The curtain on the illustrious career of MC Mary Kom, one of the most successful athletes the country has ever produced, was supposed to be drawn at the Tokyo Olympics irrespective of the results even by her own admission. She knew that now is the right time to call it quits. One of the influencing factors in the decision was her age. Boxing is a combat sports needing rigorous physical and mental training continuously and Mary can still throw some lethal punches and drive her opponents to the corners looking for safety. That she can still be a force to be reckoned with in the amateur boxing circuit was proven by qualifying for the Olympics itself. However, at 39 years she barely clear the age restriction for the competing in the Games and whatever her aspiration is she cannot compete at the next Olympics which is due after at least another three years. With six world championship titles and gold medals at the Commonwealth and Asian Games, Mary has nothing more to prove. Therefore, the Tokyo Olympics was her swansong and she had envisaged to enjoy every moment and take the final bow with dignity at whatever point it ends. But, due to a cruel twist of fate her campaign ended in bitterness and tears of sadness. The duel between two Olympic bronze medalists was an entertaining and a close fight. At the end of the three rounds, she thought she had wrapped up the bout and her campaign for adding another medal to the London Olympics bronze was alive. However, five judges ruled the fight in favor of Ingrit Valencia of Colombia who won the bronze medal at Rio Olympics by the smallest of margin despite winning just one of the three rounds.
Mary Kom confessed that she thought that she was the winner even when she gave her samples for dope testing. The Indian camp also thought that Kom had delivered enough to seal the bout. Only when she saw the tweets from former sports minister Kiren Rijiju she realised that the controversial decision had doomed her Olympic journey. Yes, Valencia began the bout with intent and aggressively attacked Mary Kom from the first bell. She eventually won the first round by a split decision of 4-1. However, even though the next two rounds were evenly contested, Mary Kom won both by identical margins of 3-2. If she had won more rounds, why wasn’t she declared the winner. Evidently, in the cumulative scores of the judges over the three rounds, three of them score more points in favor of Valencia and that was why she was awarded the bout 3-2. Indeed, the way the verdict of the match was reached is liable to create confusion and this is yet another case of questioning the scoring system in boxing. Remember the semi-final match between Sarita Devi and her South Korean opponent Park Jina in the Incheon Asian Games in 2014. Sarita overran Jina in the bout but due to some inexplicable scoring system she was denied a place in the final. She lost by a unanimous decision. Even the television commentators reacted in utter surprised at the decision. There were even rumours that the match was fixed. In both cases the Manipuri boxers were left with no avenue to seek justice as it is a rule in the sports that the decision of the judges cannot be challenged.
Mary Kom is not just a stellar boxer but a woman with a very strong social temperament. At the moment she might be filled with resentment and sadness but within a reasonable passage of time she would have leave behind the misfortune and concentrate on more positive things. Mary Kom has become a sporting icon and her lifetime accomplishment will be hard to emulate. But what will be the consequences for an upcoming athlete if the same thing had happened to him/her. Match fixing is common in sports and more so in boxing. Without any punitive action judges are given the license to swing whimsically according to their interest. The lack of accountability of judges in boxing have led to clarion call to bring major changes in the scoring systems. New president of world boxing body AIBA Umar Kremlev asserted that the boxing bout review system is on the anvil and promised changes to ensure that boxers’ grievances are addressed. Until that time the boxers and supporters have to find ways to come to terms with results which sometimes do not seem unsporting at all.