Games a test for women’s boxing
Women will demand much of the limelight when the boxing gets under way at the London Olympic Games this month.
The traditional rivalry between the American and Cuban teams is likely to continue but boxing enthusiasts will also pay attention to the fighters who will make history as boxing for women becomes an Olympic sport.
What the Marquis of Queensberry would have made of it is probably unprintable but women are ready to compete for Olympic boxing medals for the first time.
But some critics are not convinced the publicity generated by women boxing at the Games will spark a lucrative and popular professional circuit for females.
One of the sceptics is 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. 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 the Olympics to change that.
"I really don't think so," he said, noting that since the American "Dream Team" played in the Barcelona Games, basketball’s global popularity is "off the charts", but women’s basketball is struggling."
"Unless the sport is going to be supported by women, it has no chance," he said. "Men usually want to see men compete. Tennis may be an exception."
GENUINELY TALENTED WOMEN
The men's competition should be, as usual, a high-class event. If a Cuban wins the super-heavyweight title, the medal is likely to be dedicated to the late three-time champion Teofilo Stevenson, who died in June.
The women are delighted to be boxing at the London Games. There will be some genuinely talented fighters, and India’s supporters, in particular, are hoping that Mary Kom will deliver gold in the flyweight category.
Kom lost in the quarterfinals at the women’s world championships earlier this year when England’s Nicola Adams defeated her.
Adams then beat a Russian in the semisfinals before losing to China's Ren Cancan in the final, giving Kom a chance to fight in London.
The 29-year-old Kom, known as Magnificent Mary, said this week: "I have fought in the world championships many times but it's important to go to the Olympics; it's the highlight of my career."
The diminutive Kom has had to move up a division to compete in the lightest Olympic category, 51 kilogram.
The Irish are also dreaming of gold. Their outstanding lightweight, Katie Taylor, won her fourth successive world title in China.
"It's a dream come true. I can't believe it, really," the 25-year-old Taylor said when her participation at the Games was confirmed. Her father Peter is her coach and manager.
"It's been years and years of hard work just to get there. Now I'm going to be an Olympian. I want to thank everyone for the prayers," she said, knowing that she has to win only one bout to be assured of a medal.