Ring Queens: Sarjubala’s & Urvashi’s journey

By Indira Laisram
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Sarjubala Devi and Urvashi Singh // Pic supplied

You might think boxing is quite straightforward or not for women, but there is more to it than meets the eye.

The journeys of Urvashi Singh and Sarjubala Devi provide a revealing insight into their journeys, marked by a blend of challenges and triumphs. Making their debut in Melbourne for the DJMC Count Down to the Middle East Crown Series 6 earlier this month, the duo boldly confronted prevailing stereotypes linked to women in the sport.

Moments after their Melbourne victories at the event, The Indian Sun caught up with Urvashi and Sarjubala to delve into their experiences, strategies, and the dedication that has positioned them as formidable athletes both nationally and internationally. Let’s explore their journey.

SARJUBALA SAMJETSABAM DEVI

At about 50 kgs, Sarjubala Devi possesses a petite frame, yet she delivers effective punches. Her recent victory in Melbourne, where she clinched a unanimous decision against Thailand’s Ranee Klinratree in the Flyweight category (her Third International Professional Fight), showcases her prowess in the professional realm.

One of the most recognised women’s amateur boxers of all time, Sarjubala has a strong claim to fame. She is India’s four-time national champion and has represented India in numerous international tournaments, earning medals in almost every competition she has participated in. Additionally, she held the World No. 2 ranking in 2014 in her weight category.

Sarjubala Devi // Pic supplied

Last year, she made the transition to the professional arena with the goal of becoming the first woman from Manipur, a state known for producing sports stars, to hold a title.

So how did boxing come into her life? “I loved sports in general as a kid and was more of a tomboy. I got involved in the local sports club, which had a boxing academy, so I used to play there.

“My boxing journey began at the age of 13 in 2004 while I was in the 8th grade. By the time I turned 17, I underwent a transition to amateur boxing, where I set several records and earned world championship medals,” says Sarjubala.

From 2004 to 2021, she participated as an amateur boxer under the jurisdiction of the International Boxing Association (AIBA). However, during the Asian Games in Indonesia in 2018, Sarjubala sustained a shoulder injury, including a ligament tear. Despite undergoing an operation, the procedure was unsuccessful, leading to a loss of time.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic further complicated her recovery journey. Subsequently, she underwent a second surgery in January this year. It has been 10 months since the second surgery, and after overcoming these challenges, she embarked on her current fight. Unfortunately, it also prevented her from realising the dream of competing in the Olympics by missing the chance to qualify at the Asian Games.

However, Sarubala is undeterred. Now at the age of 30, she aspires to carve a niche for herself in professional boxing, aiming to become the first from Manipur to hold a professional boxer’s title. The shift to the professional realm also means relentless hard work – juggling both mornings and evenings for training.

Sarjubala Devi (right) // Pic supplied

Sarjubala completed her graduation in 2013 but couldn’t pursue a master’s degree due to time constraints between her practice and job. The financial resources were mainly dedicated to her training.

Fortunately, Sarjubala has found unwavering support. In 2022, the Manipur government offered her a police job, and according to regulations, she holds the rank of Inspector of Police. Given her lifelong admiration for the police uniform, she joyfully accepted the position offered by the Manipur government.

“The police department is kind enough to give me time for training. Without their support, I wouldn’t have been able to come to Australia,” she says.

“Manipur has yet to see someone holding a professional boxer’s title. While in the amateur arena, we proudly have figures like Mary Kom and Sarita Devi. In the professional realm, I aspire to create a name for myself. Qualifying based on my strong amateur record, my dedicated manager, Roshan, is diligently working towards this goal.”

Winning this title is not just a dream; it’s her unequivocal aim.

URVASHI SINGH

In the heart of Delhi’s Mayur Vihar, a gritty young woman is challenging norms and leaving her mark in the world of professional boxing. Urvashi Singh, a 27-year-old dynamo whose journey from a curious college student to India’s number one in WBC Asia and WBC International has been nothing short of inspiring.

Urvashi’s introduction to boxing was quite unconventional. “I didn’t know what boxing is all about as a sport. As a child, I was into fights and playing with boys, like a naughty kid. There was no boxing in school, just normal games, and I used to take part. In college, I joined boxing in 2012. That’s how I started,” she recalls with a grin.

Her foray into the ring began with an inter-college event in 2013, where she clinched gold in her first fight. The taste of victory became the driving force, and Urvashi decided to commit herself entirely to the sport.

Urvashi Singh // Pic supplied

“I played amateur till 2015. Financial problems at home forced me to take a break, but the struggle phase is sort of over now. I did jobs, settled myself, and restarted my training,” she explains.

The road to success wasn’t easy. Urvashi faced financial constraints, and her family, belonging to the Jat community, initially didn’t encourage women in sports. “Now my parents support; before, they didn’t. In our society, we don’t encourage women to go into sports. I am the only one among my family in boxing and now at a good level. I am number one in India, WBC Asia, WBC International…,” she proudly states.

Reigniting her career was made possible by Roshan Nathanial, who took on the role of a mentor. Urvashi’s regimen involves six hours of training daily, focusing on various aspects of the sport.

“I train morning and evening for six hours. I don’t work now. It’s not possible with a job. Shadow boxing, gloves, technical training, upper sparring, upper strength,” she details.

Urvashi’s journey is a testament to her resilience. Facing tough opponents like WBC America’s Kc Marton, she emerged victorious, though not without challenges. “My tough and good opponent was from WBC America, Kc Marton. I won. I lost due to commission. We were in Dubai last,” she reflects.

Urvashi Singh // Pic supplied

Stepping into Melbourne for the first time, she defended her WBC International title beating Thailand’s Thanchanok Phanan.

Urvashi now senses a changing perception of boxing. “Now people’s way of looking at boxing is changing. Because professional boxing is becoming big. Everyone knows what is cricket, not boxing. When we had the world champion for women in amateur, a lot of people came to watch. People realised women also play and show their talent on a big level,” she notes.

Despite societal expectations, Urvashi remains resolute in her commitment to the sport. “My family is now insisting that I get married. I said no, not now. I plan to play for some more years. I want to be world no 1. I am world no 10 now. I want all the belts up to 25, all in my house,” she declares with determination.

“I plan to play for some more years. I want to be world no 1. I am world no 10 now. I want all the belts up to 25, all in my house,” she says.


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