Mary Kom overcomes tough first hurdle

Indian ace quells Pole Michalczuk challenge, one more win away from a medal

Mary Kom overcomes tough first hurdle

For a first-round bout, this was a brute of an examination for Mary Kom.

A five-time world champion, the Indian boxer would have expected an easy passage into the second round but she had to use all her skills and strength to move past Poland’s Karolina Michalczuk as women’s boxing made an exciting debut at the Olympic Games.

Fighting in the 51kg class at the ExCel arena, Mary ducked and danced, punched and swayed away, fell down and got up. For all her toils, she won enough points from the tenacious Pole to win through 19-14 and take her place in the quarters.

Mary’s next opponent will be Maroua Rahali of Tunisia -- who got a bye in the first round – and a win will ensure at least a bronze for the Indian.

“It was a tough fight but I am happy to have made a winning start at the Olympic Games,” said Mary, who had to weather some searing blows from the Pole. “The entire country is behind me and that is my inspiration,” added Mary who revealed that her family was fasting for her success back home in Manipur. It was also the birthday of her twin children and the win made it special. “I am looking forward to being with them, but first task is the Games.”

Mary brushed aside suggestions that she was under pressure. “There was no pressure, I am never under pressure. I controlled myself well and did not want to exert myself too much.”

Karolina, reduced to tears, said the fight was closer than what the scoreline suggested. “I don’t think I lost. She is a five-time world champion and she won because of her reputation,” she complained. An aggressive fighter, Karolina took the fight to Mary right from the start. A stumble early on didn’t help Mary but she got back on her feet to fight back. It was a slugfest and the points read 3-3 at the end of the first round. Against the taller opponent, Mary had to work extra hard to land her blows but she forged ahead in the second round, taking it 5-4.

With fans chanting ‘Mary, Mary,’ the Indian made her move in the third round, with some crunching blows early on. She was pegged back at the end of the round but the early aggression fetched her a 7-3 score. The final round – women fight four rounds of two minutes each – was equal but her third-round show had turned decisive in the end.

The Indian said she expected an easier bout next. Rahali is taller – five-foot six inches to Mary’s five-two – but she doesn’t have any achievements to speak of. “She should win it easily,” said India’s Cuban coach B I Fernadez.

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