Sunday, September 19, 2010



Exulting after one of her victories
Mangte Chungneijang, popularly known as M.C. Mary Kom, is a 27-year old lady from Manipur. Not many of us know her, but those who do, respect her for her determination and strength. Female boxing is not a very lucrative sports option in India, but she is someone who fought against all odds and won the women’s World Boxing Championship, FOUR years in succession. When she started off, she had no support, no sponsors and no job. But will power and sheer grit helped her embark on a journey like no other, making her the only Indian sports personality to win a world title, AIBA World Championship (Women PIN Weight 46 kg category) four times: 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2008.

She was honoured with the ‘Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna’, India’s highest sporting honour in 2009; the ‘Padmashree Award’ in 2006 and the ‘Arjuna Award’ in 2003 for her success and contribution to women’s boxing. Her legendary performance is one of the reasons why women’s boxing was included in 2012 London Olympics. Until now, women’s boxing has featured only once, in 1904, that too as an exhibition event in Olympics.

This exceptionally talented and strong woman was born on 1st March 1983 at Samulamlan Village, P.O. Moirang, Manipur. Brought up in a poor family, becoming a world renowned boxer was an impossible and far-fetched dream for Mary Kom. Her parents, Mr. Mangte Tonpa Kom and Mrs Mangte Akham Kom, worked in the fields to sustain a family of six. Mary, being the eldest among her siblings, helped them with everything while attending school. She had a keen interest in sports since her childhood and had dreamt of making a name for herself in athletics. But destiny had other plans. When she moved to Imphal with her parents, she was exposed to women’s boxing with Dingko Singh’s success on the international scene, and the demonstration of women boxers at the fifth National Games held in Manipur.

During one of her bouts
In 1999, she started formal training for athletics from Sports Authority of India (SAI) and also for boxing under coach Ibomacha (SAI). She soon realized that her real interest and talent lied in boxing and she started playing the state level under Youth and Affairs of State (YAS), guided by coaches Narajeet and Kishan. She was taught all the minute details and techniques of boxing and she picked them up quickly. But she faced objections from her father when she started training, as boxing is not a women-oriented sport. He thought that his daughter won’t be able to get married, due to the wounds and bruises she incurs inside the ring. So she hid her interest from her parents initially, but winning a state championship in 2000 exposed her to media and her parents came to know about it. After winning the state level boxing championship and the East India women’s boxing championship (2000), she got an opportunity to participate in the Asian Women Boxing Championship at Thailand, which she unfortunately lost in the final round. Nonetheless, it introduced her on the international scene. Subsequently, she won all the Indian National Championships from 2000 to 2005. But, she faced a lot of hurdles on her journey to success. For instance, due to some differences between SAI and YAS, she had to pay for all her travel and equipment on her own.

On her way to the selection camp for her first Asian Women’s Boxing Championships, her luggage and documents were stolen. Her father asked her to come back. But she remained strong and optimistic, and fought to reach where she is now. She had started in an effort to help her family financially but soon became the most phenomenal sports hero in India.

With the Indian tricolor
Like a true patriot, when she won her first International Gold in 2002, she broke into tears on hearing the Indian National Anthem. She got the post of Sub-inspector of police (Manipur) in 2005 and married K. Onler Kom on 12th March 2005. She gave birth to twin sons on 5th August, 2007. In 2008, she made a comeback and won the AIBA championship for the fourth time, with her husband’s and father-in-law’s support. The same year she was promoted to Inspector of Police. But after the 2008 victory, it seemed that domesticity will end her career. However, she has proved everyone wrong again with her performance in the recently concluded Asian Championship. She made a second comeback last month by winning the Asian title for the third time. Indian boxers finished fourth overall, behind Kazakhstan, Korea and China with two gold, a silver and a bronze medal. Though she was busy taking care of her children in the last two years, constant and continuous practice made it easy for her to clench the gold, that too by defeating the best in the world. Unfortunately, she couldn’t celebrate her victory as her son fell ill while she was competing at Astana, Kazakhstan and had to rush to the hospital immediately after the event. Hailed as ‘Magnificent Mary’ by the International Boxing Association (AIBA), balancing motherhood and boxing is indeed tough for Mary Kom. Her upcoming events include the AIBA Women’s World Championship (Sept 2010) and the Asian Games (Nov 2010). This year she has been promoted to the post of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP). The Sports management firm, IOS Private Limited and the Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) is helping Mary Kom with her training at present.

A successful pugilist, she even manages to socialize and meet and help people. Her rags-to-riches journey, which seems nothing less than a fairy tale, wouldn’t have been possible without her perseverance, strong will-power, her husband’s support and her belief in God. “I believe that I have complimented my inherent will power; talent and my love for boxing with extreme hard work to forge my success. Without Onler, I don’t think I could have managed my career and raised my children at the same time, and I am immensely grateful for his unstinting effort”, says Mary Kom. Winning a gold in Olympics is her main dream. The most popular Indian boxer laments the lack of support – financial, technical and moral – for female boxers in India. The Indian Boxing Federation (IBF) and the Government fail to support women’s boxing as much as they should. Hence after Olympics 2012, Mary Kom plans to devote all her time to the promotion of sports, and training young talent, especially women, through her academy “M.C. Mary Kom Boxing Academy” in Manipur.
She has indeed set high standards for all upcoming boxers and is an inspiration, not only for sportsmen but also for every individual, due to her determination and the unparalleled saga of success. Her journey from a village girl to an international sports star, winning tournaments inside and outside the country continuously, is indeed remarkable and inspiring. Her name will go down in the history books as one of the strongest Indian women, who fought the conventional system to follow her heart.

Mahima Taneja
Courtesy: The Viewspaper


Minimumweight Mangte Chungneijang Merykom (aka Mary Kom or MC Merykom) is from Kangathei Village, Moirang Lamkhai in rural Manipur, India. Her interest in boxing was inspired by the success of Manipuri male boxer Dingko Singh.

She took to sports in an effort to provide some financial support to her family. "I was initially an all-round athlete, and 400-m and javelin were my pet events. When Dingko Singh returned from Bangkok (Asian Games) with a gold, I thought I should give it a try. Dingko's success triggered a revolution of sort in Manipur and surprisingly I found that I was not the only girl who was drawn into boxing," she said.

She began boxing in 2000 and was a quick learner who preferred to be put through the same paces as the boys around her. "In just two weeks, I had learnt all the basics. I guess I had God-given talent for boxing."

She initially tried to keep her interest in the sweet science from her father, M. Tonpu Kom, and mother Saneikham Kom, but winning a 2000 State championship got her photograph in the newspaper - and her secret was out of the bag:

"I still remember I was castigated by my father who said with a battered and bruised face, I should not expect to get married. He was furious that I took to boxing - a taboo for women - and he did not have the slightest idea about it. But my passion for the sport had got the better of me and I thank my cousins who coaxed and cajoled my father into eventually giving his nod. I'm happy that I did not let anybody down," she told the Deccan Herald in September 2004.

After winning her first title and Best Boxer at the First State Level Invitation women's boxing championship in Manipur in 2000, Merykom went on to win the gold in the Seventh East India Women’s Boxing Championship held in West Bengal and subsequently to win five Indian National Championships from 2000 to 2005.

She also embarked on an international campaign that has brought her a series of gold medals and honors, though not without a few setbacks.

A gritty fighter, a true champion
On her way by train to the selection camp for her first Asian Women’s Boxing Championships in Bangkok, Thailand, she had all her luggage and her passport stolen. Her parents asked her to come home but she carried on her course. "My saviour was a city-based uncle, who said he’d fix everything if I got selected. I did, but I returned empty handed (from the meet in Bangkok). The stress following the loss of documents and luggage interfered with my training." Her solution was still more training. "We girls really worked hard. Women’s boxing was a very recent introduction, and we really wanted to excel."

Merykom's "international gold rush" finally began with the Second Asian Women's Championship in Hissar and continued with a win in the Third Asian Women's Championship held in Taiwan.

In her first AIBA World Women's Boxing Championship in Scranton, USA in 2001, the 18-year-old Merykom had to settle for silver, losing to Hulya Sahin of Turkey by 13-5 in the 48-kg final after defeating Jamie Behl of Canada by 21-9 in the semi-final and Nadia Hockmi of Poland by RSCO-3 in the quarter-final. "She was leading in the first round but her opponent managed to score points in the final round," coach Anoop Kumar said of Merykom's performance in the final.

The next year, she struck gold at the Second AIBA World Women’s Senior Boxing Championship held from October 21-27, 2002 in Antalya, Turkey, winning the 45-kg division by defeating Svetlana Miroshnichenko of the Ukraine in her semi-final and Jang Song-Ae of North Korea in the final

On November 22, 2003 in the 46-kg finals of the Asian Women's Championships at Mahabir Stadium in Hisar, India, she defeated Chou Szu Yin of Chinese Taipei by RSCO-2. She had previously defeated L. G. Chandrika of Sri Lanka also by RSCO-2.

Her once-skeptical father accompanied his trail-blazing daughter to the ceremony in 2003 at which she was the first woman ever to receive India's prestigious Arjuna award for her achievement in boxing.

She also took gold in the 46-kg division of the Women's World Boxing Tournament in T√łnsberg, Norway from 27 April to 2 May 2004, defeating Derya Aktop of Turkey by RSCO-2 in the semi-final and Xia Li of China by RSCO-2 in the final.

She was also the Witch Cup Tournament champion in Hungary in 2004.

At the August 2004 Asian Women's Boxing Championships in Taiwan she  defeated Gretchen Abaniel of the Philippines 35-11 in the 46-kg final.

She successfully defended her 46-kg world title at the Third AIBA Women's World Championships held from 25 September to 2 October 2005 in Podolsk, Russia. She won the final by a 28-13 score over Jong Ok of North Korea, who had reached the finals with a 22-20 decision over Gretchen Abaniel of the Philippines. Kom had defeated Elena Sabitova of Russia 31-16 in her semi-final and Nancy Fortin of Canada 30-13 in her preliminary. While she saw her repeat win as great progress, she expressed admiration for the Russians, who won the team event.  "They are so well-built, with big muscles!"

On 19-22 October 2006 at the Venus Box Cup in Vejle, Denmark, Merykom won by RSCO-2 over Sofie Molholr of Denmark in the 46-kg semi-final and defeated Steluta Duta of Romania by retirement in the third round. Duta had defeated Valeria Calabrese of Italy RSCI-2 to reach the final and had also won the 46-kg division of the Ahmet Comert Tournament in 2006 with a RSCO-2 over Derya Aktop of Turkey (Merykom did not compete in that tournament.)

On 23 November 2006 at the AIBA World Championships at Talkatora Indoor Stadium in New Delhi, India Merykom again won the 46-kg division - this time with a 22-7 decision over her Venus Box Cup final opponent Steluta Duta of Romania. Merykom kept the Romanian on the defensive for most of the bout, then celebrated her win with a demonstration of Manipuri folk dance in the ring. Duta reached the final with a RSCO-2 win over Boranbayeva Zalgul of Kazakhstan in the semi.

In New Delhi, Merykom had previously defeated Jong Ok of North Korea 20-8 in the semi-final, and Chandrike Geruga of Sri Lanka by RSCO-2 in the quarter-final after a bye in the preliminary round.  She began the tournament with a cough and fever (and was unable to take any medication because of the doping test) but she still performed well enough to lead Chandrike Geruga 13-3 after one round, and the bout was stopped in the second with Merykom ahead 19-4.

"Everyone in our team worked very hard for this day and it is good to see that we have achieved it on our home soil," she said. On this occasion the Indian women's boxing team edged the formidable Russians by 34 points to 28 in team standings.

Like most world-class amateur female boxers, Merykom now hopes to compete in the Olympic Games some day. "Now I will dream again to represent India in the Olympics at least once till the time my body permits."

On her ring strategy, Merykom says "I simply try to cramp my opponents so that they don't get any chance to free their arms. 'My height (around five feet) is a problem but my fitness is my advantage. I make my opponents run a lot in the ring, which tires them.'  In 2005 she told a felicitation program organized by Indian Amateur Boxing Federation and YMCA: "I do not only rely on my technique or strength but also on my mind," adding that in her 46-kg weight category "I mostly meet different boxers in my weight category as the older ones change to higher weight category. But I have established myself here."

"To be a successful boxer one must also have a strong heart. Some women are physically strong but fail when it comes to having a strong heart. One also must have the zeal and the right fighting spirit," says Merykom. "We work harder than men and are determined to fight with all our strength to make our nation proud. God has given me the talent and it’s only because of sheer grit and hard work that I have made it so far."

Merykom works out five to six hours a day to stay fit. Coming from a poor family who struggled to educate her siblings, her success as a world champion is a testament to her determination, perseverance and drive to succeed. She has used her earnings from boxing to obtain a new house and land for her parents and savings deposits for her younger siblings but she bemoans the lack of sponsorship for Indian female boxers, saying "I guess that’s because I don’t play tennis or cricket. Seriously, are there no other sports in India?"  She has said that she would eventually like to share her boxing experiences while grooming new sports talent in Manipur.

huithiang! poser: Is Mary Kom the greatest amateur women boxer ever?



  1. Big Congratulation to MC Mary Kom on her success and championship. She is such an inspiration and pride to her family,people of Manipur and India as whole. God bless her continually

  2. Mary Mangte had wonderful God gifted talent, we praise God Almighty for her achievements. May she continue to bring glory for India and the people of Northeast,Manipur and her people "Mangte"s

    Dr Paogin Mangte