Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom (born 1 March 1983 ) is an Indian Olympic boxer and incumbent Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha. She is the only woman to become World Amateur Boxing champion for a record six times, the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the first seven World Championships, and the only boxer (male or female) to win eight World Championship medals. Nicknamed Magnificent Mary, she is the only Indian woman boxer to have qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics, competing in the flyweight (51 kg) category and winning the bronze medal. She had also been ranked as No. 1 AIBA World Women’s Ranking Light Flyweight category. She became the first Indian woman boxer to get a Gold Medal in the Asian Games in 2014 at Incheon, South Korea and is the first Indian woman boxer to win gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. She is also the only boxer to become Asian Amateur Boxing Champion for record five times.
On 25 April 2016, the President of India nominated Kom as a member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament. In March 2017, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India, appointed Mary Kom along with Akhil Kumar as national observers for boxing.
After her sixth world title in 2018, the Government of Manipur has conferred on her the title “Meethoi Leima”, loosely translated as great or exceptional lady in a felicitation ceremony held in Imphal on 11 December 2018. At the function, the then Chief Minister of Manipur also declared that the stretch of road leading to the National Games village in Imphal West district, where Kom currently resides, would be named as MC Mary Kom Road. She was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilan award, in 2020.
Kom was born in Kangathei village, Moirang Lamkhai in Churachandpur district of rural Manipur in India. She came from a poor family. Her parents, Mangte Tonpa Kom and Mangte Akham Kom were tenant farmers who worked in jhum fields. They named her Chungneijang. Kom grew up in humble surroundings, helping her parents with farm related chores, going to school and learning athletics initially and later boxing simultaneously. Kom’s father was a keen wrestler in his younger days. She was the eldest of three children – she has a younger sister and brother.
Kom studied at the Loktak Christian Model High School at Moirang up to her sixth standard and thereafter attended St. Xavier Catholic School, Moirang, up to class VIII. During this time, she took a good amount of interest in athletics, especially javelin and 400 metres running. It was at this juncture, Dingko Singh, a fellow Manipuri returned from the 1998 Bangkok Asian games with a gold medal. Kom recollects that this had inspired many youngsters in Manipur to try boxing, and she too thought of giving it a try.
After standard VIII, Kom moved to Adimjati High School, Imphal, for her schooling for class IX and X, but was unable to pass the matriculation exam. Not wishing to reappear for them, she quit her school and gave her examination from NIOS, Imphal and graduation from Churachandpur College.
In school, Kom participated in all types of sports including volleyball, football and athletics. It was the success of Dingko Singh that inspired her to switch from athletics to boxing in 2000. She started her training under her first coach K. Kosana Meitei in Imphal. When she was 15, she took the decision to leave her hometown to study at the Sports academy in the state capital Imphal. In an interview with the BBC, Meitei remembered her as a dedicated hardworking girl with a strong will power, who picked up the basics of boxing quickly. Thereafter she trained under the Manipur State Boxing Coach M. Narjit Singh, at Khuman Lampak, Imphal. Kom kept her interest in boxing a secret from her father, himself an ex-wrestler, as he was concerned that boxing would hurt Kom’s face and spoil her chances of marriage. However, he learnt of it when Kom’s photo appeared in a newspaper after she won the state boxing championship in 2000. After three years, her father began to support Kom’s pursuits in boxing as he grew convinced of her love of boxing.
After her marriage, Mary Kom took a short hiatus from boxing. After she and Ongler had their first two children, Kom again started training. She won a silver medal at the 2008 Asian Women’s Boxing Championship in India and a fourth successive gold medal at the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championship in China, followed by a gold medal at the 2009 Asian Indoor Games in Vietnam.
In 2010, Kom won the gold medal at the Asian Women’s Boxing Championship in Kazakhstan, and at the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championship in Barbados, her fifth consecutive gold at the championship. She competed in Barbados in the 48 kg weight category, after AIBA had stopped using the 46 kg class. In the 2010 Asian Games, she competed in the 51 kg class and won a bronze medal. In 2011, she won gold in the 48 kg class at the Asian Women’s Cup in China.
On 3 October 2010, she, along with Sanjay and Harshit Jain, had the honour of bearing the Queen’s Baton in its opening ceremony run in the stadium for the 2010 Commonwealth Games of Delhi. She did not compete, however, as women’s boxing was not included in the Commonwealth Games.
The only major international event, that she had not seen a medal before was in Commonwealth Games, as her category Light flyweight was never included in the games till 2018 Commonwealth Games where as expected she earned the gold medal gracefully in the Women’s light flyweight 48 kg on 14 April 2018.
On 24 November 2018, she created history by becoming the first woman to win 6 World Championships, achieving this feat at the 10th AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships held in New Delhi, India.
Kom, who had previously fought in the 46 and 48 kg categories, shifted to the 51 kg category after the world body decided to allow women’s boxing in only three weight categories eliminating the lower weight classes.
At the 2012 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championship, Kom was competing not just for the championship itself but also for a place at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the first time women’s boxing had featured as an Olympic sport. She was defeated in the 51 kg semi-finals by Nicola Adams of the UK, but did succeed in getting a bronze medal. She was the only Indian woman to qualify for boxing event, with Laishram Sarita Devi narrowly missing a place in the 60 kg class.
Kom was accompanied to London by her mother. Kom’s coach Charles Atkinson could not join her at the Olympic Village as he didn’t possess an International Boxing Association (AIBA) 3 Star Certification, which is mandatory for accreditation. She had all her luggage and passport stolen on the way to the selection camp in Bangkok, Thailand for her first Asian Women’s Boxing Championships. The first Olympic round was held on 5 August 2012, with Kom defeating Karolina Michalczuk of Poland 19-14 in the third women’s boxing match ever to be fought at the Olympics. In the quarter-final, the following day, she defeated Maroua Rahali of Tunisia with a score of 15-6. She faced Nicola Adams of UK in the semi-final on 8 August 2012 and lost the bout 6 points to 11. However, she stood third in the competition and garnered an Olympic bronze medal. In recognition, the Manipur Government awarded her Rs 50 lakhs and two acres of land in a cabinet meeting held on 9 August 2012.
Though keen on representing India at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Kom was not able to qualify for the event. She continues to pursue the sport and train for the same, and is preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Super Fight League
Kom appeared on the final episode of the Super Fight League‘s mixed martial arts reality show – SFL Challengers. During this time Kom was in talks with owners Raj Kundra and Sanjay Dutt to work with the SFL in some manner other than being a fighter.
- Gold – 1st Women Nat. Boxing Championship, Chennai 6-12.2.2001
- The East Open Boxing Champ, Bengal 11-14 December 2001
- 2nd Sr World Women Boxing Championship, New Delhi 26-30 December 2001
- National Women Sort Meet, N. Delhi 26-30 December 2001
- 32nd National Games, Hyderabad 2002
- 3rd Sr World Women Boxing Champ, Aizawl 4-8.3.2003
- 4th Sr WWBC, Kokrajar, Assam 24-28 February 2004
- 5th Sr WWBC, Kerala 26-30 December 2004
- 6th Sr WWBC, Jamshedpur 29 November-3.12.2005
- 10th WNBC, Jamshedpur lost QF by 1-4 on 5 October 2009
Awards and recognitions
Mary Kom set a new standard in amateur boxing without ever competing in professional boxing. In 2015, Kom became the first amateur to surpass several professional athletes in India in earnings, endorsements and awards. She is the first amateur athlete to win the Padma Bhushan.
- National awards
- Padma Vibhushan (Sports), 2020
- Padma Bhushan (Sports), 2013
- Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, 2009
- Padma Shri (Sports), 2006
- Arjuna Award (Boxing), 2003
- Other awards and recognition
- The International Boxing Association (AIBA) awarded Mary Kom with the first AIBA Legends awards for “promising boxing career”
- The International Boxing Association (AIBA) announced Mary Kom as the brand ambassador for 2016 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships
- People of the Year- Limca Book of Records, 2007
- CNN-IBN & Reliance Industries‘ Real Heroes Award 14.4. 2008 Mon
- Pepsi MTV Youth Icon 2008
- Magnificent Mary, AIBA 2008
- International Boxing Association‘s Ambassador for Women’s Boxing 2009 (TSE 30 July 2009 Thur)
- Sportswoman of the year 2010, Sahara Sports Award
- Olympians for Life by WOA.
- Honorary Doctorate degree (D.Litt) from North-Eastern Hill University on 29 March 2016 and (DPhil) from Kaziranga University on 14 January 2019
- For the bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics
- ‘Meethoileima’ title, Manipur Govt. (2018)
Media and popular culture
Kom is married to the footballer Karung Onkholer (Onler). Kom first met her husband in 2000 after her luggage was stolen while travelling by train to Bangalore. In New Delhi while on her way to the National Games in Punjab she met Onkholer who was studying law at Delhi University. Onkholer was the president of the North East students body and helped Kom. They became friends and thereafter began dating each other. After four years they were married in 2005.
Association with social causes
Kom is an animal rights activist, and supporter of PETA India, starring in an ad to call for an end to the use of elephants in circuses. “Circuses are cruel places for animals where they are beaten and tortured. As a mother, I can imagine what animals go through when their children are taken away from them to forcefully perform in circuses. It’s sad,” Kom has been quoted in the media.
Kom has also backed PETA India’s humane education campaign, Compassionate Citizen. She has written a letter to the education ministers of states and union territories across India requesting that the programme be incorporated into official school curriculums. In an interview in the Times of India she was quoted as saying, “One of the best ways to knock out cruelty to animals is to teach compassion to young people. Animals need us in their corner. With violence seemingly all around us, it is more important than ever that we teach lessons of respect and kindness in the classroom.”