Mary Kom fought strongly, and with conviction, to celebrate the fifth birthday of her twin sons, with a 19-14 victory over Karolina Michalczuk of Poland in the first round of women’s flyweight boxing in the Olympic Games at the ExCel Arena on Sunday.
In front of an appreciative Indian crowd, it was an impressive performance from the five-time World champion. Mary Kom, competing in the 51kg category, warded off the challenge from the former bantamweight World champion.
The 29-year-old Mary had the speed and smart footwork to rattle her slightly heavy Polish opponent after a guarded first round, when the scores were tied 3-3. Mary edged ahead in the second round by a point as the two tried to shower punches on each other, without manoeuvring the space for it.
In the third round, Mary was a different boxer. Even as her opponent looked to be tiring, Mary kept her distance for the Polish girl and also landed sharp punches. This was the round that proved decisive as the Indian scored seven while conceding three points.
It was desperation in the fourth round for the 32-year-old Karolina as she tried to bridge the gap, but Mary held the upper hand even though the two registered four points each.
The Cuban coach with the Indian team for nearly two decades, B.I. Fernandez was quite pleased and said that Mary fought “very good”.
He said that the quarterfinals against the 24-year-old Maroua Rahali of Tunisia, rather inexperienced in the international arena, should easily pave the way for a medal for Mary in a field of 12.
While Mary, figuring in the bottom half with three-time World Championship runner-up Nicola Adams of Britain, has prepared for the challenges ahead, Maroua will be fighting her first bout after a bye on Monday afternoon.
Expressing happiness about her performance, Mary said that she was indebted to the people back home, who were fasting and praying for her success, cutting across all religion.
“The whole family and other people are all sacrificing so much for me and I will try my best to live up to the expectations,” said Mary.
Meanwhile, the Indian camp felt that Manoj Kumar was robbed of victory in the pre-quarterfinals of the light-welterweight category, as the third-seeded Thomas Stalker of Britain, the World Championship bronze medallist, prevailed 20-16 in the pre-quarterfinals.
It was an intense battle on Saturday evening and the Brit had the advantage of a 7-4 lead in the first round. He stepped it up further in the second round by curling his left punches to take the lead to 16-9.
Manoj went on an all out attack in the third round and was rewarded for his effort as it was 7-4 in that round for him.
However, the second round had made the difference, and the Indian camp was disappointed.
“This is not a district tournament. It is the Olympics. Cheating, cheating,” shouted Manoj, while the Cuban coach Fernandez felt that the Indian boxer deserved to get the points in his favour in the same fashion as was the case in the third round.
“My athlete did extraordinary. You saw for yourself what happened,” said coach Gurbax Sandhu.
“I just wanted to get the first fight out of the way. The fans got me through it. It was a tough fight and I felt I didn’t really box too well, but a win is a win,’’ said the Briton.
He was philosophical about the Indian questioning the decision. “I have had fights when I thought that I had won by more than I eventually won by. I just leave it to the judges,” he said.