Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom, better known as Mary Kom, took to boxing inspired by the success of fellow Manipur pugilist Dingko Singh. She was 16 years old when the fifth national games took place and Dingko impressed one and all. Today, at age 29, she is ranked 4th in the world in the 51 kg women's category and was the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each of the six world championships till the 7th World Championships held at Qinhuangdao, China, where she bowed out in the quarter finals.
Mary Kom is also the only Indian woman boxer to have qualified for the Olympics. Her string of achievements have got her a coveted place on a list of 50 most marketable athletes in the world in British magazine SportsPro. She lists at 38. SportsPro has picked athletes for their marketing potential in the coming three years and has considered factors like age, home market, charisma and value for money. The only other Indian on that list is cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who is ranked 16th.
Ironically, back home in an advertising market that thrives on featuring sporting celebs endorsing brands, India's boxing star features in just a few - herbalife, tag heuer and emami fast relief. She was also one of the six brand ambassadors of CWG 2010.
Right now Mary Kom has her eye on an Olympic medal in London. "I am going to continue to focus on the Olympic gold and will wait to see if the potential that SportsPro has identified can be made to come to fruition after the Olympics," she said matter of fact.
Mary Kom was born on 1st March, 1983. Born to a poor family, she used to work in the fields to help her parents. Her primary education was completed in Christian Mission High School, Loktak. She then changed schools frequently till the X standard. Her higher education was completed from NIOS, Imphal and graduation from Churachandpur College. Mary, though, had always hoped to become an athlete. Boxing was not on her mind till the National Games in Manipur, 1999.
International glory came early, when she won the Asian Women's Championship back to back in 2003 and 2005. She was 18 years old when she won the first National title. At her first AIBA World Women's Boxing Championship in Scranton in 2001 she had to settle for a silver. But the gold rush was round the corner as she won the next championship in Turkey, 2002.
Mary Kom is a mother of twin sons. In 2008, she came back from a two-year maternity break to clinch her fourth boxing gold in World Championships. That instantly won her the name "Magnificent Mary".
In September 2010 she lived up to it, defeating Romanian opponent Seluta Duta, to become the World Boxing champion for a fifth time running. The International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) had selected Ms Mary Kom as one of its three brand ambassadors in a bid to make women's boxing an Olympics programme. The mission was successful, but Mary Kom saw some anxious moments before making the cut for the Olympics, after losing in the quarter final of the World boxing championship this year.
She has been awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, the Arjuna Award as well as the Padma Shri.