The 2015 Pacific Games – A Historical Step for Women’s Boxing.

In the last couple of years international amateur boxing has taken many positive steps and reached several milestones in terms of increased gender equality. Here, one of the most significant events has been the inclusion of women’s boxing in the Olympic Games in 2012. However, during the Games in London, only three weight classes for women were added to the Olympic program; 51kg, 60kg and 75kg. For men, there are ten weight classes in Olympic boxing; 49kg, 52kg, 56kg, 60kg, 64kg, 69kg, 75kg, 81kg, 91kg and 91+ kg. These numbers alone demonstrate that there is a long way to go before gender equality in international boxing can be achieved.

Now, for the first time, women boxers are competing in the boxing event of the Pacific Games. The Pacific Games is a large multi-sport event, similar to the Olympic Games, but on a smaller scale as it is only held for countries in the South Pacific. Sadly, like the Olympic Games, the Pacific Games are only including three weight categories for women’s boxing, and ten weight categories for men. In other words, copying the weight categories from the Olympic Games. The fact that women boxers have now become a part of the Pacific Games demonstrates how powerful the Olympic Games can be, and how it can contribute to increased gender equality in sport. When women’s boxing was included in the London 2012 Olympic Games it undoubtedly had a immensely positive effect on the growth of the sport internationally. Prior to the Olympic Games in London 2012, AIBA estimated that there were more than 500,000 licensed women boxers worldwide. Since then, women’s boxing has increased in popularity, and today it is practiced in more than 120 countries and on all continents.

Before the Olympic Games in London 2012, boxing was the only Olympic summer event which excluded women. Naturally, once women’s boxing became an Olympic event, a substantial barrier was broken for women boxers worldwide. Since women boxers started competing in the Olympic Games, several other large multi-sport events have allowed women’s boxing to take part of their competitions. Women’s boxing is now included in both the European Games (2015), the Commonwealth Games (2014), and of course, now also the Pacific Games (2015). Allowing women boxers to compete in these international mega-sporting events is a great step towards increased gender equality in international boxing. Boxing has traditionally been, and still is today, a sport associated with traditional norms of masculinity, and today men still dominate all organizational levels of international boxing – from local club coaching to leadership positions in committees and organizational boards.

The Pacific Games has been held every four years since 1963. Therefore, it is great to know that women boxers from the South Pacific region were finally allowed to enter the ring during the 2015 Pacific Games being held this month (17th – 18th of July). The incorporation of women in the Pacific Games has potential to motivate and stimulate national boxing federations, clubs, coaches and athletes in the South Pacific to invest more time and resources into women’s boxing. In turn, this could lead to an overall growth in female participation in competitive boxing in this region and, in turn, internationally.

By continuing to include women boxers in large and prestigious sport events like the Pacific Games, international sport organizations such as The International Boxing Association (AIBA) is sending a powerful message to national boxing federations: women’s boxing is here to stay, and should be treated equal to men’s boxing. On July the 18th, three women became the first in boxing history to be awarded a gold medal in the Pacific Games. Ten men were also awarded a gold medal. The inclusion of women’s boxing in the Pacific Games is both a historical and a great step for women in boxing. However, it is a terrible shame that women have been limited to only three weight categories in this international sporting event too.

Looking forward to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, there has been a debate concerning the limited number of weight categories for women, but sadly, in Rio 2016, women will still only compete in three different weight categories. Having women’s boxing on the Olympic program seems to have given women’s boxing a positive boost internationally. But until women are allowed to compete in all ten Olympic weight divisions, it is unlikely that large multi-sport events such as the Pacific Games will increase the number of women boxers participating.

About author
Anne Tjønndal er utdannet idrettsviter (MSc. Sport Science) fra Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet (NTNU) i Trondheim. For tiden er hun tilsatt som doktorgradsstipendiat (PhD Research Fellow) ved Universitetet i Nordland (UiN) i Bodø. Hennes doktogradsavhandling omhandler innovasjon og idrett.
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