Mary Kom, the boxer from Manipur

Rahul Bhattacharya profiles the phenomenal Mary Kom — five-times world champion and mother of two — who has had to battle against far more than just her opponents in the ring. From Intelligent Life magazine:

She is in the ring right now, and to be ringside when Mary Kom is in action is to feel the kinetic heat of boxing. It is molecular. She is padding against a man whom, a little while ago, in his spectacles, sweater and moustache, I took for a government officer. Now, shorn of the first two, he has transformed himself into a provocateur, a matador. He is baiting Mary, taunting her with words and jabs in the face. When their heads come together, their spit and sweat fall on each other, the blazing whites of their eyes are falling into each other’s. Kom is 5ft 2in officially, an inch more in her own estimate, but looks smaller—even more so in her headgear. Small, but taut: a packet of tensile strength.

Her muscles must be on fire. Counting her rounds against the bag, the mirror and the other women at the camp, national- and international-level boxers, she has completed the equivalent of two full-length competition bouts. Those girls were heavier and taller. This is just as well because when women’s boxing debuts at the 2012 Olympics, Mary must play taller opponents, who will have a longer reach. Most of her championship victories have come as a pinweight boxer, 46kg, whereas in London the lightest class, flyweight, is 51kg.

But next to Mary, these other girls were ponderous. Their feet were sluggish, their positioning not so clever. She could fight with her guard down, testing her reflexes by offering them her bare chin as a target, and counter-attacking in angles unfamiliar to boxers who take the orthodox stance. More:

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