A proud moment for woman boxer

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The Independent Online
JANE COUCH, the women's world welterweight champion, yesterday won her sex discrimination case against Britain's professional boxing authorities.

The decision by an industrial tribunal now means that applications for licences from women should now be treated on the same basis as men's.

Miss Couch said that she expected her application to the British Boxing Board of Control to be processed "within weeks" and that she would be seeking thousands of pounds in compensation for loss of earnings and pounds 20,000 for "hurt feelings".

The fighter, known as "the Fleetwood Assassin", said she had been trying to box professionally in the United Kingdom for three years but had been denied the right to do so by the authorities. Ms Couch is scheduled to defend her world welterweight championship on 24 May.

Yesterday she acknowledged boxing was a "very dangerous" sport, but there was no reason why she should not be allowed to fight in her own country.

She said the people of her home town, Fleetwood, Lancashire would be proud of her victory. "They are not narrow- minded and neither are my family - they're all right behind me."

She added: "It's bad enough being in the ring, without having to fight the authorities. The job itself is very demanding. They made me feel pissed off."

The tribunal found that Ms Couch, 29, whose case was backed by the Equal Opportunities Commission, had been "extremely badly treated" by the boxing board. The south London tribunal gave the authorities 42 days to settle the matter.

Sarah Leslie, her solicitor, pointed out that the decision did not mean her client was automatically granted a licence, but her application should now go through the orthodox channels.

In its ruling the tribunal said the evidence that Ms Couch suffered sex discrimination was "incontrovertible". The board had turned down her application on the basis that she would be "emotionally unstable" during periods and more prone to accidents. It was also suggested that women were more susceptible to bruising and therefore to brain damage. It was also alleged that a woman might box inadvertently during the early stages of pregnancy.

The tribunal pointed out that while the application was rejected on medical grounds, Ms Couch was never examined by a board doctor. There was "overwhelming evidence" that her request for a licence was turned down because she was female. The "medical grounds" on which she was rejected were all "gender- based stereotypes and assumptions".

John Morris, secretary of the BBBC, issued a brief statement saying that the decision of the tribunal had been "noted" and there would be no further comment until board members had had a chance to consider its implications with legal and medical advisers.