Anju’s journey fuelled by Mary Kom’s success

PUNCHING ABOVE HER WEIGHT: Anju Devi won the gold in the 50kg category at the Black Forest Cup in Germany earlier this month.

It’s hard not to get inspired by MC Mary Kom’s story. The Manipuri boxer’s staggering achievement, which includes the London Olympics bronze medal, gains more meaning when you know how daringly she overcame financial difficulties. Her career has all the ingredients of a Bollywood film and it was no surprise that her biopic was churned out.  

Despite her overwhelming influence in the scene of Indian boxing, it’s shocking to know that doubts still linger in the homes of young girls aspiring to be the next six-time World Amateur Boxing champion. The atmosphere at Anju Devi’s house, when she confessed her love for boxing, turned hostile. 

“I watched Mary Kom fight it out in the ring and I decided I want to be her,” Anju tells DH. “I began training under a coach, close to home, but my parents were apprehensive.” It was a typical case of parents pushing their child to prioritise education over passion. 

Today, there is a change in the script. Anju’s dreams have the backing of her parents: Khunjamayum Jayanta Singh and Khunjamayum Laxmi Devi. The Karnataka pugilist clinched gold in the 50kg category at the Black Forest Cup in Villingen, Schwenningen, Germany, earlier this month. “After I won a couple of medals, they began to believe I can make it big in boxing. From then on, they have stood by me throughout my career,” Anju, a student of Jindal Vidya Mandir, says.

The Manipuri, who moved to Bengaluru two years ago, trains at Inspire Institute of Sport (IIS), Vijayangar. Chosen from a talent hunt across three cities in Bengaluru, Patiala and Manipur, Anju’s brilliant athleticism was what impressed coach Ronald Simms of IIS. 

Early on, Anju had to balance boxing with studies and be a fast learner inside the ring. The determination has begun to offer the desired results like her feat in Mohali last year. “It was my first big victory. I bagged a gold in the 50kg category at the national meet,” says the 16-year-old, who is a JSW athlete. 

It’s just not Anju’s skills but also her strong mind that has made her a talent to watch out for. “She recognises the plans of her opponents quickly. She is probably one of the most mentally strong athletes of our academy. She is not nervous, she has fun during bouts and she is not afraid,” observes Ronald.

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