Magnificent Mary Kom in semis, assured of 8th Worlds medal

“One punch, back and long,” India’s coach Raffaele Bergamasco shouted out to MC Mary Kom from the corner, during the first round of her quarter-final against Colombia’s Valencia Victoria at the world championships in Ulan Ude, Russia, on Thursday.

Those five words were all he needed to capture the spirit of Kom’s new strategy in the ring: hit accurately, retreat, and then control the fight from a distance, landing punches from the counter.

In the next two rounds, Kom’s corner hardly had to say a word—so complete was her control in the ring.

Valencia threw fast combinations, but to no effect—Kom was always out of reach, and then she was coming in, using straight rights, and a powerful right hook, even though Kom is a southpaw.

In the end, it was an easy decision for the judges; 5-0 to Kom, a semi-final place, and an assured bronze, a first for her in an Olympic category—the flyweight division (51kg)—but an incredible eighth medal in her overall tally at the worlds.

Here stands the most successful boxer in the history of the world championships—men, or women—no one else can count eight medals in their cabinet. Kom goes past the legendary Cuban boxer Felix Savon, who won the world title six times in a row in the heavyweight division, and has a total of seven medals (one silver).

Last year in New Delhi, Kom had gone past her fellow icon in women’s boxing, Ireland’s Katie Taylor, to win her sixth world title. Kom’s seventh medal is a silver, which was the first time she won a medal at the worlds, back in 2001. The eighth, of course, can be of any colour.

While most of her contemporaries have retired from the game, Kom’s endurance has been as phenomenal as her medal tally.

At 36, and with more than two decades of experience in the ring, she still hungers for an Olympic medal.

“Mary Kom is the kind of talent that comes in once in a century in any sport, like Pele or Maradona in football,” Bergamasco told HT.

“But what you need along with talent is the drive and focus to achieve success. If you lose your focus then it’s a problem but Mary has been very focussed throughout her career and that is why she is so successful.”

In her quest for an Olympic medal, Kom has had to shift up to a higher weight category, and the worlds was her first big test.

In the 51kg class, Kom is having to fight taller and stronger boxers. Both the boxers she defeated in the tournament—Thailand’s Jutamas Jitpong in the first round and Valencia in the quarter-finals—had a height advantage over her.

“Mary is smart. She has moved fast stayed behind and controlled the bout. That comes only with experience,” says Bergamasco.

In Jitpong, she had an opponent who was aggressive and Kom planned her ring strategy meticulously .

“She always analyses the opponent, carefully watching the videos,” said her coach Chhote Lal Yadav. “Jitpong has a strong right punch. She was pushing and pulling Mary all along. Mary had to evade herself from her opponent’s right punches and counter, which she did very well. She is so intelligent in the ring and that’s why she is able to beat her younger opponents.”

What Kom relies on is her explosive speed and a solid defence that allows her to counter-attack. Her coaches have focused on these aspects to sharpen them, using very specific, intense but short training sessions.

“Earlier she used to have long training sessions of sometimes two hours. Now we have cut it down to 45 minutes or an hour at most. Proper recovery is very important at her age, so we give a good amount of time for the body to take the load of training,” said Yadav.

Kom’s love for boxing is obsessive; she does not take a day off training, Yadav said.

“She is so passionate, we train even on Sundays. You just can’t keep Mary Kom off the ring.”

In the semi-finals on Saturday, Kom will face her biggest challenge yet, Turkey’s Busenaz Cakiroglu, the European Championships and European Games gold medallist.

India’s young boxers packed a punch at the AIBA World Women’s Boxing Championships on Thursday as they were assured of four medals from Ulan-Ude, Russia. Besides six-time world champion MC Mary Kom, two debutants Manju Rani (48kg) and Jamuna Boro (54kg) along with Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) won their quarter-final bouts to assure a medal each for the country.

Manju Rani showed that she is cut out for the big international stage as she upset top seed Kim Hyang of North Korea with a 4-1 win. She may not have much international experience but Rani, who won silver at Strandja Cup recently, was fearless against a tough competitor. She will next face Thailand’s Chuthamat Raksat, who upset fifth seed Yuliyanova Asenova.

Boro defeated Germany’s Ursula Gottlob 4-1 in 54kg. Boro too has quickly taken big strides in a short time and proved her mettle this year with a gold medal at the President’s Cup. In the semi-finals, she will have a tough opponent in top seed and former Asian Games bronze medallist Huang Hsiao-Wen of Chinese Taipei. “Gottlob surprised me with her aggression initially but I was able to take control in the later rounds,” said Boro. “The Chinese Taipei boxer is taller than me but I have practiced with taller opponents and I am hoping to continue my good performance.”

In the Olympic category, Lovlina confirmed her second successive medal from the World Championships. She had won a bronze medal at home last year.

The Assam boxer outpunched sixth seed Karolina Koszewska of Poland 4-1. She will now face China’s Yang Liu, who stunned top seed Chen Nien-Chin and would be looking to go a step ahead than last time.

However, two-time bronze-medallist Kavita Chahal (+81kg) bowed out after a 0-5 loss to Katsiaryna Kavaleva of Belarus.

Source : Hindustan Times

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