Glasgow likes its feisty women. It adores Sharleen Spiteri, the quick-witted frontwoman of the former band Texas, who can sing a lovely lilt and singe with a clever quote. She became even more of a rocker-chick to Glaswegians after her daughter’s birth. It is no surprise then that the city will fall in love with Sarita Devi Laishram, India’s lightweight boxer (57-60 kg), mother of a one and half-year-old toddler who is waiting back home.
She’s a multiple world champion and has dominated Asian meets for 14 years now. But the quick-to-giggle woman with her sing-song voice, morphed into a ferocious fighter as her trademark combinations ended in a left straight that smote right into Nigerian Kehinde Obareh’s shoulder taking the entire strength out of it.
Sarita delivered the first TKO of Glasgow, as the referee stopped the contest after the Nigerian hung out her limp arm to the ring doctor, and signalled she couldn’t move it anymore. “I was leading in the first two rounds, I’d have won anyway. Her dislocated shoulder is unfortunate though. I hope she gets better,” she said after clinching her Round of 16 bout early in the third round.
Sarita Devi played bridesmaid to MC Mary Kom for a decade now, vying the same spot four years ago. There’s no 27 dresses to show for it, but it’s safe to say she’s gotten herself into 5 at least, moving up and down weight divisions before finally settling into one that she seems happy in. “I started in 57, then 52, 51, but 60’s good now,” she says, her seven-and-half minutes in the CWG spotlight helping her shrug off the many disappointments she’s faced when being edged out.
“It’s my first Games,” she says, with the enthusiasm of a teenager. “We’d fought for women’s boxing to be included at Delhi, but it didn’t work out.”
Taller than Mary Kom and given her height and body-structure, Sarita was driving herself mad trying to make weight, harming her health, and was largely glum through that period, though she’d go out and make podiums anyway.
But bringing her weight down after child-birth was quite another challenge.
“Imagine, I’ve added and lost 30 kg in the last decade and half. I love my baby and I was happiest when he was born, but I want this medal very much,” she says, having gone upto 85 kg before her delivery. “My husband and me worked hard to get my fitness right,” she adds.
She’d missed Olympic qualification by 2 points, but wants to box without any baggage that can bring pressure.
In the ring, she punches like keys of a typewriter being tapped. There are long lulls when she stays long-range, and then when a flurry comes it’s equally powerful on both hands. Her right hooks relayed the power, but it was the left that felled the Nigerian.
“I’m proud of the TKO in my first Games bout. I see it as a good start,” she says. Irish Audley Murphy and English Natasha Jones will be the ones to look out for. Son Tomthal is not yet two, but the mother is dreaming big for him, while in UK. “Not boxing, he’ll become a footballer like his dad, but he’ll have my fighting power in football,” she ends. Before that happens, she wants the ‘Games applause.’