Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Fist of fury

Tuesday May 1 2007 12:08 IST


Watching Lekha sitting at a desk in the Grant-in-aid monitoring cell of the Finance Department, leafing through the pages of a file, no one would in their wildest thoughts think of her as a boxer-woman. And not just any boxer, but the World Boxing champion in the 70-75 kg weight category.

It was November 24, 2006 that Lekha K C punched out China’s Jincilee to win the world title in a three-round bout.

“It was a tough match in the sense that my opponent had the advantage of height. Tall people have longer arms and can punch from a distance whereas shorter boxers have to go near the opponent to get a punch in,” explained Lekha.

Lekha has been into boxing since 2001, when she moved from athletics and weightlifting to a sport which had very few women participants then. It was the time Lekha was doing her graduation in history at Thottada S N College.

The Physical education director there, P K Jagannathan, was a friend of boxing coach Chandralal at the Sports Authority of India and it was only a matter of time before Lekha landed up at the State boxing camp.

A native of Karippal, Kannur, she was the first woman to bring a gold medal in the sports to Kerala. From the nationals, it was the Asian championship and then the World championship. But then, it was never easy for Lekha with injuries and fractures to her arms and ligament tears in her legs.

“I had two rods in my arms for a long time. It was with the rod that I won the national games at Hyderabad,” said Lekha. And she still has screws in her legs.

“Pain is part of the game. Any game would have it’s own share of injuries,” she said. That’s what she told her parents too, when many of her relatives tried to dissuade her. “My parents were very supportive. To tell you the truth, they didn’t have much of an idea about the sport,” she added.

Lekha has two brothers at home and like any other brother, they still bully her, despite the fact that she is now the World boxing champion. “They tell me that my punch wouldn’t stand against their nadanthallu,” said Lekha with a rueful smile.

What does it feel like to be in a boxing ring? “For any boxer, there will be anxiety and tension. The first 15 seconds we spend observing the opponent. Just by watching their movements we get a preliminary idea if they are aggressive or defensive,” she explained.

Does she feel bad to hit another woman, we ask. “In my case, I generally wait to get hit. Once I get the punch, adrenaline shoots up making me want to punch back harder. But there are times when I have felt real bad, but then if I don’t box properly, my coach would simply fire me,” said Lekha.

Lekha who is still training at SAI, Kollam, travels everyday to and fro from Kollam.

Generally her training sessions are from 6.30 a m to 8.30 a m and from 4.30 p m to 7.15 p m everyday during off-season. Everyday, the coaching sessions are different with running, weight-training, games, step-running and even cross-country races. Action-packed days.

Yet, there are more and more women following Lekha’s footsteps. At SAI, Kollam itself there are 14 students getting all ready for the big boxing ring.


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