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Sarita Devi combats the perils of the drug in her village through boxing

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Introduction

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Laishram Sarita Devi was one of the country’s best female boxers, placed in the same bracket as Mary Kom. The 40-year-old boxer from the village Mayang Imphal, a few kilometers from Imphal in Manipur has also the prestigious feathers of gold and a bronze medal in two World Championships, respectively. Along with this, Sarita also won silver medals in the Asian Boxing Championship in Bangkok as well as the Commonwealth games in 2014 in Glasgow.

Goodbye of Sarita Devi

Sarita Devi was training at the national preparatory camp in New Delhi for the last time in 2019 before the assault of Covid-19 forced her to leave and return to the village. Since then Sarita has not gone back to the national preparatory camp and she disclosed while speaking over the phone from her village,

“You can say informally that I have said goodbye to my career. I do not intend to resume professional boxing any more.”

The Reminiscences of Sarita Devi

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Sarita had not only to survive dire financial distress in her childhood and during her youth, but her upbringing was also at a time when the common people of Manipur were always terrorized due to insurgency. Sarita still remembers those days when she also had helped the rebels on quite a few occasions by supplying guns, food, and medicines to the secret places at great risk. Sarita also wanted to join the rebels but was strongly reprimanded by her brother. She said,

“I did not take meals for one week after being beaten by my elder brother and then decided to join boxing. The courage or bravery developed from that dreadful past.

Commenting on her last 20-year journey of boxing, Sarita said,

“I have sweet memories mostly in my career except for a few sad incidents. You cannot always win and earn happiness in life. So, I am happy. The only regret I feel sometimes is that I do not have any Olympics medals in my kitty.”

No Regret for Refusing Medal in Asian Games

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Sarita Devi protested against the referee’s misjudgment that forced her to earn a bronze medal in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games. The controversy also forced Sarita to face a 1-year ban from professional boxing. Still, after seven years the boxer has no regret for what she did.

Sarita said,

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“I protested against faulty judgment. I deserved the gold medal in that Asian Games and I obtained a lot of support from my fans and a section of the boxing fraternity. If you close your mouth even after being a victim then it will continue every time. So I protested by refusing the bronze medal. I still have no regret for that incident.”

Sarita Devi’s Second Innings

Sarita had thought of starting coaching long back, almost 10 years ago after she lost in the qualifiers for the London Olympics in 2012. There was a visible perspective behind the reason. Sarita explained,

“After losing in the Olympics qualifiers I returned home, and stayed there for a month. I observed at that time that a lot of young boys were running their life behind drugs. As our village is situated at the border area, drug dealings were a common issue. Then only I thought I could try to bring those boys into normal and healthy life through boxing and I started teaching the game. I started with only 10 boys at that time. Now I have 100 students including boys and girls.”

The Infrastructure

The Manipur state government presented an apartment to Sarita Devi after she became a world champion. In a bid to construct a residential boxing school, Sarita had sold that and built up the residential school. Along with two boxing rings, and a gymnasium, Sarita has also built up a hostel where 60-bed accommodation is there.

Sarita expressed a huge attribute to Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ), the organization that was founded by Prakash Padukone and Geet Sethy for its extensive support of Sarita’s boxing academy.

She said,

“They have been helping me a lot. I also have plans to earn a coaching degree from abroad and OGQ has already promised me it will come forward with financial assistance when I decide to go. I have one and only mission which is to produce boxers who will bring international medals.”

Incidentally, Sarita Devi’s tutelage has already produced 10 boxers who have started showing impressive performance in the national and international level competitions. Kunjarani Devi is one of them who is participating in the ongoing World Championship in Spain.


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