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August 18, 2008
CBC Sports

Boxing officials push for women's events at Olympics

Amateur boxing's top officials think it's long past time for female fighters to stand on the Olympic podium.

Women's boxing should be added to the 2012 London Games, the International Boxing Association's (AIBA) executive committee formally proclaimed Monday, announcing plans to develop a detailed proposal to put before the International Olympic Committee later this year.

AIBA president Wu Ching-Kuo, who has enacted a wide slate of reforms in the last two years to cleanse a long-shady amateur sport, thinks the growing women's sport is highly likely to be successful in its bid.

"The level of boxing is very high, very good," Wu said. "Many of our federations have asked us to support women's boxing in the Olympics. We hope we'll soon have the women competing there."

AIBA's women's committee will present the proposal to the IOC, and committee chair Joyce Bowen echoes Wu's anticipation of success when the IOC decides in December.

"We have every opportunity to get in there," said Bowen, of Barbados. "We're looking forward to it. The time has been there for a long while. We were just waiting, but we've been ready long enough."

Boxing a rarity at Games
With the arrival of women's wrestling in Athens, boxing is the only summer Olympic sport without a female analogue, although women compete in softball, while men take on baseball — with both sports exiting the Olympics in 2012 in London.

Ski jumping also doesn't have women's competition at the Games because the IOC believes the sport is too new.

But after 14 years of oversight by AIBA, Wu believes women's boxing is sophisticated enough to meet the Olympic criteria for competition — and it could also help fill the deficit of total female athletes in the Olympic field.

AIBA has approved and governed women's boxing since 1994, establishing its women's committee a decade ago and holding world championship tournaments and regional events. Those tournaments would serve as Olympic qualifiers if the sport is put on the London program.

Women's boxing wasn't included in the Beijing field three years ago, in part because of concerns about AIBA's tangled tradition of cronyism, judging corruption and incompetent management.

Those concerns have been assuaged by Wu's more transparent presidency, with the IOC praising the sport's reform — even after a new slate of complaints about the judging in the current Olympic tournament.

"What we have done, I think the IOC family witnessed," Wu said. "We've made a lot of reform and changes, and we've also demonstrated fair judging in the Olympics."

Wu expressed disappointment with the complaints from the U.S., Ukraine, Russia, Britain and other nations over results and overall scoring criteria.

"I would hope everybody would have good sportsmanship," Wu said, noting only two formal protests have been filed. "Win, fine. Lose, don't always lose and complain... Don't accuse [the judges and referees]. They are working very hard. If they were not fair, every bout, the loser would be complaining."

AIBA approves changes
Judging reform has been a cornerstone of Wu's presidency, starting with an immediate effort two years ago to root out judges long rumoured to be ethically compromised. AIBA also is developing a more sophisticated device to be used in its ringside computer scoring, with hopes of introducing it before next year's world championships in Milan, Italy.

Starting in January, women amateur fighters will compete in AIBA tournaments in bouts with four rounds of two minutes apiece — the same format that would be used at the Olympics. AIBA approved a few changes in the 11 weight categories for women on Monday to align them more closely with men's standards.

Earlier Monday, AIBA's executive committee also formally announced its long-anticipated change back to three rounds of three minutes apiece for its men's bouts. The fights in Beijing are four rounds of two minutes each.

AIBA won't advocate for professional women fighters to join the games, but Wu thinks his organization could have a role in pro boxing for men. He has plans to develop a pro boxing league featuring six-man teams in cities around the world and home-and-away competition that resembles the world's top team sports.

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