Debutant pugilist Manju Rani has beaten a top seed and guaranteed herself at least the 48 kg category bronze at the Women’s World Championship in Russia. She entered the semifinals by defeating Kim Hyang Mi of North Korea with a 4-1. It will be a maiden medal for her at the Worlds.

In a tactful performance, a confident sixth-seeded Manju shocked top-seeded Kim Hyang-Mi in 48kg division. Kim had won bronze in the 2018 edition of the World Championships that was held in New Delhi. Manju, 19, is now ready to face her next opponent, Chuthamat Raksat of Thailand. The young boxer might not have a huge reservoir of experience but the confidence comes from within. She gathers strength from her mother Ishwati Devi and her late father Bhim Sen, who had died of stomach cancer nine years ago.

Key Takeaways

  • Indian women boxers have assured India at least four bronze medals at the World Championships.
  • Mary Kom, Maju Rani, Jamuna Boro, and Lovlina Borgohain advanced to semifinals at Worlds.
  • It is Mary Kom’s eighth medal at the World Championships, thus becoming the first boxer in the history of World Championships to achieve that feat.

Father’s death gave her strength

Not everyone can turn a tragedy into strength. Coming from a village called Rithal, in Haryana, Manju lost her father due to health issues. Bhim was a Border Security Force (BSF) havaldar. After his death, Manju took up boxing and never looked back. “I always loved sports. I used to play kabaddi and go for runs at the village track. When my father died in 2010, I had a tough time dealing with the loss. Boxing helped me deal with my father’s death. It kept my mind away from the tragedy. I am sure my father is watching my bout from heavens,” Manju told The Indian Express.

In her village Rithal, Manju would train in the mud pit with other girls. In 2012, boxing coach Sube Singh Beniwal, father of the famed Poonam and Preeti Beniwal, visited her place and was highly impressed with her skills.

How mother empowered her

After her father’s death, her mother Ishwati took up all the responsibilities to give her children normal lives. She had to take care of Manju and her four siblings and cousins whose father was unemployed. “All we had was my husband’s pension of Rs 9000. There was no one to work at our small farm. Once Manju started boxing, and later started speaking about winning gold medals, we had hope,” recalls Ishwati.

READ: What Makes Mary Kom’s Life So Inspirational, Every Single Day

One day, one of Manju’s father’s friend, Sahab Singh, had set up an athletic track to encourage sports in the village. After watching some boxing videos, he convinced 20 girls from the village to take the sport. Manju was one of them. “The kids would run around the fish pond. She was very committed and very serious about the sport,” remembers Singh.

Boxing happened accidentally

In her village Rithal, Manju would train in the mud pit with other girls. In 2012, boxing coach Sube Singh Beniwal, father of the famed Poonam and Preeti Beniwal, visited her place and was highly impressed with her skills. So much so that Beniwal would start traveling to the village to train Manju and other trainees.

“The first day I met Manju, I was impressed with her dedication. She had a swift feet movement and her sharp movements were her strength. I visited her home the same day and told her mother about letting the youngster pursue the sport. All these years, Manju had to face the lack of finances but she never showed it. Even though we did not have a ring at the village, Manju would train in mud for hours,” shares Beniwal.

Coached under Beniwal, Manju started winning state championships and later went on to win the 48kg gold at the Nationals in Vijayanagarand and qualify for the national camp.

“When she first came to the national camp, we knew that she is a good boxer but we had to work on a lot of things. We worked a lot on her technique. It was her determination, which makes her different from others,” recalls Mohammed Ali Qamar, Indian women’s team head coach and 2002 CWG gold medallist.

Achievements so far

Starting this year, Rani’s strong punches won us a silver medal at Stranja Memorial Boxing Championship. She then clinched the bronze medal at Thailand Open before winning a bronze medal at India Open.

Talking about her latest conquest, Qamar shares, “The Korean boxer was taller but Manju struck clear punches. Mi has straight punches and uses her left punch to counter. But Manju blocked that and didn’t give her opponent to counter. Manju’s cross right punches was the key against Mi. It was a close bout. Raksat’s strength is that she uses a combination of punches while being close and Manju has to take advantage of her height and play from long range.”

Fantastic four

Indian women boxers have assured India at least four bronze medals at the World Championships. Mary Kom, Maju Rani, Jamuna Boro, and Lovlina Borgohain advanced to semifinals at Worlds.

Feature Image Credit: IANS

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