The duel between the best amateur male boxers from the US and their counterparts from bitter enemies Cuba will take a backseat at the Olympics as women’s boxing enters the fray for the first time.
Quite what the Marquis of Queensberry would make of it is probably unprintable, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was persuaded by a polished lobbying campaign to allow it to take its place.
The men’s competition should be the usual high quality event and if a Cuban wins the super-heavyweight gold, expect the medal to be dedicated not only to the country, but also to the late great three-time champion Teofilo Stevenson, who died last month.
The female pugilists are delighted to have their shot at Olympic gold and have some genuine talent coming through, with Indian hopes high that their legend, Mangte Chungneijang Merykom, better known as Mary Kom, will deliver gold in the flyweight division.
However, Kom will want no repeat of the world championships result earlier this year in China after she lost in the quarter-finals to Englishwoman Nicola Adams, putting her place in doubt for the Olympic Games.
Adams, though, saved her spot by defeating a Russian in the semis — though she later lost to China’s Ren Cancan in the final — and handing Kom a chance to fulfill her dream.
Ireland too will dream of a rare gold, with their outstanding lightweight Katie Taylor, the 25-year-old having won her fourth successive world title in China.
“It’s a dream come true, I can’t believe it really,” she said on gaining her Olympic slot, after bursting into tears.
However, critics are simply not convinced that it will act as a launching pad for the sport in general — in other words, the oxygen of publicity every four years will not spark a lucrative and popular professional circuit.
One such skeptic is the legendary promoter Bob Arum, who has tried his hand at promoting women’s boxing.
“I used to have female bouts on the card, and they weren’t greeted by much enthusiasm by the writers,” he said. “We couldn’t sell tickets, because women don’t follow women’s boxing and men look at it as a diversion.”
Arum does not expect Olympic inclusion to change that.
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