Monday, August 06, 2012

Women’s boxing makes its breakthrough at London 2012

India's M. C. Mary Kom in action at the Olympics
Another all-male bastion was broken into today with the start of the first ever women’s boxing competition at the Olympics and it was a lucky last-minute internet search that revealed two tickets for a place at this historic ringside. My interest in women’s boxing was really due to the belated discovery that an Indian woman from Manipur, Mary Kom, was a five-time world champion in the fly-weight category and a gold medal prospect for the nation.

Mary Kom is from a conflict-ridden and economically depressed part of India that barely registers on the national consciousness. I am embarrassed to admit, I hadn’t heard of her till this wonderful cover story in the Intelligent Life magazine. That’s why when she stepped into the ring and a chant of “Bharat Mata ki Jai” went up amongst her hundreds of Indian supporters, I felt some immediate irritation. Bharat has been screwing around with the 7 eastern states of which Manipur is a part and official Bharat has given Magnificent Mary all but half-hearted support over the years.

So I was much happier just to chant her name “Mary Kom, Mary Kom, Mary Kom.” She had hundreds of supporters in the crowd and the atmosphere was electric. Why the IOC took so long to deny spectators good, solid sporting action in women’s boxing is a mystery.

Mary was shorter than her Polish opponent Karolina Michalczuk, and although she slipped a few times she appeared more agile around the ring. The pair drew equal on the first round, but after that Mary started landing the punches and at the end of round four she won with a final score at 19 - 14 and is now through to the next stage.

The other really exciting match of the day was between the US and UK in the middle-weight category.  

The guitar riffs of Lenny Kravitz’s ‘Are you gonna go my way’ blasted through giant speakers inside the boxing arena accompanying the entry of Quanitta Underwood of the USA. Like the thousands in the crowd, she was pumped up by the music and punched the air with her red gloves.

Then the camera panned to Britain’s Natasha Jonas in blue coming out of the vomitory with the crazy guitar riffs continuing to electrify the crowd. But she was cooler than ice, seeming to embody the “Keep calm and carry on” approach.

Underwood won the first round 4 - 3 and the crowd realised they needed to get their vocal chords behind Jonas. The “Team GB” chants through the next two-minute round, along with some confident jabs from Jonas, produced a win with 7 points to her and Underwood, one short. The momentum continued and the match ended with the referee holding up Jonas’s hand at the final score of 21 - 13.

Day 9, was just yet another fabulous day at the London Olympics

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