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Boxing: Mery Kom and Underwood defeated in London
By Michael O’Neill
November 26, 2011


(NOV 26) Some excellent boxing at the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands today as the Quarter Finals of the Women’s events took place. In all some 96 boxers (male and female) took part I, from 21 countries - many of the world’s leading amateurs were in action today including those from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Italy, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Russia and the United States.

Firstly let us look at what constitutes a “Test” event. As with all events in the London Prepares series, the Boxing Test event is an international competition which gives the organisers of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games the opportunity to test elements of their sports delivery. At this test event, here at the Excel Centre, timing, scoring and results software, workforce familiarisation, the field of play and athlete processes are being tested. The test event also introduces and tests new features such as a new scoring system, Q Ball corner cameras and a new scoreboard. Any faults found thus can becorrected before the Olympics. Today though everything went like clockwork as AIBA President C.K.Wu  later commented.

In all there are 10 sessions (male and female), today being quarter-finals day, with the semi-finals of the three Olympic weights on Saturday and the finals on Sunday. The event comes under the auspices of the A.I.B.A.

And no, it was NOT mandatory that the contestants wore skirts, but more of that topic later. And so to the boxing!

Arguably the best bout of the day was the clash between Quanitta [Queen] Underwood of the United States and Great Britain’s Natasha Jonas from the Rotunda Club in Liverpool . Though she has not fought in GB before now, Underwood is well respected and best known for her epic comeback against Ireland’s Katie Taylor in the World Championship semi-final in Barbados in September 2010. Who will ever forget that remarkable comeback, especially the final round? No Katie Taylor to contend with this week since the latter is taking a well-deserved rest after some 25 bouts already in 2011.No Sofya Ochigava either.

60kg - Natasha Jonas v Quanitta Underwood (USA) 23:15

Today, a series of excellent straight shots saw Natasha race into a 5-2 first round lead ; she continued the good work in round two stretching her lead to 11-7 at the end of the second. Underwood never gave up and ‘chased’ Jonas around the ring in rounds three and four but to little avail, as the Rotunda ABC boxer ended up winning 23-15 . Round by round scores: (Jonas first): 5:2 6:5 5:4 7:4

Having seen Jonas in action at both 60kg and 64kg(latter at the recent European Championships in Rotterdam, I can say today was probably her best performance. She is coming into form at the right time but there remains no guarantee that she will even be the GB representative in London 2012. Only last weekend, Hartlepool’s Amanda Coulson had a fine win over Chantelle Cameron to win the GB Championship at the York Hall. It seems unlikely that Team GB will nominate a boxer to take part in the only Olympic qualifier in China until early in the Spring and before that there just might even be a “box-off” between Coulson and Jonas.

When the two met in the 2010 GB Final in Cardiff, Jonas won literally with the last punch in the contest. For Underwood it will have been another disappointment following her recent loss in the Pan American Championships but it is early days yet and she has plenty of time to get back to that form which so nearly caused a sensation in Barbados.

75kg - Savannah Marshall v Naomi Fischer-Rasmussen (Australia) 23:11

This was another excellent performance from the “Silent Assassin” as Marshall is affectionately known, since she rarely says much as media briefings but lets her boxing speak for itself in the ring. Today she had a convincing win over the Australian champion, Naomi Fischer-Rasmussen and though the loser fought a gallant fight there was not much doubt as to who would win . A good opening round saw Marshall take a 5-3 lead. That lead was stretched to 10-4 by end of round two as Marshall took charge. Savannah was too powerful for the Australian, delivering a standing count in the third, and she ran out a very convincing 23-11 winner. Yet we have still to see the best of Marshall. She is still coming to terms with having moved up a weight. She remains an exciting talent who will almost certainly be GB’s representative in London 2012 if she finishes in the top 8 at the Worlds in China.

Cheng Dong (China) v Adriana Araujo (Brazil). 11:10

A very close contest this one and the Brazilian fought a brave battle from start to finish against Cheng Dong, a silver medallist in the last two world championships in Ningbo City and Barbados though defeated on both occasions by Katie Taylor. On balance I can but agree that Cheng Dong was a deserving winner but it was one of those occasions when neither boxer deserved to lose. Round by Round scores (Araujo first): 1:1 5:4 1:3 3:3 so 10:11 overall and Cheng Dong through to tomorrow’s semi-finals in the 60kg.

Big surprise of the day here at Excel was the defeat of five times world champion Mery Kom Hmangte of India in a quarter-final of the flyweight (48-51kg). She lost to Argentina’s Pamela Paoloa Benavides 13:9 and again there can be no doubt as to who was the better boxer ‘on the day’. Certainly we did not see the best of Mery Kom today though no doubt her cause was not helped by the “rumour ” that India was to hold a vote early in December that just MIGHT lead to a boycott by that country of the Olympics in London. What a tragedy that would be for all Indian athletes none more so than for Mery Kom who has done so much over so many years to promote women’s boxing in her nativeland . India’s other competitor today, Pooja Rani (75kg) lost to Dariga Shakimova of Kazakhstan 14:10 – again no doubt about the winner on the day but one felt that the Indian too was not at her very best.

In other results from day one of the women’s bouts, defeat for GB’s Nina Smith at 51kg against the favourite, Olesya Gladkova (Russia) 19:5

The Russian was simply too strong and put in an excellent performance throughout – Smith trailed 4-1 at the end of the first and the Russian increased her lead to 11-3 in the second. Eventually Gladkova deservedly ran out a 19-5 winner. No doubt about that result either though again the ever improving Smith put up a brave fight. That said it is more than likely that the GB representative in the Worlds and Olympic qualifier will be Nikki Adams, who recently won Gold at the European Championships and is probably Team GB’s best hope of a Gold medal in London (IF she qualifies).Adams has been in awesome form in the past few months having made a remarkable recovery from a back injury which only a year ago seemed as if it would result in her having to retire from the sport.

And what of events outside the ring?

Firstly , the respected British website “InsideTheGames.biz” had an exclusive interview with AIBA President C.K.Wu on the subject of “skirts or shorts” – no need to repeat here the views of so many of the world’s leading boxers so let’s simply report what Dr Wu had to say on the subject to the British website (which in fact is almost identical to what the AIBA’s Director of Communications said yesterday at a media briefing here): :

“"I would really like to take this opportunity to reassure people on the issue of women's uniform because a lot of unnecessary concern has developed around this particular issue," Wu told ‘ insidethegames’  "AIBA conducted a study on uniforms for boxers, particularly on uniforms for women boxers, to see what is preferred by the various federations and most importantly by the boxers themselves.

"The research involves us seeking a consensus from the worldwide boxing family and the wider public for reference purposes.

"There are a variety of different opinions, particularly from the boxers, because some women prefer fighting in shorts and some prefer fighting in skirts.

"It is quite divided.

"AIBA plans to call an AIBA Technical and Rules Commission meeting in January 2012 to discuss the issue.

"The AIBA Women's Commission will also be heavily involved in the discussions.

"They will then offer recommendations to the AIBA Executive Committee based on the information collected from the research before a final decision is made and announced publically to the world.

"At this point in time, no decision has been made at all.

"But I must say that the most likely decision is that the uniform will be optional for women.

"Some like skirts and some don't like skirts so I think we should keep the freedom for the athletes.

"But that is my opinion so it is unofficial at the moment because we must respect the Technical and Rules Commission and wait for what they decide from their research at their official meeting in January.

"It has become a very hot issue in the media but some of the reports are wrong because we have never made skirts compulsory or mandatory for women at all.

"Some people have maybe overreacted a little bit but I can confirm to them that AIBA has not made any final decision on the issue; that will come in January and be made public to all."

It is in this writer’s view “highly unlikely” that the Technical and Rules Commission will over rule their President. Equally there will be many in the boxing community who will seriously query Dr Wu’s statement that among the boxers “it is quite divided”.

I certainly could see no evidence of that though I would agree that a few certainly have no objections among them the great Canadian Mary Spencer who is equally happy wearing a long skirt or long shorts. Few if any would suggest that shorts should be mandatory. Clearly common sense must prevail and undoubtedly Dr Wu and his AIBA colleagues have been “seriously shocked” at the huge numbers of complaints received or viewed on website and in the worldwide media.

Here again at the Excel Centre, the overwhelming majority were opposed to any mandatory change from shorts to skirts. Not one boxer wore a skirt in any of the bouts I saw today though neither Poland nor Romania was represented.

To end a ‘dramatic day’ in London Town, the latest on the “rumoured” boycott” by India of the London Games.

The BBC reports tonight that “An Indian chief minister has called for a boycott of the London 2012 Olympics if the sponsorship of the Dow Chemical company continues.

Shivraj Singh Chauhan made the call in a letter to Sports Minister Ajay Maken.

Dow has links to the firm behind the Bhopal gas disaster in 1984 that led to thousands of deaths but says the case is now settled. It is to create a fabric wrap for the Olympic stadium.

Mr Singh is chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, where Bhopal is located.”

According to the BBC, Dow insists that while the past must never be forgotten, its "position as a Worldwide Olympic Partner" represents its "vision for the future".

Dow has said that although it "never owned nor operated the [Bhopal] plant and the legal claims surrounding the incident were resolved in 1989, long before Dow acquired Union Carbide, we - along with the rest of industry - have learned from this tragic event and have helped to drive global industry performance improvements to ensure that such incidents never happen again".

London 2012 chairman Lord Coe has defended Dow's role, saying he was satisfied, "that at no time did Dow operate, own or were involved with the plant either at the time of the [1984] disaster or crucially at the time of the full and final settlement".

The I.O.C said a few minutes ago that they would “of course oppose a boycott, as ultimately the only people hurt by actions like these would be the athletes themselves”.

As more and more politicians from India and within the United Kingdom add to what has already been said it is inevitable that this will run and run for weeks, maybe months. At the end of the day let us hope great athletes like Mery Kom (and many others like her )have the opportunity of representing their country in London 2012. In the world of boxing, she has been a great servant of India and a great role model for all women in that country. She more than most deserves the opportunity of taking part in London 2012.


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