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Boxer weighs in for her British debut

AFTER WINNING her long- running bout with the British boxing authorities, Jane Couch is ready for her first professional fight in Britain.

Couch, Britain's leading female fighter, was awarded pounds 15,000 in damages when the Equal Opportunities Commission overturned the refusal by the British Boxing Board of Control to grant her a licence at the end of last year - the first application made in Britain by a woman. Tonight, finally, light-welterweight Couch can do her fighting in the ring rather than the courtroom.

British boxing still harbours resentment against women. In an interview with The Independent after Couch was granted her licence last August, Frank Maloney, the Londoner who promotes the world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, termed supporters of women's boxing "left-wing, do-gooder lesbians". And Dr Adrian Whiteson, the boxing board's chief medical officer, claimed: "I can't help feeling that it was granted as a political decision rather than a medical judgement."

But John Morris, general secretary of the board, expects business as usual this evening at Caesar's in Streatham, south London. He said: "Once the board decided not to appeal against the court's decision, my job became to ensure that this show is controlled in the right way and with the right attitude... our job must be done by the book but with a smile on its face, with no hint of resentment."

Mr Morris adds that the fact that the board's steward in charge of the show between Couch and Germany's Simona Lukic will be the newly elected Judith Rollerston, the board's first female administrative steward, should not be attributed to the presence of Couch, of Fleetwood, Lancashire.

Similarly, he says, this will be just another assignment for the ringside physician Dr Sandra Scott.