The CBZ Newswire

Response to AIBA Uniform Requirements for Female Boxers

by on Sep.18, 2010, under Guest Columnists

New Uniforms Shift Focus from Boxing to Gender

Editorial by Kerstin Broockmann

It may be a minor issue. After all, women are competing for boxing medals in the Olympics, which, not so long ago, would have been thought impossible. Nevertheless, in a sport that is still in its infancy (male boxing having been around for at least 3,000 years), this seems like a step back.  Female boxers have always struggled to gain recognition and respect in the sport of boxing, which is considered by many to be one of the last true bastions of masculine athleticism. Despite this, women continue to make inroads in the sport. In the United States, women have had the right to compete in amateur competitions sanctioned by USA Boxing since 1993. The International Amateur Boxing Association, AIBA, has recognized women’s boxing since 1994. In 2012, women boxers will be competing in the most prestigious amateur athletic forum in the world when they officially become part of the medal competition in the Olympics for the first time, albeit only in three weight classes. Female boxers in international competition have skills that are on a par with their male counterparts. Now, the AIBA has made a decision that shifts the focus from these skills to their gender. They are requiring female competitors to wear skirts and tight vests as the new uniform for international competition. This is not fair to those women who have fought in and out of the ring for the recognition of the Olympic and boxing communities. I believe it is important to shift that focus back to the boxing.

When I first got the message from local boxing coach Amy Hannus about the fact that the AIBA (Association Internationale de Boxe Amateur), the organization that governs international amateur boxing was requiring female boxers to wear skirts in the Olympics, I thought perhaps her account had been hijacked by spammers. There were a few clues that she was serious, however, including the fact that she had contacted me and Rita Figueroa, a four-time Chicago Golden Gloves champion who went 10-2-1 as a professional boxer, in a career that included winning the WIBA Americas Lightweight  title, and who has continued as a successful boxing trainer after being forced to retire from the ring due to injury.  In other words, that would be some smart spamming. So, I asked. When I checked my messages, I found that no smart spammers were at work…AIBA was indeed trying to force a uniform shift. I went to the AIBA website, and the first paragraph in the latest news update from the AIBA Women’s World Championships further confirmed the story: “Katie Taylor and Queen Underwood thrilled the crowd with the bout of the tournament and the public had the first glimpse of AIBA’s new women’s boxing uniforms that will be phased in for international competitions.” [ http://www.aiba.org/en-US/news/ozqsp/newsId/3513/news.aspx] The new uniforms consist of a boxing skirt and a tight vest. For the record, neither Taylor nor Underwood wore the uniform in question as they thrilled the crowd.

As a sometime boxing writer, former amateur boxer, and general fan of the sport, I wanted to weigh in on this discussion, and encourage anyone who cares to do so to contact the AIBA about the new uniform requirements. I am not opposed to boxing skirts, whether they are called skirts or some variation of “warrior” flap trunks. I have seen them on both male and female boxers, and, male or female, some boxers wear them well; speaking from a purely aesthetic perspective, some should steer clear. It is undeniable that some female boxers look attractive, not to say sexy, wearing skirts in the ring (or as they are warming up). There is also no denying that skirts in no way reduce a boxer’s efficacy in the ring, any more than sequins, satin or fringe. There may even be some people—men and women—who prefer a skirt when practicing the Sweet Science.

However, apparently, the majority of boxers still prefer to fight in good old fashioned boxing trunks. This includes women currently participating in the highest level of women’s boxing, the Women’s World Championship.  In a blog post about the growing discontent about this issue [ http://blog.timesunion.com/boxing/], Michael  Rivest quotes a number of people who all concur, though for different reasons, with the conclusion that there is no rational reason for women to wear different uniforms from men in international competition. Other female combat sports participants, particularly in the amateur realm, do not wear different outfits—there are no alterations to Tae Kwon Do,  BJJ and Judo gis, wrestling singlets, savate integrals, etc.— for women, though obvious adjustments are made in protective equipment. In the professional ranks or non-tournament matches (or preliminary tournament bouts), some boxers choose to show their individual style by adding flourishes to trunks, choosing meaningful or flattering colors (yes, boxing is not immune to vanity), or wearing skirts or “warrior” style trunks. These help shape boxers’ identities in the ring. However, tournaments are meant to focus on skills, not style, hence the uniform. The insistence that women competing on the international stage, and in the Olympics for the first time, be forced to wear skirts is demeaning to athletes who work just as hard to achieve their goals in the ring as their male counterparts. The only reason to force women to wear skirts and tight vests in the ring is to “feminize” the sport to gain viewership. Wouldn’t it show more faith in the athletes to simply show them doing what they have trained to do in the gym alongside men, wearing the same attire that BOXERS have always worn in competition?   As one of the women quoted by Michael Rivest remarked,“AIBA is telling me that I have to remember that I’m a woman first, a boxer second.” Female or male, boxers should be allowed to be boxers first.

Clearly, AIBA officials (or IOC officials, whom the AIBA leadership blames for the need to change uniforms) did not consider the possible interpretations of their actions in making this decision. Hopefully, now that they are aware, they will reconsider a cosmetic change based on gender that, in my opinion, has no place in amateur competition.

For those who may not have seen a boxing skirt, Indiana-based Olympic hopeful Tiffany Perez wears one in the following clip:

abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=resources/lifestyle_community&id=7322822

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