~ Posted by Kassia St Clair, July 4th 2012

It's not often that the cover of a culture and lifestyle magazine hinges on the outcome of a fight between two women in northern China. Especially when neither woman is being considered for the cover. But that is what happened with Intelligent Life's latest issue.

The lead story for our July/August issue was Rahul Bhattacharya's profile of Mary Kom, five-times world pinweight boxing champion, mother of two, and strong contender for an Olympic gold medal this year.

All was going to plan until Kom unexpectedly crashed out in the quarter-finals of the 2012 World Championships in Qinhuangdao. As Bhattacharya reports, Kom was in a new weight category and was facing new and bigger opponents. She lost 11-13 to the number two seed, Britain's Nicola Adams. Under the qualifying rules, her only chance of getting to the Olympics now was if Adams won the semi-final against the Russian, Elena Savelyeva.

Kom decided there was no point in worrying about something that was not in her hands. She had other plans. Bhattacharya writes that Kom's husband waited nervously back home in Manipur, India. "In China, Mary shopped recklessly." 

We weren't quite as philosophical in the offices of Intelligent Life. Savelyeva, like Adams, seemed like a tough cookie. Both had boxed in the 54kg category before dropping down to 51kg. Both were medal winners, and both had won decisive victories in many of their previous matches. Clearly Adams was no pushover—in 2009 she sustained a career-threatening back injury and was unable to move for three months but was back winning matches in less that a year. But what, we asked ourselves, if the old injury flared up again during her next match?

The International Boxing Association were screening the match live on their YouTube channel. At 11am the editorial team huddled around my computer to watch. None of us quite understood the rules. All we could do was ooh each time either woman scored a direct hit and nervously wait for the bout to finish and the scores to be announced. Less that 10 minutes later we were cheering: Adams had won 11-6. Mary Kom would be at London 2012—and on our July/August cover.

Kassia St Clair is editorial assistant at Intelligent Life. Her recent posts for the Editors' Blog include A narrow view of corsets and Popcorn goes posh