London: M.C. Mary Kom has already created history by becoming the first Indian woman to guarantee an Olympic boxing medal. On Wednesday afternoon, the Manipur girl will get the chance to better her mark when she takes on British pugilist Nicola Adams in the 51 kg semi-final at the ExCel Arena.
A victory would ensure Mary Kom’s place among sporting legends of the country. No Indian woman has ever won an Olympic silver medal. But to achieve the target, the Indian will have to overcome a series of obstacles on and off the ring.
A five-time world champion in the 48 kg category, Wednesday’s bout would perhaps be Mary Kom’s biggest test in life. Arguably the most famous name in women’s boxing, the Indian enjoyed huge support during her first two bouts here.
While Mary Kom’s opponents looked at her with great respect, the crowd, which included huge number of Indian fans, cheered lustily every time she landed a punch.
Things would not be smooth against Nicola. One of the biggest British hopes for a gold medal, the local supporters went wild over the 29-year-old Leeds girl’s easy victory over her Bulgarian opponent in the quarter final. There is every possibility the number of Nicola fans would outnumber the Mary Kom backers at the ExCel.
It’s not that Mary Kom is unduly worried. “I know Nicola is a good boxer… She even beat me in the World Championships. But I am working hard, my fans are praying for me and I will fight for the nation… I will not leave an inch,” said Mary Kom.
Nicola, too, spoke about Mary Kom with great respect. “Mary Kom is a five-time world champion and you’ve got to be special to do that,” she said. “It’s going to be a tough match but I’m going to have the height and reach advantage and will try to use all my attributes.”
The Indian camp is worried that Mary Kom, like her men counterparts, could be a victim of poor supervision. They are more concerned because Mary Kom’s opponent is a local girl and judges will be under great pressure during the bout.
Mary Kom’s coach Charles Atkinson, who is expected to come over from Liverpool to watch the bout, has already talked about it. He even said that correct judgements would have seen Mary Kom through against Nicola in the world meet in May, too.
All said and done, on current form, the British girl holds a slight edge in Wednesday’s bout. What could really go against Mary Kom is her body weight. She has moved up from 48 to 51 kg to realise her dream of participating in the Olympics.
But she could never gain enough weight to match her rivals. It was evident when she lost in the Asian Games and the World Championships.
Mary Kom will also be the third Indian woman after Karnam Malleswari and Saina Nehwal to win an Olympic medal.
‘Magnificent Mary’, as she is known in the boxing fraternity, fought in a calculative manner as she used the first round to sort out her Tunisian opponent and then slowly upped the ante in the subsequent rounds.
The only other Indian pugilist, besides Mary Kom, who has kept himself in the medal hunt is Devendro Singh who will clash with Paddy Barnes of Ireland in the men’s fly-weight (49 kg) category .
The Indian pugilists have often being at the receiving end of the debatable judgements and some of their appeals have been rejected by the authorities.
Vikas Krishan had the misfortune of seeing his result being overturned in favour of his American opponent Errol Spence after he was given four penalties in a controversial bout.