Boxing: Right for women to box clever at Games

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The Independent Online

Frank Warren wouldn't want his daughter to box and Amir Khan thinks the ladies who punch should stick to swapping forehands on the tennis court.

Britain's leading promoter and newest world champion may be in the opposing corner, and they are probably in the majority among fighting men, but, like it or not, women boxers will be doing their best to belt bits off each other when the bell rings for the London Olympics in 2012.

As someone who has covered boxing for many years I suppose I should be in the anti- camp but actually I am pleased it has got on to the Olympic agenda, not least because sportswomen these days surely are as much entitled as men to utilise their strength, skill and, yes, aggression, in an activity that demands the ultimate in fitness and dexterity. So they might get hurt? Well, don't they in judo and tae kwon do, both perfectly acceptable as Olympic pursuits for both sexes?

Back in the early Nineties, when women first pulled on the gloves in Britain, one of the organisers of the inaugural female national championships, Sue Atkins, declared: "People have this image of two dykes with shaved heads slugging it out. This is not what it is about." Indeed not. Mick Gannon, the ex-Amy PTI who is Britain's national coach, says: "These girls are boxers but they are also ladies. They don't have the animal aggression or explosive power of men... I look upon women's boxing as a form of dance routine with skill."

The film Million Dollar Baby certainly raised the profile of women's boxing, as did the achievements in the ring of Laila Ali, Muhammad's daughter (he didn't want her to box either) who has now retired, face and faculties intact, to have a baby.

I agree with Lucy O'Connor, 29-year-old, Euro medallist and a Royal Navy lieutenant who is married to a service boxing coach, and says the traditional stigma that has been attached to women's boxing has now gone. "People are starting to appreciate it's a technical sport, a thinking woman's sport as well as a thinking man's sport. It's not a barbaric duel, more like chess in the ring." The hope is that is the image which will be portrayed in London by a handful of the 650 women boxers in this country and competitors from other nations where the sport is more popular.

Of course the British Medical Association will have apoplexy, but remember this is amateur boxing, complete with headguards, breast protectors and a limit of four two-minute rounds. There has has not been a serious injury at amateur level in the men's game for years. The traditionalists, and chauvinists, may not like it,but it is right that fisticuffs and the fair sex can now go hand in boxing glove in the Games. Sporting equality supposedly is what they are about, so seconds out – and women in.