New Delhi: Indian boxing star Mary Kom mourned her “inspiration” Muhammad Ali in a tearful interview on Saturday, after news of the legendary boxer’s death was confirmed by his family.
The 74-year-old sports hero, who had battled Parkinson’s disease for decades, died Friday in a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.
“Most of the boxers are inspired by him,” Kom told a television channel.
“Me also, I was inspired by him to take up boxing, his struggles and the hard work he took in his boxing career,” she said, her voice breaking audibly.
Kom, 33, is a former five-time world champion and one of India’s most successful sports stars.
She is reportedly seeking wildcard entry to the Rio Olympics after devastating fans by losing a crucial qualifying bout in Kazakhstan last month.
“We feel very, very sad that he is no more. We will always remember his contribution to boxing… I will always remember him and keep him in my heart,” she said.
A boxing official told AFP this week that India has asked the sport’s world association for a wildcard spot at the Olympics after Kom lost in the second round at the Women’s World Boxing Championships.
A mother of three, she hails from a poor family in the long-neglected and remote northeastern state of Manipur.
Her life inspired a Bollywood biopic in 2014 called “Mary Kom”.