Racing against time to get fit, six-time world champion boxer MC Mary Kom is targeting the Asian Games as her swansong in the ring before she is "forced" to retire next year. (More Sports News)
The veteran pugilist, who had torn her anterior cruciate ligament after twisting her left knee during the Commonwealth Games selection trials last year, underwent a reconstructive surgery to repair the ACL tear in August.
"What happened during the Commonwealth Games trials was very unfortunate. I suffered a major injury and I had to undergo a surgery," Mary said at the unveiling of the Indian team jersey ahead of the women's World Championship.
"I'm trying to come back soon. Because I have only this year, next year I'll be forced to retire. So this year I want to compete in any competition before the retirement."
According to the rules, the maximum participation age for a boxer is 40 years and the Manipuri will turn 41 in November.
"I don't want to retire at all. I want to compete for the next five years, but above 40, we can't compete, that is the rule."
"My main (target) is the Asian Games, hopefully I will recover by then. I will have time for preparation also. It is my dream to compete once this year before retirement."
The Asian Games, which were postponed last year, are set to be held from September 23 to October 8 this year.
However, in order to be selected for the marquee event, the London Olympics bronze medallist will have to go through the new selection process, which requires a boxer to go through an evaluation test in the national camp.
"My recovery is going very well. Very soon I'll be able to run and train. I'm trying my level best. If I'm able to compete then I will try to beat the boxers to get selection.
"But if I don't get fit by the Asian Games then I want to compete in any other international competition once."
Boxing Federation of India President Ajay Singh said, "We will fully support her recovery process and her desire to box again and from our side, we will try to give her a wonderful send-off."
The Asian Games is also a qualifying event for the 2024 Olympics and if Mary wins then she will have earned a quota for the Paris Games where she will not be eligible to participate due to her age.
"Maybe the IBA president will allow me to compete (at the Olympics)," she jokingly commented.
Asked if she plans to turn pro post-retirement, Mary said she hasn't decided yet.
"Pro is also not easy. But the easy part is in one year there are only two or one competition and the money is more. Amateur and pro are different."
WANT 4 MEDALS FROM INDIA AT THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
The multiple-time World Championship gold medallist will not compete in this edition due to her recovery from the injury, but she will serve as the event's brand ambassador alongside Bollywood actor Farhan Akhtar.
Having delivered year after year, Mary hopes the Indian contingent can bag three gold medals at home.
"I think India will win at least three golds. Since last many years, our girls are performing very well in international championship. This time we are hosting so why not," said Mary, who won gold the previous two times India hosted the event in 2006 and 2018.
The BFI has announced hefty prize money for the tournament, with the gold medallist set to get USD 100,000, silver-medal winner USD 50,000 and bronze medallist USD 25,000.
But Mary warned the boxers to focus on their performance and not go after the money.
"You prove yourself in the ring, and money will come to you. If you are money-minded, you may not perform well. Attitude, arrogance and money can affect your training and preparation. Our performance should not suffer."