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Mary Kom makes a statement

Mary Kom prevailed 9-1 against the 23-year-old former junior world champion Nikhat Zareen
Mary Kom during her bout against Nikhat Zareen in New Delhi on Saturday
Mary Kom during her bout against Nikhat Zareen in New Delhi on Saturday
Picture by Prem Singh

TT Bureau   |   Calcutta   |   Published 28.12.19, 11:17 PM

MC Mary Kom ticked the right boxes to emerge victorious in the ‘bout of presitge’ against challenger Nikhat Zareen on Saturday.

The six-time world champion and London Olympic medallist won the intense, ill-tempered 51kg trial bout at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in New Delhi to make the Indian squad for next year’s Olympic qualifiers in China.

The bout featured very few clear punches and the 36-year-old Mary Kom prevailed 9-1 against the 23-year-old former junior world champion.

Tension was palpable inside the boxing hall before and after the bout owing to the bitter row triggered by Zareen’s public demand for a trial. Words were exchanged between the boxers during the bout and outside the ring, and a few representatives from Zareen’s home state — Telangana Boxing Association — cried foul once the result was declared.

The two also didn’t shake hands after the fight and Mary Kom rebuffed Zareen’s attempt at a hug. “I was a bit angry. There is no doubt. But it’s all done now. I have moved on. All I say is that talk once you perform not before that. Everyone can see what you do in the ring,” Mary Kom told mediapersons after the bout.

The Olympic qualifiers are scheduled to be held from February 3-14 in Wuhan.

When asked about her refusal to hug Zareen, Mary Kom retorted: “They call it clinching in our sport. I did not start this controversy. I never said I won’t appear for trial. That’s why I can’t take it when somebody insinuates that probably it was my fault. It was not my fault and my name shouldn’t have been dragged into it,” she said.

Zareen ‘hurt’

Zareen, on her part, said she gave her best in the contest and expected her senior rival to be more cordial once it was over. “I am hurt by how she behaved. She used some foul language inside the ring too, but it’s okay,” said Zareen. “I am a junior, it would have been nice for her to just exchange a hug once it was over. But I don’t want to comment any further,” she added.

Boxing Federation of India president Ajay Singh had to step in to control the situation outside the ring after AP Reddy, claiming to represent the Telangana Boxing Association, vociferously protested the decision.

“How will boxing grow amid this kind of politics,” Reddy later told reporters after being asked to leave the ringside by Singh and pacified by Zareen herself.

Bitterness dominated the build-up to the bout after it was implied that the onus was on Mary Kom to agree for the trial even though it was a call that the federation had to take.

Mary Kom was visibly agitated at the end of the bout in which she impressed with her composure, refusing to let her rival get a clear shot most of the time. She raised the tempo in the final three minutes.

“Whatever one can say about Mary Kom, it is always going to be less. She is a phenomenal talent. As for Nikhat, she is a great hope for the future and she was impressive in this bout too,” said Singh after the bout.

Praise from Virat

In other results, two-time world silver-medallist Sonia Lather (57kg) was upstaged by a swift-moving Sakshi Chaudhary. India captain Virat Kohli congratulated Sakshi, one of the promising boxers in the country, for qualifying. “Congratulations to Sakshi Chaudhury on her brilliant performance and being selected for the #Olympic qualifiers @vkfofficial,” Kohli tweeted.

In 60kg category, L. Sarita Devi lost to Simranjit Kaur in a battle of pace. Also making the squad was Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) after she beat Lalita, while Pooja Rani claimed the 75kg category slot.

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