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KO champ counts on Kom

- The girl’s movements are graceful, says Helsinki Olympian

They called him “2-round Majumdar”. Such was the power of his hook that Sakti Majumdar seldom needed more time to knock out opponents in the ring. A newspaper cutting in his scrapbook, dated November 9, 1951, is a testimony to his reputation: “No scientific boxer or tough fighter he had met ever withstood his heavy dynamic double punches for more than two complete rounds.”

The two-time national champion in the flyweight category, who represented India in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki has something in common with the nation’s new sports icon M.C. Mary Kom. Like her, he honed his boxing skills keeping his father in the dark! “I managed to escape my father’s eyes for years by coming back from my club Ballygunge Institute or from contests well before he returned home at 6pm,” smiles the 83-year-old.

But once he became the all-India national school champion, his coach Biren Chandra came home to break the news to his father and convince him to let the teenager travel for out-station tournaments. “All the Anglo-Indian schools in the city held tournaments. There were six clubs in the Gariahat-Bhowanipore neighbourhood alone. Bengal was a boxing powerhouse,” recalls Majumdar.

So when the Olympics team was chosen in 1952, three of the four boxers were from Bengal. Majumdar was an automatic choice. In Helsinki, the 22-year-old boxer shook hands with Floyd Patterson, who won the gold in the middleweight category, and later became the youngest at that time to win the world heavyweight title. But Majumdar’s idol was the Brown Bomber, heavyweight champion Joe Louis. “Earlier, boxers fought even on streets. Louis taught us that the opponent is an enemy in the ring and a friend outside.”

His Olympic experience was less like Mary Kom’s and more like Sumit Sangwan’s, who was controversially beaten. “In a pre-quarter final round, I had sent the Korean Soo Han crashing to the floor thrice. Yet the judges chose to gift him the bout on points. Our chef de mission lodged a protest but to no effect.”

On Wednesday, he will be switching on the TV in the evening hoping to hear some good news from ExCel Arena, London. “I was hoping for two medals from our boxers, especially Vijender (Singh),” he says, seated in his Gol Park home. With the Bhiwani bomber out of the fray, his hopes are pinned on Devendro Singh Laishram and, of course, Mary Kom.

With one eye lost to glaucoma and vision in the other dimmed because of a defective surgery, he cannot see clearly. But he can still “make out” that Mary Kom’s “movements are graceful”. Majumdar, who now listens to “the TV commentary as if on radio”, is happy with what he can see and hear from the London Olympics. “Boxing had gone out of contention for years in between. I feel proud that the nation has medal hopes of our boys. And the girl.”