The 36-year-old six-time world champion prevailed 9-1 over the 23-year-old former junior world champion and at the end of it all, there was no customary handshake and the senior pro also rebuffed an attempted hug from her younger rival.
“I don’t like this, you drag my name into an unnecessary controversy and then you try to posture. Yes, I didn’t hug her, what’s the big deal? I did not start this, I never said I will not fight you in a trial then why did you drag my name,” Mary Kom told PTI referring to Zareen’s open letter to Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju specifically demanding a trial bout against the Manipuri legend.
“I am also a human being, I also get irritated. Can’t I get angry when my credentials are questioned like this? And this wasn’t the first time. It has happened so many times with me despite the fact that no other Indian boxer has achieved what I have achieved,” she added referring to past selection controversies in which she has been challenged without much success by the likes of former Commonwealth Games bronze-winner Pinki Jangra.
“Perform and take my spot, who is stopping you? But don’t talk big without that. If you do that, I will hit back. Why was this made a media trial about me?” she fumed.
The controversy first erupted when Boxing Federation of India President Ajay Singh, after the world championships, stated that Mary Kom’s bronze was good enough for her to get an exemption from trials, despite a laid down selection policy which offered direct berths in Olympic qualifiers to only the gold and silver-winners.
“Did I make that announcement? Whose fault was it, was it mine? I didn’t even know about it, I was told and it surprised me. Because mentally, I was prepared for a trial at that time,” she asserted.
“Once the trial was announced, did I say I won’t come? Then why was my name taken time and again?” she asked.
The multiple-time Asian gold-medallist, who was given the moniker ‘Magnificent Mary’ by the International Boxing Association (AIBA), also responded to questions on her refusal to appear for trials ahead of the world championships in October. She was picked on the basis of her international performances, which included gold medals in India Open (May) and the President’s Cup in Indonesia (July).
“I was told by the two High Performance Directors Santiago Nieva and Raffaele Bergamasco that the selection would be done on the basis of our performances. I asked for an exemption based on that. You ask them, I didn’t make that policy,” she said.
“If they are not consistent with the policy, it is not my fault. Will that also be held against me?” she asked.
Questions finally shifted to her plans going forward and her mood changed for the better.
“I will give my best wherever I compete. If I get a medal, great. Everyone says that Tokyo Olympics is my last. But I will see how my body is. In any case, I will always be attached to boxing, it is my life,” she said.