By Shikha Sreenivas
Boxer L Sarita Devi began her professional career with a glamorous win against Hungary’s Zsofia Bedo in the Indian Boxing Coucil (IBC) Fight Night at the Khuman Lampak Stadium, in Imphal on Sunday.
For days before the match, Devi and Bedo were caught in a verbal spat, of sorts. According to the Press Trust of India, Bedo told reporters, “When you search (on the internet) for boxer Sarita, you find pictures of a lady in tears. I am going to add more such images to the internet – trust me.”
Bedo was referring to the time when Devi stirred up a storm by tearfully refusing to accept a bronze medal in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, and accusing the judges of being biased to locals because the declared South Korea’s Park Ji-Na the winner on points in their semi-final bout. This move earned Devi a one year ban by the sport’s world federation.
Devi was hurt by Bedo’s verbal challenge. She told reporters that she stayed away from her three-year-old son for four weeks so she could pay attention to her rigorous training. She has been training with the American coach Joe Clough, who has also trained Evander Holyfield, Jonny Bumphus, Sugar Ray Seales and Rocky Lockridge. He once said that he sees the next Floyd Mayweather rising from India.
Bedo has been in 59 pro fights so far, out of which she has won 19. But even though it was just Devi’s debut, she floored her more experienced opponent in the second round. When the win was announced, the two hugged it out, and Devi ran over to her coach and family.
Devi told The New India Express, “I have been boxing for the last 16 years winning medals, bringing laurels to the country in amateur boxing, but as a boxer, it has always been on my mind to try in professional boxing.” She said her immediate target was winning the Asian title, which caused her trouble last time, and then next on her list is fighting for the world title. The 31-year-old boxer has won a gold in the 2006 World Championships and silver in the 2014 Commonwealth Games during her amateur career.
In case you are wondering the rules of pro boxing are very different from amateur boxing. The latter has a maximum of four rounds, while pro boxing can go up to 12. Pro boxing can be much more unsafe, the players are not allowed to wear headguards, and unlike in amateur boxing, the match is not called off if the player is injured or bleeding. In pro boxing, if a player can no longer continue because of an injury, it is considered as a technical knock-out.
Sarita Devi, the Iron Lady of Indian boxing, was declared the “indisputable winner by unanimous decision”.