Popularity boost predicted for women's
Women boxers will have the chance to
fight for gold at the 2012 Olympics.
International Olympic Committee chiefs voted
on Thursday to lift the barrier to the last
all-male summer sport.
Three women's weight classes will be added
to the Olympic programme for 2012 Games in
London, with one of the 11 men's classes
dropped to make room.
"Women's boxing has come on a tremendous
amount in the last five years and it was
time to include them," said IOC president
Women will fight at flyweight (48-51kg),
lightweight (56-60kg) and middleweight
The IOC's decision was described as
"historic" by Olympics minister Tessa Jowell.
"It will be a landmark moment come London
2012 when for the first time every sport
will have women participating in it," she
"There are still major disparities in the
number of medals women can win compared to
men but this is a step in the right
"In this country women's boxing has come on
in leaps and bounds and is growing quickly
at all levels.
"London 2012 will now create the first-ever
generation of boxing heroines and hopefully
inspire even more women to take up the
Women's boxing came close to being included
at the 2008 Beijing Games but the IOC ruled
it would not offer added value to the
It will give female
boxers the chance to
showcase their talents on
the biggest sporting stage
Sports minister Gerry
Fears were that the sport was not
competitive in enough countries, which could
lead to potentially dangerous mismatches.
But participation has since boomed with 120
international federations having female
boxers. There are now nearly 600 registered
female boxers in England, up from 50 in
Amanda Coulson, a three-time ABA champion
and long-time trail-blazer for British
women's amateur boxing, expects the whole
sport to benefit from the IOC's decision.
"It's fantastic news, I'm over the moon,"
she said. "Women's boxing can only progress
from here - participation numbers will go
through the roof, especially after 2012.
"The sport will keep growing but not just
female boxing, the numbers overall will
increase because of the added exposure."
England women's coach Mick Gannon expects
the popularity of female boxing to explode
following its inclusion in the Olympics.
"It's fantastic," he said. "What we'll see
now is young ladies knocking down the doors
at boxing gyms.
Female boxing will be London legacy -
"There is going to be a big jump from other
combat sports into boxing and it is already
the fastest-growing sport in England.
"Numbers-wise it has increased by about 700%
in five or six years.
"Like any sport you have a drop-off but now
they will have the opportunity to go on and
British sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe
added: "This move is a massive boost for
"It will give female boxers the chance to
showcase their talents on the biggest
"I am sure that our British talent will
relish the opportunity to compete in front
of a home crowd in 2012 and will help raise
the profile of women's boxing at all
The move was criticised by the British
Medical Association, which represents more
than 140,000 doctors and medical students.
BMA spokesman said the sport should "play no
part in a modern Olympic games".
He added: "Irrespective of their gender,
during the course of a fight boxers can
suffer acute brain haemorrhage and serious
damage to their eyes, ears and nose.
"Throughout their career, boxers will
receive thousands of blows to the head. Each
blow received results in the brain being
shaken within the skull.
"The cumulative affect of a lifetime in the
ring can be irreversible brain damage.
Unlike other sports the aim of boxing is to
inflict bodily harm on an opponent."
Former boxer and Labour MP Paul Flynn
described the decision as "foolish" and said
it was not a step forward for female
The politician, who has tabled two private
members' bills to get boxing banned, said:
"This is a foolish act. I'm very
disappointed to see it's being presented as
something to do with women's rights."
He added: "If anyone still believes boxing
is a healthy sport there's two words for
them - Muhammad Ali."
British boxer Amir Khan, an Olympic silver
medallist in 2004, said: "Deep down I think
women shouldn't fight. That's my opinion.
"When you get hit it's very painful. Women
can get knocked out."
However, he told BBC Radio 5 live: "I am
going to be supportive. I'll be cheering on
the British fighters and hoping they win the
Although the head is not a target zone in
amateur boxing, one organisation expressed
concern at further promoting the sport of
boxing as a whole.
Peter McCabe, chief executive of brain
injury association Headway, said: "We
believe all forms of boxing should be banned
with immediate effect.
I have seen at first hand
the massive improvements
that have taken place in
competitive women's amateur
boxing over the last few
Former world boxing champion
"Introducing women's boxing at the Olympics
will simply serve to glamorise a dangerous
and irresponsible sport to a new audience
and lead to more young women putting their
health at risk."
Khan admitted he had never seen a women's
fight, whereas former WBC super-middleweight
world champion Richie Woodhall, now a
coaching consultant to the British Amateur
Boxing Association, says the change is
"I have seen at first hand the massive
improvements that have taken place in
competitive women's amateur boxing over the
last few years," he said.
Sue Tibballs, chief executive of the Women's
Sport and Fitness Foundation, welcomed the
shift towards equality at the Olympics.
"In Beijing, 165 medals were available to
men versus 127 to women," she said. "Women
were first allowed to compete in the Olympic
stadium in 1922 - 90 years on, we hope
London 2012 will show real progress for
In all, 17 sports submitted applications
for changes to their programmes. Among them:
Canoe sprint - all men's 500m events
will be shortened to 200m to make them "more
spectacular"; men's canoe double 500m to be
replaced by women's kayak single (K1) 200m.
Handball - all placement matches
below the bronze-medal play-off will be
Modern pentathlon - the new combined
run/shoot format has been included.
Tennis - a mixed doubles event will
be included, subject to confirmation from
the International Tennis Federation that top
singles players will take part.
Wrestling, Swimming, Cycling - all
want new events, which will be allowed only
if they replace current events and do not
increase the number of athletes.
Sailing - Tornado Multihull event
withdrawn, reducing the programme to 10
Final decisions on details will be made at
the IOC executive board's December meeting