LONDON, Aug 7: Maroum Rahali will now certainly become part of an Indian school quizmaster`s `rapid fire` round. The Tunisian girl is not well-known in world boxing circles and did not do much on Monday afternoon at the Excel Arena to get noticed either. However, she became part of Indian sports` history after being tamed by 29-year-old Indian braveheart MC Mary Kom in the 51kg quarterfinal bout.
By winning the contest easily at 15-6, Mary entered the semifinals and assured the country of its fourth medal, which is India`s best ever haul – the country had won three medals (a gold and two bronze) at the Beijing Games.
The other reason which got the huge bunch of Indians here in a celebratory mood was that Mary is the only Indian woman boxer to have qualified for the London Games, where women`s boxing is making its debut. She has already landed a rock-solid punch and is far from finished yet.
“It feels special to win an Olympic medal for India. I thank Lord Jesus. I`m happy I decided to make a comeback to boxing for this medal. Now I will try to improve upon this by winning the next bout. I will fight for a bigger medal,” Mary said, still recovering from the four rounds of hard work in the ring.
Next, she runs into the tournament favourite and local girl, Nicola Adams.
Mary, a five-time world champion, had won several medals in the 46 and 48kg categories but never in the 51 kg category. She was forced to shift to this category and gain weight two years ago after the world body (AIBA) decided to allow women`s boxing in only three weight categories – the lowest one being 51kg.
Mary is still trying to put on weight to match stronger opponents. “I have been competing in the 51kg category for two years. I keep eating to put on weight but it is so difficult. It is easier to lose weight than gain it (laughs). I have suffered so many problems because of this. Put in the 46kg or 48kg category and I can assure you that nobody can beat me. Here, it is a fight,” she said.
It was a fight against the Polish girl in the pre-quarterfinals and it will be even tougher against Adams. But on Monday, she was not troubled by the Tunisian girl at all. Nothing seemed to happen in the first round. Both boxers tried to size each other up, hardly moving in to attack. It went 2-1 in Mary`s favour.
The second round too was not anything to get excited about. Mary slipped and fell once but was back on her feet, jabbing and falling back. This round was again close, 3-2 in Mary`s favour.
Having taken a 5-3 lead, Mary went in for the kill. She started attacking more, throwing more punches, chasing the Tunisian girl. In the second half of this round, Mary finally smashed through her young rival`s guard and hit her cleanly, four times on the face. That was the deciding moment of the match.
She took the round 6-1 for an 11-4 overall lead and then stepped off the pedal in the final round, relying on counter-punches to seal the issue.
“It is the biggest win of her career… a dream come true,” said Indian boxing team`s Cuban coach BI Iglesias Fernandez. “It was an easy win for her. You could see she was trying to save energy for the semifinals – that is the tough one.”
Mary`s personal coach Charles Atkinson is not here as he failed to get an accreditation. “But I`m in touch with him. I speak to him every day, many times. He tells me what tactics to adopt for which opponent – a taller opponent, a stronger opponent.”
Her next opponent, Adams, is No. 2 in the world, stronger and will be backed by noisy home fans. But Mary is not worrying about that. “I`m confident and will give my best.”
What are the plans for celebrations tonight as her family is also here? “Nothing today… the business is unfinished. Please let me concentrate,” she said with folded hands.