Half an hour before the boxers started arriving at the sprawling hall of the National Institute of Sport, Patiala, coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu complained about the air conditioners not having the desired effect. It was muggy and Sandhu wanted some of the country’s best boxers to be at ease before they step into the ring and feel the heat of the Asiad trials.
By the time MC Mary Kom put on her blue gloves and got ready for her bout against Sonia Lather in the 51kg category, the cool breeze had drifted across the hall. Yet when she stepped into the ring, Mary — India’s most accomplished woman boxer — began to feel the heat.
Three months after she lost to Pinki Jangra in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games trials, Mary was back in the ring to prove a point. On Tuesday, as she began a comeback against Sonia it was clear that the London Olympics bronze medalist was not at her best.
Against Sonia, Mary clearly struggled. By the end of the second round, Mary’s husband K Onler Kom, sitting in the spectators’ stands, was fidgety. In the ring Mary lost balance after Sonia shoved her in an attempt to break her clinch.
The clumsy exchange between the two boxers were to take place in the third round and on both occasions Mary fell. It was clear that Mary was not able to land as many punches as she liked. In spite of her experience, Mary could not dominate the fourth round and when it was declared that she was the winner, it came with an unofficial rider that it was her reputation rather than her performance on the day that saw her through.
While Mary struggled in her bout against Sonia, Pinki, fresh from her Glasgow Commonwealth Games exploits, where she won a bronze, came up with a power-packed performance against Vanlal Duati. On Wednesday, the new kid on the block, Pinki, will fight Mary in what promises to be a battle that will decide India’s 51kg queen and more importantly who represents the country at the Asian Games. The last time Mary stepped into a ring with Pinki at the other corner, she was in for a rude shock.
Whether she has had the time to focus on the Asian Games (what with she being seen at promotions of her biopic) will be clearer when she takes on Pinki.
Sumit, Vijender out
Vijender Singh is not the only boxer missing the Incheon Games because of an injury. Sumit Sangwan (81 kg), who suffered a hand injury during the Glasgow Games, has opted out of the trials too. Vijender was forced out of the Asiad due to a wrist injury, which he sustained during the Glasgow Games.
In Vijender’s absence, Vikas Krishan Yadav, who won gold at Guangzhou four years ago, is seen as India’s best bet in the 75 kg category.