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Warriors in Skirts at London 2012?
by Mike O'Neill -October 29, 2011
 

This week the BBC Sports website carried a feature on its website suggesting that women may be forced to wear skirts in the 2012 Olympic Games. This has led to a number of highly irate emails and forum comments from readers mainly in UK, Ireland and the United States from - men as well as women - and understandably so. What the BBC did not say of course is that this proposal was made in September 2010 preferring to create the view that this was a 'new' idea just now being considered by the AIBA.

If it was meant as a "Late News Flash" then it succeeded - it was a VERY VERY late news flash from a great organisation which sadly has lost its way in the world of boxing where once the BBC dominated media and Live TV coverage in the British Isles with such excellent commentators as Eamon Andrews and Harry Carpenter to name but two.

The facts here are that at the semi-final stage of the 2010 World Championships in Barbados , the 40 remaining boxers were presented by the AIBA with a 'new uniform' and expected to wear it in the semi-finals and finals.

The 40 boxers remaining at that stage, -as the respected boxing writer Michael Rivest in his 'Times Union' blog , wrote at the time' sent 'a powerful and clear statement to AIBA: only 14 of the 40 competing athletes in the recent competition wore the skirts. Of those 14, 11 stated that they where wearing it for “purely political reasons. (or in other words they were frightened that they might be penalised if they did not co-operate or even be "banned" by their own boxing authorities in countries which allow individuals little if any choice.

26 of the 40 "stood up to" their World boxing authority - one of the main reasons being that they knew they had the full backing and support of the then two times world champion Katie Taylor. Remember too that that was all taking place in the hours before Taylor entered the ring in that never to be forgotten, dramatic semi-final bout with Queen Underwood of the United States. Not the ideal way to have to cope with defending ones world championship, one imagines.

Peter Taylor takes up the story : ""They said to us, ‘You have to wear the skirts.’ I said, ‘Katie’s not wearing that.’ So he says, ‘If you don’t wear them, you can’t box.’ And I said, ‘Okay, so she won’t box.’".

The AIBA relented and two bouts later Taylor won that coveted 3rd in a row world title. The AIBA later claimed it was only an optional suggestion albeit that is NOT how it was presented to the boxers at the time.

Michael Rivest, spoke with AIBA President ,Dr Ching-Kuo Wu, a man who has one some excellent things for boxing in general and fully supported women boxers in their quest to gain Olympic recognition. Why, he asked Dr Ku was this on the agenda at all? The response made little or no sense then and even less so now.

Dr Wu's explanation (remember this was in Sept 2010) : “I have heard many times, people say, ‘We can’t tell the difference between the men and the women,’ especially on TV, since they’re in the same uniforms and are wearing headgear,”

Did the AIBA not listen to the women’s concerns when they were asked some months earlier for their opinions on the subject of uniforms i.e.: that such a uniform would be unacceptable? And if a different uniform why not longer shorts?

“We have a Women’s Commission that evaluated everything and they met and gave their recommendations,” he said, adding. “The uniform was presented [in Barbados] as optional.” Does this mean it will remain optional? Michael Rivest asked.

“After we hear about its comfort and how easy it is to compete in the uniform, it may be compulsory. But we are still working on it.”

But that was in September 2010 and now here we are in October 2011 and the Polish boxing federation (PZB) took their own decision to make skirts compulsory. And what is the Polish justification for this outrageous decision, one wonders?

"By wearing skirts, in my opinion, it gives a good impression, a womanly impression," Poland coach Leszek Piotrowski told BBC Sport. "Wearing shorts is not a good way for women boxers to dress.( Does Piotrowski really believe that these warriors are out to create a "womanly impression"? or does he not want them to become champions at the sport they love? Mon Dieu! Clearly Piotrowski and his boxers are 'poles' apart.

"At the world championships in Barbados, Romania wore skirts from AIBA. We decided to design our own, they're more elegant," he told the BBC.

The AIBA's Technical and Rules competition team discussed this subject before the recent AIBA Congress in Azerbaaijan and there were updated amendments to the rule book as late as 23rd September, after that congress. Here is the last official guideline included in the NEW directory:

RULE 8. COMPETITION UNIFORM

8.1. Boxers’ Uniform

8.1.1. Boxers shall box in light boots or shoes (without spikes or heels), socks, shorts (not to

exceed knee length), and a vest covering the chest and back.

8.1.2. For all AIBA Approved Events, the Boxers must wear a red or blue vest and shorts as

per the Boxers’ respective corner allocation, which shall be their own responsibility. The

belt line must be clearly indicated by a contrasting color and by using a 6 – 10cm wide

elastic waistband (the belt line is an imaginary line from the navel to the top of the hips).

So in reality the Poles and Romanians were in breach of their own (AIBA) governing bodies rules!

I sought clarification of the AIBA's current position and asked if skirts were to become mandatory
for the Olympics?

The official AIBA Response :

"Indeed, wearing a skirt for Women boxers is absolutely not mandatory.

The AIBA Technical & Competition Rules Commission has already discussed this matter and there is no plan for changing the actual situation for the moment.

The Polish National Federation has made its own decision regarding its boxers at the European Championships"

Katie Taylor's thoughts on the subject of any country's boxers being forced to wear skirts?

"It's a disgrace that they're forcing some of the women to wear those mini-skirts. We should be able to wear shorts, just like the men", she told BBC Sport..

"I won't be wearing a mini-skirt. I don't even wear mini-skirts on a night out , so I definitely won't be wearing mini-skirts in the ring."

I spoke with many boxers in Rotterdam when covering the European Championships last week for SportsNews Ireland and for wban.com, and apart from the Polish team and one or two other individuals mainly from former Eastern European states ( who were given no choice), there was no little or support whatsoever for wearing skirts.

This is what Taylor’s Coach and Dad, Peter said on the subject in April this year when asked by the “Irish Examiner” what would happen if skirts were made compulsory at the Olympics or thereafter:

“She won’t box,” says Peter. “Simple as that. We’ve got morals that go above marketing.”

“It’s discrimination,”. “It’s men making these decisions and it’s wrong. It’s just marketing. We don’t need the marketing. If they just let the girls box as they are, people are going to be amazed how technically good they are.”

The boxers were actually presented with a new style tight fitting vest and skirt at the semi-final stage in Barbados 2010 and told to wear them. At that time Peter Taylor commented:-

“They said to us, ‘You have to wear the skirts.’ I said, ‘Katie’s not wearing that.’ So he says, ‘If you don’t wear them, you can’t box.’ And I said, ‘Okay, so she won’t box.’”

My own view is that the boxers who did wear skirts were at a significant disadvantage in Rotterdam and interestingly in a sell out 2,500 crowd on finals day the boxers who attracted most admiration from the media and the crowd (inc male autograph hunters) were such as Sofya Ochigava, Marichelle de Jong, Nouchka Fontijn, Nikki Adams, Nadezhad Torlopova, Savannah Marshall, Gulzum Tatar and of course the now Five Times in a Row, European champion , Katie Taylor – all of whom wore shorts as usual. They were admired for their boxing skills, and NOT for creating a "womanly impression".

The Polish boxing federation would no doubt like to have feedback from boxers and fans of the sport and can be reached via email address : sekretariat@pzb.neostrada.pl

I am equally sure that Dr Wu and his colleagues at AIBA would welcome constructive comments regarding the proposals of 2010 so that they know exactly how women boxers feel on the subject of 'skirts' be it at, during or after the Olympics. They can be reached at the AIBA HQ via email: info@aiba.org

It goes without saying that any organisation is more likely to take note of relevant points made in a constructive manner and considerably less likely to be impressed with abusive communications however strongly one feels.

I have always found the AIBA to be helpful even when criticised if it is done constructively. Indeed they have done much to promote the cause of women's boxing within I.O.C circles though it is true that there have been many others who have also championed that call for several years.

Insofar as the original comment that TV viewers could not distinguish women boxers from men that is complete nonsense on many scores as well the AIBA knows. Apart from fact that commentators will always identify who is involved, it would not be a problem in Olympics anyway in that all the women’s bouts are on different days than the men’s.

The view in Europe and in the United States is that women's boxing will attract a huge new TV audience and thousands of new women to the sport, once the London Games are over, as the overwhelming majority have never seen Olympic-style women's boxing on TV or LIVE or and simply assume that is similar to Men’s professional boxing.. Tickets have sold exceptionally well and sell out crowds anticipated at all the boxing finals, mens and women's.

IF the majority of women boxers follow the lead of Taylor and the many others (from all countries) who feel equally strongly, this will NOT happen but I can see it remaining optional . If that ‘optional’ ever becomes ‘compulsory’ at a later date then the sport would be fatally damaged.

The AIBA desperately needs women's boxing at the Olympics to be successful since the men’s game has lost so many supporters to MMA ,so as long as the women athletes and their managers/coaches all “unite” in opposition this “compulsory” threat will eventually disappear . Woman's boxing is NOT Beach Volleyball.

The view general view in boxing circles and one that Dr Wu himself fully supports is that women's boxing will attract a huge new TV audience and thousands of new women to the sport, once the London Games are over, as the overwhelming majority of viewers and those purchasing tickets have never seen Olympic-style women's boxing on TV or LIVE or and simply assume that is similar to Men’s professional boxing. Tickets have sold exceptionally well and sell out crowds anticipated .There is no greater admirer of Katie Taylor and what she has done for the sport, than Dr Wu.

Is it REALLY likely that at a time when boxing (amateur and pro ) is losing a vast number of fans to MMA and other similar sports that the AIBA would be 'stupid enough' to antagonise women's boxers like Taylor and the others mentioned? Hardly. At this time, the AIBA desperately need the women's events to be successful in London 2012 as indeed they will be.

Would Dr Wu' s association really wish to "antagonise" Peter Taylor AND the fledgling sport's greatest asset, Katie ? And risk a "walk-out" either in China at the Qualifier or in London itself in front of the World? Highly unlikely and if he did then I think that there would only be one loser.

Remember what Peter Taylor said: -

“She won’t box,” says Peter. “Simple as that. We’ve got morals that go above marketing.”

 

 

 
 

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