Equality for Female Boxers in the Olympics

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AIBA 2014/15 The Good, The Bad and the Questions Unanswered – WBAN invites Dr. Ching Kuo-Wu and AIBA Executive Director Ho Kim to respond
by Sue Fox and Michael O'Neill
January 8, 2015

(JAN 8)  The year just ended was, by any standards, a remarkable one even in the life of the AIBA with many good news items and yet marred by so many controversies not least of which was the confirmation during the 2014 AIBA Women’s World championships in Korea that there would but be three Olympic weights for women in Rio 2016 as was the case in London four years earlier.

For many years now – and sadly probably for a few more years, WBAN has campaigned, and will continue to campaign for ‘complete equality’ with male boxers; after all it (equality for male and female athletes) is enshrined in the Olympic charter; indeed some respected writers say that in failing to achieve this by now, the International Olympic Committee which includes Dr. Thomas Bach as President and Dr. Wu as an Executive Vice-President, are already in breach of this article which applies to ALL sports, not just boxing.

Dr. Wu himself was lending his considerable support for equality of the sexes whilst campaigning for a new term of office in 2014 but appears to have a different perspective on the issue since he was re-elected. If indeed Dr. Wu and Korean Chief Executive Officer, Ho Kim now believe that this cannot be achieved before Tokyo 2020 then the ‘AIBA family’ (boxers, coaches, many AIBA officials and fans worldwide) will feel badly let down by those who purport to promote the women’s sport. So what is the truth?

In early 2014, European Olympic Committee Chair, Patrick Hickey confirmed that there would be FIVE women’s weight at the inaugural 2015 European Games (effectively the European Olympics) in Baku, Azerbaijan. That being the case – and WBAN does not doubt the sincerity of Mr. Hickey or his EOC Executive, then how can the AIBA now be happy campaigning for equality in 2020. Surely that is a backward step i.e.: from 3 in 2012 to 5 in 2015 and back to 3 in 2016. That said no one knows exactly what the 2020 proposals from Messrs Bach and Wu consist of anyway. Full equality with male boxers (hopefully) or just another token increase say 3 to 6 or worse still 5 as in European Games of 2015 or worst of all still 3 as in 2012? Time for the IOC and AIBA to clarify exactly what they are planning and better still why EQUALITY has NOT been possible already.

Why for example, in the case of women’s boxing could there not already be 5 or 6 weights in Rio rather than the miserly 3? All that would have been needed is for Dr. Wu to recommend dropping one more men’s weight. After all the I.O.C never ruled out a fairer distribution between male and female. WBAN understands that Dr. Jacques Rogge (previous IOC President) agreed that his successor would not increase the number of 286 boxers in Rio and thus no increase in medals. That edict did not preclude a better share between male and female boxers..

There are a number of other issues that may well surface following the 2014 AIBA Congress in Jeju in December according to concerns raised in our mailbag from boxing lovers worldwide.

Many of the worlds’ leading AIBA officials, boxers and coaches were ‘extremely disappointed’ that there was no ‘official’ AIBA rankings in place for Jeju. Worse still when journalists questioned why this was so, there was simply a ‘shrug of the shoulders’, and the unsatisfactory response ‘no particular reason’.

Now whether or not that really was – or is – a serious issue is a matter for debate. The AIBA may well point to the fact that two of the three Olympic Gold medallists from London 2012 (the injured Nicola Adams was not in Jeju) did win again (Shields and Taylor) as a justification that the best will prevail whether or not there is a seeding system.

Some will agree with that viewpoint, others will not for the reason that if there are no seeded athletes it is possible that say a no. 1 could meet a number 2, 3, or 4 in a preliminary round thus spectators could well be deprived of seeing the very best in the semi-finals and finals, which after all in Jeju as in China 2012 and London 2012 is where the greatest number of spectators are present and the best live TV coverage is available to viewers. Should the AIBA not considering these viewpoints rather than just ‘imposing’ their own decisions and then failing to respond to reasonable queries from the media?

Perhaps the AIBA Executive should consider the greater interests of the ‘AIBA Family’ rather than just imposing their personal will? Even at Technical Committee meetings no comment was forthcoming, we understand. Odd, very odd.

WBAN has long campaigned for women’s bouts to be included in the World Series of Boxing (WSB) and AIBA ProBoxing (APB) tournaments and there is some ‘mild’ cause for optimism that this could happen later in 2015.

After all following the success of the women’s sport in London 2012, there was an ideal opportunity for AIBA and its own Confederations in every continent to showcase such champions as Adams, Shields, Taylor, and other medallists eg: Marlen Esparza, Mary Kom, Cancan Ren etc.

Yet this did not happen and a golden opportunity was lost not just by the AIBA but their affiliated associates in most countries.  Even in Ireland, the IABA did not arrange for its medallists, Taylor, Nevin, Barnes and Conlan to promote the sport. Equally shameful.

Many experts would say that it was the women’s sport that ‘saved’ the boxing programme in London at a time when the men’s sport had hit an all-time low and boxing itself was in danger of being removed from the Olympic programme.   At that time, Dr. Wu and many respected writers, felt that in the longer term i.e. 2012-2020 the women’s sport would bring many thousands of ‘new’ spectators to the ringside, especially young men and women.

One had only to see the crowd’s reaction to the women’s programme in London to see how the ‘times were changing’. Another lost opportunity? Few would disagree.

In Cuba where the professional sport was banned until fairly recently, it would also have been possible to have introduced this year, women’s exhibition bouts before the recently completed WSB series. That would also have given encouragement to Cuban women to enter the sport in much greater numbers. Remember these comments from leading Cuban coaches/officials pre-London 2012?

"We have no plans at the moment to participate in any international events because we don't think the sport is appropriate for women."
and "Cuban women should be showing off their beautiful faces, not getting punched in the face”. Those from two of their leading officials according to the Cuban news agency. Now is the time to revisit the Cuban question.


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