The XX Factor

“If My Body Is Fit, I Can Do Anything”

Last month, the International Olympic Committee announced that the 2012 London games would be the first to feature women’s boxing-and India is gunning for the gold. Somini Sengupta reports in the Times today on how the boxing ring “represents a new kind of freedom” for Indian women .

Boxing not only provides financial security-successful Indian athletes are rewarded with “coveted government employment, usually with the police or with the railways”-but, as we know from every sports movie ever committed to celluloid, a stronger sense of self:

For other women, boxing brings less tangible rewards: the confidence to go out on the streets without fear, for instance. Or as a boxer named Usha Nagisetty put it, a chance to be somebody.

“Before boxing, I had nothing,” said Nagisetty, 24, who came to train this summer at another camp, in the central Indian city of Bhopal. “Who is Usha? No one knew. I was fat. I was average in studies. I didn’t think life had anything to offer me.”

Here’s the accompanying slideshow .

Photograph of Indian boxer M.C. Merykom by Findlay Kember/AFP/Getty Images.