Feature | Boxing

Mary Kom faces weighty task at World Boxing Championships

India's six-time world champion hopes to deceive her opponents as she seeks first title at Olympic class of 51kg in Tokyo.

By Rory Jiwani ·

With six world titles, Mary Kom is by far the most successful female boxer in the sport's history.

Now she must do something she has never done before if she is to book her place at February's Asia Olympic Games qualifiers and boost her hopes of that elusive Olympic gold.

Dominant at light-flyweight (45-48kg), the 36-year-old goes back up to flyweight (51kg) - the lightest Olympic weight class - at the AIBA World Championships in Ulan-Ude, Russia.

If she reaches the final, she will automatically go through to the first Tokyo 2020 boxing qualification tournament in Wuhan, China, and avoid a trial bout with fellow Indian Nikhat Zareen in December.

But in three previous global competitions at flyweight, the best she has done is bronze on women's boxing's Olympic debut at London 2012.

"I have a good feeling about it. My body feels better than before and the training trip to Italy has helped immensely." - Mary Kom as reported by India Today

Mary Kom celebrates her flyweight gold at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea

The story so far

Now a mother of three, Kom has been the torch bearer for women's boxing in India since winning silver at the first Women's World Championships in 2001.

Twelve months later, she won her first of five consecutive world titles up to 2010 and even found time to give birth to twins in 2007.

After world title number five, she made the move up to 51kg - the lightest category at the Olympic Games - and reached the semi-finals at the 2010 Asian Games.

But she lost out to Ren Cancan in the semi-finals and had to settle for bronze.

Kom exacted revenge on the Chinese in the final of the 2012 Asian Championships, but then went down narrowly to Nicola Adams in the quarter-finals of the World Championships.

Then came London 2012 where the Briton proved too strong again, this time in the semi-finals, before beating Ren to take gold.

Kom collected a bronze medal before taking time out to have another child in 2013.

Kom's road to Olympic bronze medal

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

On her return, she claimed her first Asian Games title but suffered more disappointment at the 2016 Worlds when a shock last-32 exit to Germany's Azize Nimani saw her miss out on Rio.

Kom bounced back last year, winning gold at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games before claiming a record sixth world title on home soil in New Delhi.

There is no doubt about her hero status, being voted the "most admired woman in India" in a recent poll.

But can she make the breakthrough at a higher weight class and keep her Olympic dream alive?

New attack plan

Kom's all-action aggressive style has paid dividends at light-flyweight.

But it has left her susceptible at a higher weight class where she regularly finds herself up against stronger women with longer reaches.

Now the veteran has a new plan to confuse her opponents.

She told the Times of India, "I have mastered this attack. It will leave my opponent confused. It's all about deception and perfecting your timing.

"I will pretend that I am punching her, but I won't. It's like I'm going for a body shot, but then end up landing a jab." - Mary Kom discusses her new strategy to the Times of India

Even if the 'feint' attack works, Kom faces a stiff task in Russia with North Korea's defending champion Pang Chol Mi and last year's Asian Games victor Chang Yuan of China among the favourites.

Another likely contender is Ingrit Valencia of Colombia who took bronze at Rio 2016 and won the recent Pan American Games in Lima.

Kom told News18 she has been training "with girls who are stronger and taller than me" in preparation for the event.

She added, "This is not the first time for me in the 51kg. I have won gold at the 2014 Asian Games and bronze in 2018 in that weight category.

"Every World Championship is important. This one is more important because the qualification is coming. Most of the boxers in the 51kg category are fighting in this, so I will get to know who is stronger than me and accordingly I can make plans."

If she doesn't make the top two, Kom says she is not afraid of a December box-off with Zareen who won bronze at April's Asian Championships.

"I am ready to face the trial. The Boxing Federation of India has already made it clear. I never shied away from trials." - Mary Kom speaking to Times of India