Mixed sport is the new buzz phrase for the Olympics, with gender equality high on the agenda of the International Olympic Committee. But will their eagerness for mixing it extend to the field of combat?
One who hopes so is Densign White (above), once boss of British judo who now heads the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation as their freshly installed chief executive with the avowed intention of getting virtually-anything-goes cage fighting into the Games.
White, 53-year-old husband of 1984 Olympic javelin gold medallist Tessa Sanderson, also wants to bring together all forms of martial arts, including judo, karate, taekwondo and boxing, under a single governing body. “These are long-term objectives, but I believe they are achievable,” he tells us. “MMA has already been recognised as a sport here by Sport England and is now practised in almost 40 countries.”
However, it is banned in some including France, largely because of objections by judo, in which White was a seventh dan and chaired the British Judo Association for 11 years. Apparently there are no such inhibitions here, with judo among the sports backing the hybrid MMA in which cage fighting is the most widely known activity.
“There is a lot of misconception about cage fighting,” argues White. “The cage is there to protect the fighters and it is among the most strictly governed of all contact sports with a huge emphasis on safety. The growth of MMA globally has been extraordinary, particularly as an amateur sport, and my job will be to raise the game in terms of governance, coaching and doping control. I am convinced that eventually we will see it in the Olympic programme.”
Maybe, but it will have to take its place in the long queue behind more deserving pursuits like squash, while darts, chess, cheerleading and pole dancing and even video games press dubious claims for inclusion.
Raft of sport films
Boxing movies may be all the rage in 2015, but the film industry is not neglecting other sporting themes. These include Unbroken, a chronicle of the life of Louis Zamperini, a 1936 Olympic athlete who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War Two after surviving 47 days on a raft following a plane crash, living on birds and small sharks. A smash hit in the US, where it took almost £10 million on its Christmas debut, it stars Britain’s Jack O’Connell and is directed by Angelina Jolie. There is also Foxcatcher, a taut biographical drama based on the real-life murder in 1996 of Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler Dave Schultz by coach John du Pont.
Kellie’s kicking on
A lot of big punches were thrown when boxing made a decent comeback last year but none quite as gobsmacking as the revelation by Frank Maloney that he was undergoing gender reassignment, henceforth to be known as Kellie.
For such a macho sport, boxing greeted Maloney’s sex swap with commendable sympathy and understanding. But one wonders about the reaction when Maloney fulfils a New Year wish to attend a football match at her beloved Millwall. Good luck with that one.