Manju Rani a resident of Rithal in Haryana, started boxing at the age of 12, in 2010, after the death of her father due to stomach cancer. Manju, is the winner of a silver medal at AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championship 2019 in Russia. She scripted history at the tournament by becoming the first Indian woman boxer in 18 years to enter the finals in her maiden appearance. She was also the lone Indian to enter the finals of the tournament this year. In her village, Manju would train in the mud pit with other girls. She practised boxing to vent out her frustration. It soon became a passion and since then her mission in life has been to be the best in the world. She first used to play Kabaddi and go for runs in the village track before settling for boxing.
Manju’s mother, Ishwati Devi, is her strength. After her husband’s demise, Ishwati tried to give her children a normal upbringing, however, mo
Talking to SheThePeople.TV, 20-year-old Manju, shares how she is inspired by legendary Mary Kom. When Kom won the silver at World Championships in 2001, Manju was just a year old. Now she is sharing the spotlight with her. Here’s the secret to her success.
Can you describe your childhood and what inspired you to take up boxing?
We are five siblings (four sisters and one brother) in Rithal. My father passed away in 2010 and we had to face a lot of financial issues after his death. This tragedy also caused anger problems in me so my family encouraged me to practice boxing. Eventually, an anger management technique turned into passion and then my mission in life.
What kind of social stereotypes did you face while growing up?
I have been blessed with a very supportive environment for boxing and haven’t faced any social stereotypes.
You competed alongside great boxers from around the world during AIBA Championship. What differences have you noticed playing domestic and international?
Since I am a vegetarian, I feel getting a good vegetarian diet is a challenge during international competitions. Rest, I don’t feel there’s much difference between domestic and international competitions.
What do you expect from our boxers in this year’s Olympics?
I think our boxers are putting in their best efforts. Looking at their ongoing training in Italy, I am very positive about India bagging medals in boxing in the upcoming Olympics games.
What are your thoughts on industrial legends who competed with/against you? How can Indian players be inspired by them?
Mary Kom is my idol. I see her training in the camp and she thoroughly enjoys her training. Her techniques are unique; I think we all should follow such legends and learn from them.
How is the boxing scene in India for women, especially in rural areas like yours? Why isn’t it a popular sport among women in your state?
Boxing was not a very famous sport earlier, but now there’s a lot of competition. More and more women are taking up boxing. I think it is getting more attention in India as there were a lot of medals that the country was able to grab in the past few years. Also, there are good career opportunities in boxing and for women it is also helpful in self-defence.
There are good career opportunities in boxing and for women it is also helpful in self-defence.
Now that you are in an elite league, how have you modified your game for better results?
I think training tours and training with international players has helped me modify my game for better results.
How do you deal with the growing expectations?
I am very fortunate to have won a silver medal in the AIBA. I will continue to remain focused on my game to win more medals for the country.
What are you preparing for next?
I am preparing for the Commonwealth Games next year and also for the 2024 Olympics.
READ: Look Beyond Cricket, Our Sportswomen Are Winning Golds!
How is your family taking all the spotlight given to you now? Are they supportive of your career choices?
They are very happy. They have, especially my mother has been very supportive of my career.
What are your biggest challenges you are facing now?
I don’t see any challenges. I have been lucky to have a supportive environment, be it at home, training centre or even my university. I got a 100% scholarship while joining and they have been very supportive in allowing me leaves to prepare for boxing, in providing me equipment or training support whenever needed.
How can Indian authorities improve their facilities/infrastructure in order to appreciate the culture of sports?
Indian authorities are doing a great job for boxers in India. However, I feel that while there are great facilities for sports achievers who have won national or international medals, there’s a need for greater support for the sportspersons before they win a medal. This will bring more athletes to the forefront and ultimately more medals for the country.
There’s a need for greater support for the sportspersons before they win a medal. This will bring more athletes to the forefront and ultimately more medals for the country.
Mental health is as important as physical health and one needs to look at both with regards to being fit. What can athletes do on a regular basis to develop and maintain it?
I truly believe that mental health is as important as physical health. For me, practising more and more helps me to keep me mentally strong.
READ: Sarita Devi Is Running For First-Ever AIBA Athletes’ Commission
How was your initial experience in the training centre? How has your coach helped you perform well overall?
I have been very fortunate to have amazing coaches in my journey of boxing. I didn’t have the resources to go for professional training in the beginning. When I started boxing, my uncle, Sahab Singh Narwal trained me. He has been of immense support to kick start my career in boxing. He is a national level Kabaddi champion and I learnt the basics from him. He even trains me today, whenever I am visiting my hometown.
My university coach at Lovely Professional University, Liladhar has also played a vital role in improving my game. He provided me with strenuous training to be up to the mark. The university helped me with the right sports equipment and diet.
I won the gold medal in national level boxing competition in 2018 and then got a chance to join the India Camp training centre. I had a great experience in India camp. I am being trained by Ali Qumar, my Chief Coach. He is a gold medallist in Commonwealth Games.