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Women's Boxing Here to Stay
Ron Reed in London
Australian Olympic
July 27, 2012

(JULY 27) Naomi-Lee Fischer-Rasmussen is in for a tough fight or two or three at the Games but she won’t be alone in that. Her whole sport, boxing, is up for a challenging couple of weeks as it seeks to seize the opportunity to prove to a largely sceptical and often disapproving sporting public that it is an appropriate form of athletic endeavour for women as the IOC pursues a policy of greater gender equality.

That’s every bit as true in Australia as it is anywhere else, which is why Fischer-Rasmussen, 28, admitted to the media today that she was feeling a little extra pressure. The future of women’s boxing in Australia is on the line, she said. She doesn’t mean that she is the be all and end all of it, simply that more people will be watching - and making judgments - than in any other forum for it. And she is the only one wearing the green and gold, so if she doesn’t make a good impression nobody will. There would have been two, but Bianca Elmir was disqualified after testing positive for diuretics, itself just another unfortunate blow for the overall image.

The best advertisement women’s boxing has in Australia is Melbourne’s Susie Q Ramadan, a popular and highly talented professional athlete who has been pulling good crowds to events promoted by former world champion Barry Michael, who has become an enthusiastic supporter of the women. Just a week ago, Susie Q won her second and most prestigious world title when she defeated Thailand’s Usanakorn Kokietgym for the WBC bantamweight crown. On the same program, Miss Universe entrant and TV star Lauryn Eagle, a serious athlete despite her glamour-girl background, took the WBF super-featherweight title despite not having fought for several months.

The tough 10 rounder confirmed Ramadan’s status as Australia’s best female boxer on what was hailed as the greatest night yet for the sport. But it was a decidedly mixed one too with the Thai recording “highly suspicious” levels of testosterone, and refusing to take a blood test that would have proved her gender.

All that, of course, is a long way from where Fischer-Rasmussen finds herself except that it confirms that simply being a winner is not necessarily enough. They have to present a positive image and hope all their opponents do too. Ramadan, a charming, bubbly personality who is an even more surprising candidate for such a form of stardom given that she is from a Muslim family, is very good at that side of the caper - a promoter’s dream - and Fischer-Rasmussen comes across in much the same way

She comes from a fight-game family – her father Barry coached her and former national men’s mentor Bodo Andreas looks after her now – but got into it, she says, by accident eight years ago when she was looking for ways to improve her skills at the martial art Karate Kumai. Making it to the Olympics has been the best thing to happen to her but it’s been hard to do. She had to give up work to train full-time and because there are only three weight divisions at the Games she had to move up from her natural 69kg limit to 75kg, meaning she will be fighting naturally bigger girls.

Nonetheless, she is very confident she can claim a medal, which would be Australia’s first in boxing since Grahame “Spike” Cheney won silver in Seoul in 1988.

She is regarded as a decent chance to do so by winning two bouts. The field includes the world champion Savannah Marshall of Great Britain and strong contenders in Claressa Shields of USA and Elena Vsytropova of Azerbiajan.

She is even more confident that she can do women’s boxing proud. “I love the discipline, the grit I suppose,” she said. “The fact that it is so tough makes it a constant challenge.” Asked if she ever got negative comments, she said no - well, not to her face anyway. “Usually people are shocked but they are quite supportive in my experience.

“To me it’s not the bloodbath as it is sometimes portrayed in the media. It’s not a Rocky movie. It’s just a sport. We’ve got referees, headgear, gloves and mouthguards to protect us, so it’s all good.

“I’m not fazed by what anyone says. It’s an Olympic sport now and it’s here to stay. It’s not an issue.”

Ron Reed in London
Australian Olympic Committee (press release)

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