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Boxing lessons

Craig Cozier

Boxing lessons

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FOUR rookie Barbadian girls endured an eye-opening introduction to the world of amateur women’s boxing when they were thrown in at the deep end during the recently-concluded AIBA Women’s World Championships.
But if Kimberley Gittens, Jenny Benedict and the Narine sisters, Gheeta and Molissa, are serious about their craft, they can draw inspiration from the awesome Mary Kom of India, who romped to her fifth straight world title with a clinical performance in the light flyweight division on Saturday afternoon at the Gymnasium of the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex.
The 27-year-old Kom, barely five feet tall, has had a meteoric rise from a teenager expected to continue the traditions of her modest farming family in Kangathei Village in the rural state of Manipur to a golden girl, dubbed “Magnificent Mary” and glorified with a catalogue of awards in her sports-mad home country of one billion people.
Kom, whose athletic prowess shone through in the 400 metres and javelin as a teenager, was drawn to boxing after watching fellow Manipuri boxer Dingko Singh win the men’s gold medal at 54kg at the Asian Games in 1998.
“Dingko’s success triggered a revolution of sorts in Manipur and surprisingly, I found that I was not the only girl who was drawn into boxing,” Kom said of her early inspiration.
She began her love affair with the sweet science in 2000, showing herself to be a quick learner and a hard worker.
The dangers of the sport and the anticipated opposition from her parents persuaded Kom to keep her new passion a secret.
But her swift success foiled that plan as victory in a state championship got her photo splashed over a local newspaper.
“I still remember I was castigated by my father who said with a battered and bruised face, I should not expect to get married. He was furious that I took to boxing – a taboo for women – and he did not have the slightest idea about it,” Kom told an Indian newspaper of her early steps in the sport.
    “But my passion for the sport had got the better of me and I thank my cousins who coaxed and cajoled my father into eventually giving his nod.”
    The success has continued unabated since then although Kom had to settle for a silver medal at the first-ever AIBA Worlds in the United States back in 2001.
There has been nothing but gold since then, with victories in Turkey, Russia, India, China, and now Barbados.
    She even had the time for an 18-month sabbatical during which she gave birth to twin boys before quickly returning and grabbing her fourth world title in China.
“Seven months after I gave birth, I resumed my training and, to my surprise, it was tougher than I imagined. The first few days of training my body refused to respond, but I was determined to work my way through,” she said.
   Kom has a simple message for those aspiring future champions, one the Bajan girls should take particular note of.
“To be a successful boxer one must also have a strong heart. Some women are physically strong, but fail when it comes to having a strong heart,” Kom said.
Next up for the champ are November’s Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, before she eyes another title at the next AIBA World Championships, in China in 2012, and an Olympic gold in London later that year.
She needs to move up in weight to make the Olympic flyweight category, but no one should doubt her ability to achieve that goal.