generation of female boxers have not let success get to their head. Their ambition remains crystal clear — to emulate their didi (elder sister) Mary Kom and win an Olympic medal for the country.
With Mary Kom targeting the 2016 Rio Olympics with a similar intention, it could only mean more glory for Indian boxing from the fairer sex.