Boxing legend says fitness and performance should be ‘determining factor’ for athletes
Boxer M C Mary Kom is a six-time world champion who is retiring as she turns 40, meeting a rule set by the International Olympic Council,. The London Olympic medalist says she is the “greatest victim” of the retirement age limit. “Boxing is my life and I am madly in love with it and not willing to retire yet. Fitness and performance should be the determining factor rather than age,” she told Namrata Kohli in an interview on the sidelines of the IBA Women’s World Boxing Championship 2023 in New Delhi.
Here are excerpts from the interview lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
Why did you choose boxing as a career option?
I have always liked martial arts since my childhood. And within a year of my training in boxing, I started achieving several medals at the national level. Then I begin to realize boxing has got something for me.
What were the challenges that you had to overcome to become a boxer?
I could see that a lot of girls now choose to pursue a career in boxing. For some, maybe they think it’s too violent and for others, too risky.
I come from a poor family background, where your situation holds you back from thinking and to dream big, or try something new than the usual. But I somehow overcame it by focusing on my training and performance. I was talked about in my society and neighbourhood for being a boxer, which was considered a boys’ game. After marriage, you are bound to accomplish the duties of a wife and daughter in law. After becoming a mother, my comeback to boxing was extremely challenging, physically, emotionally and mentally. Parting from your lactating child is not easy. Unless you defeat your opponent one-sidedly, your chances to be declared a winner is low, and the reason could be the system or discrimination.
What is required to become a good boxer?
I’d say that 11 or 12 years old is a decent starting age for boxing training. Besides passion and inspiration, one needs to evaluate and know himself/herself whether her body and temperament suits boxing or not.
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What kind of investment, in terms of time and money, should a boxer be prepared for?
Boxing is not expensive as other games are. A pair of gloves can last you for a year initially. Gradually, the needs will increase–including supplements. You need to invest three to four hours a day for training for 2 sessions.
You have to retire at 40. Today when 40 is the new 20, is it fair to expect women to retire at 40?
It is really unfortunate that I am one of the greatest victims who is going to get affected by this age limit, because boxing is my life and I am madly in love with it and not willing to retire yet. I cannot claim but just a thought–fitness and performance should rather be the determining factor, specially for sports, because everyone is not the same physically, mentally and intellectually. A conclusion based on generalising in terms of age could be wrong.
You underwent surgery for anterior cruciate ligament injury. On the other hand, you have to deal with workouts and tournaments. How do you prepare?
Injury is common for athletes but if it happens right before the competitions, that’s the hardest thing an athlete could handle because you have been training for months with a goal and suddenly it vanishes. Of course, we cannot help–it is very difficult to accept it being human. But with a rare motivation to prove it in the next competition, we focus on a quick recovery process with possible treatments recommended. It again involves the same spirit as in the training. Nothing comes so easily or freely.