Boxing’s mother Mary has Olympic gold in sights

Mary Kom has already shown she loves a good fight.

And with five world championship titles, the cheery Indian boxer
now has even more to like about her chosen sport.

Women’s boxing is on the program for the 2012 London Olympics,
where Kom is looking to get its first gold.

”I think it is going to bring our sport more popularity,” Kom,
who has twin three-year-old sons, said with a big smile after
demolishing her Taiwanese opponent 16-2 – including a standing
eight-count in the final round – in an Asian Games quarterfinal
bout on Monday. ”London is my next goal.”

Kom – that’s the name she goes by, her real name is Chungneijang
Mangte – said she was inspired as a teenager to pursue a career
fighting for her dinner by watching action movies with Jet Li and
Jackie Chan.

”I was interested in kung fu and kickboxing. Now, my idol is
Muhammad Ali.”

For a rural girl from Manipur, it wasn’t a typical path to
take.

Kom, 28, grew up in northeastern India near the border with
Myanmar. Her parents work a slash-and-burn farm, where she helped
in the fields, fished, cut wood and made charcoal while looking
after her two younger sisters and a brother. She went into sports
to try to earn extra money.

Her first choice was athletics, but in her late teens she
decided to follow in the footsteps of Dingko Singh, another
Manipuri boxer who won the Asian Games gold in 1998.

Within two years, she was smitten. And she was her way to
becoming one of India’s biggest sporting heroes. To her fans she is
simply called ”magnificent.”

She started gaining success after success in local bouts, and
won her first world championships in 2002, having taken the silver
the year before. She won the world’s in 2005-6, and again in 2008
and 2010, after a sabbatical to give birth to her twins.

Kom said motherhood and boxing don’t always mix.

”It’s hard, but my husband is very supportive of me,” she
said.

What she does see as a good mix women’s boxing and the
Olympics.

”Why not?” she said. ”I think it is a great idea.”

If she can stay injury-free, Kom will be one of the event’s
biggest stars.

Women’s boxing was a demonstration sport at the 1904 Olympic
Games. Last summer, the IOC Executive Board announced that it would
be on the program for London, with medals awarded in three weight
classes – flyweight, or under 51 kilograms; lightweight, under 60
kilograms; and middleweight, for boxers under 75 kilograms.

Kom has stepped up her weight to fight in the 51-kilogram class,
the same as Chinese powerhouse Ren Cancan, the world champion at
52-kilograms. Ren also won her quarterfinal Monday 10-0.

The women fight for four two-minute rounds. Points are scored
the same as they are for men.

IOC president Jacques Rogge said in announcing the decision to
include women boxers that they had made ”tremendous” strides over
the past five years.

For Kom, however, it will likely be the end of the road.

”It’ll be tough, but I’ll do my best,” she said.

Kom has begun teaching young men and women to follow her
example.

In 2006, she opened the non-profit M.C. Mary Kom Boxing Academy
for underprivileged youths. The academy now has 37 boxers, 16
female and 21 male, and is already producing national
medalists.