Saturday, September 19, 2015

Interview: Taking over from Mary Kom will be exciting and challenging: Sarjubala Devi

There is little doubt that boxing lovers will hear a lot about Sarjubala Devi in the coming years – her precocious talents have always come to the fore whenever she made the most of the ‘limited’ opportunities she got to represent the country as she was forced on the sidelines in the light flyweight category over the last few years largely owing to the presence of her idol MC Mary Kom. The 22-year-old Manipuri girl, who won a silver medal in the 2014 World Championships – her first senior international tournament is gearing up for bigger things. Daughter of a water tanker driver, the diminutive pugilist, who has won the senior nationals twice so far, is current training in Kerala. Nicknamed ‘Punching Machine’ by her coaches, Sarjubala spoke in an exclusive interview.

Q You are considered the next big thing in Indian women’s boxing after iconic MC Mary Kom. Your thoughts.

I really don’t know about the expectations from the boxing lovers of the country, but Mary didi is my role model and it is because of her exploits in the ring that I got inspired to take up boxing way in 2004 in Imphal.

Q You box in the light flyweight category (45-48 kg), which is not an Olympic weight category as summer Olympics has only three categories.

Well, I’m trying to do my best in the light flyweight category and have been winning medals for the country whenever I have got an opportunity. I won the gold in the 2015 President’s Cup in Indonesia as well as a bronze medal in the 2015 Asian Championships in China. As for Olympics, I will take it as it comes.

Q The 2016 AIBA World’ Women Boxing Championship will be held in February – the event assumes extra significance as it serves as a qualifier for the 2016 Rio Olympics?

I will certainly taking part in the selection trials for the 2016 Olympics despite knowing that Mary didi and Pinki Jangra have a better qualifying chance than me. At least, I can gain experience from the trials as my main focus is on winning a gold medal at the 2020 Olympics.

Q Mary Kom has said that she will quit competitive boxing after 2016 Olympics as she wants to focus on coaching youngsters in Manipur.

Mary didi has achieved so much for India and I know I will get a lot more opportunities in my weight category once she retires. I hope I can carry forward her exploits in this weight category in future.

Q You won the 2011 World Youth Championship in Turkey and did not get opportunities at the senior level due to the presence of Mary Kom and you won a silver medal in the 2014 AIBA World Women’s Boxing Championship in Korea.

It is easy to get frustrated but I took all this ‘waiting’ positively because Mary didi is my idol and how can one feel bad about one’s idol. I have huge respect for her and I have learnt a lot during this period. Taking over from a champion will be exciting and challenging.

Q You beat Nazym Kyzaibay of
Kazakhstan in the final of the 2011 World Youth Championship in Turkey – a girl who beat you in the final of the 2014 AIBA World Women’s Boxing Championship and denied you a gold medal.

I think Nazym Kyzaibay got more international exposure than me as I kept waiting on the sidelines. She won the bronze medal at the 2012 AIBA World Women’s Boxing Championship. I beat her at the 2011 World Youth Championship but at the 2014 AIBA World Women’s Boxing Championship I thought she was better prepared than me with the kind of international experience she gained.

Q As a boxer what do you think are your strengths and weakness?

I think my power-packed punches are my strong points and even my coaches call me a ‘Punching Machine’. As for weakness, I don’t have a great height and always have to work extra hard against boxers who are taller.

Q Tell us about your family?

My father works as a driver of a water tanker in Imphal – I have one younger sister who expired a few years back and one brother. I want my boxing to keep them happy.

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