Womens Boxing In The Olympics Is Good For… Boxing In The Olympics, And For Boxing

xxDunaway_Rodriquez.jpg(Believe me, if you search “woman boxer” on images.google.com, you’ll come up with a lot more gratuitously titillating photos than the one above from womenboxing.com of Wendy Rodriguez, left, and Hollie Dunaway, right.)

After the 2008 Olympics, I remember reading in some quarters that boxing was hanging by a thread, with softball, on the list of sports that might be eliminated. I can’t remember who wrote some of it and whether they had sources or were just speculating, but the thinking was that the IOC wasn’t thrilled about such an “uncivilized” sport, and one so prone to controversy, remaining in its lineup.

The news that the IOC will, for the first time, add women’s boxing as a real Olympic sport (it was an exhibition-only event long, long ago) surely is a fair thing to do. I don’t care for women’s boxing, because one of the things I like about sports is that I enjoy seeing the fastest, strongest, best athletes compete; until I become convinced that the best female boxers can compete with the best male boxers, it won’t interest me. The fact remains that it was strange for mens boxing to be the only sport in the Olympics not to have a womens counterpart.

And even though mens boxing will have to lose a division to make way for womens boxing, that women’s boxing is being added suggests boxing as a whole isn’t, in fact, going anywhere. That, overall, is a positive development, under the circumstances — as in, it could have been a lot worse. Sure, boxing in the Olympics is a perversion, really, of professional boxing, and the scoring system, among other things, needs to be reformed. Additionally, much has been made, and rightfully so, of recent poor U.S. boxing showings in the Olympics. But so long as young men (and now, women) dream of gold medals, there will be Americans trying to win it in the Olympics. And as long as there are American boxers who are graduating from the Olympics, there is going to be a market for them as pros that will ultimately benefit boxing’s pro ranks. Say what you will about the aforementioned recent poor Olympic showings, but the 2004 class for boxing overall — including some Americans — has given us excellent talents like Yuriorkis Gamboa, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Amir Khan, Odlanier Solis, Alexander Povetkin, Andre Ward, Andre Dirrell and Andre Berto.

This is good news, in other words. But not the kind of news that ought to prompt sitting on the laurels. Now that the future looks secure for boxing in the Olympics for a good while longer, the U.S. can turn its attention to the important business of shoring up its miserable amateur system.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.