Feature

MC Mary Kom: A magnificent career defined by consistent success at the highest level

From an Olympic medal to world championship crowns and national honours, there’s hardly anything that the Indian boxing legend hasn’t won in her storied career.

By Naveen Peter ·

Chungneijang Mary Kom Hmangte, popularly known as MC Mary Kom, has been one of India’s leading sporting superstars over the last two decades.

Be it her six women’s world championship titles or the bronze medal from the 2012 Olympic Games, there’s barely any accolade to elude this boxing legend.

As Mary Kom prepares for her dream of winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics, here's a look at everything that ‘Magnificent Mary’ has achieved in the boxing ring so far.

Mary Kom rules the World Championships

Ever since the women’s world boxing championships was introduced in 2001, the Indian boxer has won a medal at each of the eight editions so far.

Competing as an 18-year-old at the inaugural world meet in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Mary Kom impressed with her clean boxing style and made it to the final of the 48kg category.

MC Mary Kom won her first world title in 2002.

Up against the kick-boxer-turned-pugilist Hülya Şahin of Turkey in the final, Mary Kom’s inexperience at the international stage was her undoing as she returned home with a silver.

Mary Kom returned a year later better prepared to seal her maiden world title with a win over North Korea’s Jang Song-ae in the 45kg category. In doing so, she became the first Indian woman to win a gold medal at the AIBA Women's World Boxing Championship.

As a world amateur boxing champion, it kick-started Mary Kom’s reign as she was unbeatable in the pinweight division in the coming years with World Championships crowns at 2005, 2006, 2008 and the 2010 editions.

It was the 2008 title that was special for Mary Kom as it came on the back of a two-year break following the birth of her twins.

Later, though the Indian star moved to the light flyweight division, she managed another world title in 2010 - a record fifth - and cemented her place among the greats of the game.

While an Olympic medal followed Mary Kom in 2012, the Indian supermom had to stay away from the sport once again after giving birth to her third son in 2013.

Though she returned to the ring soon after, it wasn’t until the 2018 World Championships in New Delhi that Mary Kom was once again on top of the world.

Competing at home, Mary Kom dominated with a 5-0 win over Ukraine’s Hanna Okhota for her sixth world title.

A year later, Mary Kom won her eighth world’s medal, the most by any male or female boxer. And this came in the flyweight 51 kg category, an Olympic weight division.

Mary Kom’s Olympic moment

By the time the London 2012 Olympics came around, MC Mary Kom was already an established name in the world of amateur boxing.

With five world championships gold to her name at the time, the Indian legend was one of the hottest properties as women’s boxing made its debut at the Olympic stage. But her journey to the podium was anything but easy.

Having been forced to jump weight categories to be eligible to compete at the Games (only three weight divisions were included for the Olympics), Mary Kom was in for some tough competition as she began her Olympic quest at the ExCeL Exhibition Centre.

It started with her opening bout against a tall and physically imposing Karolina Michalczuk of Poland. The Indian used her footwork and experience to great effect to negate her opponent’s reach and registered a 19-14 win on points to make it to the quarter-final.

In the last-eight, Indian boxer MC Mary Kom got off to a troubled start against Tunisia’s Maroua Rahali. But she came back strong as the round progressed and settled the bout with two powerful right hooks to seal a place in the semi-final and guarantee herself an Olympic medal.

Kom's road to Olympic bronze medal

Mary Kom shares her story of winning a bronze medal as she takes us through...

Though Mary Kom fell short against home favourite Nicola Adams in the semis, she won a bronze medal becoming only the third Indian woman to bag an Olympic medal.

I am sorry I could not win the gold medal. But I am happy with the Olympic medal that has been a dream for long.” - MC Mary Kom.

Mary Kom’s Asian sojourn

Mary Kom’s success at the international stage has also reflected on her performances in the various continental meets.

With as many as five gold medals and a silver at the Asian Championships, she is one of the feared boxers in her weight category. And this was evident in the two Asian Games she competed in.

At the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, Mary Kom won her first Asian Games medal, a bronze in the flyweight division.

The Manipuri then claimed a gold medal at the Asian Games in 2014 held in Incheon, South Korea to become the first Indian woman boxer to win the Asian Games title.

Mary Kom was in complete control of the proceedings in Incheon as she didn’t drop a single round en route to her triumph.

MC Mary Kom is the first Indian woman to win a boxing gold at the Asian Games.

Mary Kom has also managed to bag five gold medals in the Asian women’s boxing championships. The last one in 2017 in Ho Chi Minh City.

At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, she went on to add the only missing title from her cabinet with another emphatic show in Gold Coast. 

National recognition for Mary Kom

Mary Kom’s achievements in the boxing ring have never gone unnoticed by the Indian government. 

While the Indian boxer was honoured with the Arjuna Award in 2003 following her maiden world title, in 2009 the Indian government conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna — the highest sporting honour in the country — on Mary Kom for her exceptional achievements in the field of boxing.

The boxing great has also received the Padma awards — civilian honours — for a decorated career. 

Mary Kom was one of the recipients of the Padma Shri in 2006 while in 2013, she was honoured with the Padma Bhushan. Meanwhile, earlier this year, the Indian government conferred the Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award, on the Manipuri ace.

Moreover, Mary Kom was inducted into the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament, in 2016 following a nomination by the then Indian President Pranab Mukherjee.

Her life was also covered in the biopic, Mary Kom, which hit the silver screen in 2014.

While the movie depicted the journey of a young boxer from a remote village in Manipuri to international fame, the eight-time world championship medallist had a different take on it.

“I want more focus on the fights if they ever decide to make another biopic on me,” Mary Kom said in an episode of The Outlier, a YouTube series hosted by Outlook Magazine.

“I would ask the director to show more fights. I have been fighting for 20 years and I have fought numerous bouts at the national and international levels.

“Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, I have taken part in so many competitions,” the boxing great pointed out.