Born as Chungneijang Mery Kom Hmangte, Magnificent Mary, as we know her, is a boxer. She is a six-time World Boxing Champion and the only boxer to win a medal in every one of the six world championships – a slap in the face of anyone who says women are ‘weaker’ than men.
Growing up in a village in the north east India, Mary had to face a ton of hardships taking up a sport considered ‘manly’. She comes from a financially disadvantaged background, and used to work with her parents in the fields from a very young age.
After Kom was awarded the Padma Bhushan — the third highest civilian award in India, and the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian honour in 2010 for her contributions to sports.
“I still remember I was castigated by my father who said with a battered and bruised face, I should not expect to get married. He was furious that I took to boxing – a taboo for women – and he did not have the slightest idea about it.”
Where marriage and kids are considered the ultimate achievement for women, Mary showed the world that a woman CAN have it all.
Raising three children and training extensively for the world championship is no mean feat, and many assumed that once she had children, her career would end.
‘I have not faced my critics directly. But I have heard about them. Let them speak, Let them talk about me. I always concentrated on doing my own work. I took the challenge, proved it and showed it to them,’ Mary said.
“If I being a mother of three can win a medal, so can all. Take me as an example and don’t give up.”
Mary released her autobiography ‘Unbreakable’ in 2013, where she talks about her tough childhood, growing up poor, her rebellious nature, of course, how she held her own in the male world of boxing. She took on the odds in a man’s world and has carved a very definitive place for herself there – proving all her naysayers wrong.
That was not all for Mary. She says, “I was not always recognised as Indian in my own country. Because of our oriental looks, people from Northeast are often mocked in other parts of India. We are called Nepalis, or Chinkies, and people call us names. Whether or not I look ‘Indian’, I am an Indian and I represent India, with pride and all my heart.”
In a country where cricketers are lowkey worshipped and other sports are as good as non-existent, Mary fought the odds against her (which were many!) and achieved her dream of becoming a world-class female boxer. Despite her financial disadvantages, the sexist world of sports, racism prevalent in India, and occasional strokes of bad luck, she didn’t give in. And won.
Watch some of Magnificent Mary’s sassiest moments here: