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Tuesday, November 24, 1998 Published at 10:50 GMT


Round one for women's boxing

Jane Couch (right) comes face to face with her opponent

By Sports Correspondent, Neil Bennett

The first women's professional boxing bout in Britain takes place in South London on Wednesday night.

Jane Couch: Feeling calm ahead of the fight and hoping to inspire others
Twenty-nine-year old Jane Couch - also known as the Fleetwood Assassin - takes on Simona Lukic, 18, from Yugoslavia at Caesars nightclub in Streatham Hill.

Jane, the world welterweight champion, has already won the biggest fight of her career by overcoming the male boxing establishment which at first refused her a licence to box in this country.

Despite the struggle, she now feels it was all worthwhile for her and all women who share her ambition.

"It gives them something to aim for. They now have the chance to box as amateurs and learn the trade and aim for what I am doing too. I think it is going to be a good move for women in sport," says Jane.

After four successful amateur bouts she had to go to America and Europe to fight as a professional and won her title in Copenhagen in 1996. Then came the battle to get a licence in Britain and a well publicised slugging match with the British Board of Control before an industrial tribunal.

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Backed by the Equal Opportunities Commission, Jane Couch claimed that she was being discriminated against and the subsequent tribunal hearing proved highly embarrassing for the Board.

They were ridiculed for their defence that pre-menstrual tension made women too unstable to box and they were comprehensively outpointed by the tribunal judgement.

Jane got her licence earlier this year to usher in a new era for boxing in this country.

But the bout has already attracted criticism from one leading boxing figure - Frank Maloney who manages male heavyweight champion, Lennox Lewis.

He has described the contest as a freakshow and is firmly opposed to women's boxing. Others argue that it is a dangerous sport for men and have questioned why women want to subject themselves to the risk of brain damage as well.

Jane Couch: Skill and dedication wins titles and support
Jane Couch however feels confident about taking that risk.

"The boxing criteria of the Boxing Board is very, very strict. If women cannot meet it they will not get a professional licence. If they meet the standard and pass the medical then they have my full support - I say go ahead and box. That is what it is all about," she says.

Her interest in boxing dates from the night she saw a televsion documentary about two American women fighters.

A self confessed slob, her life changed from that moment and she won her first amateur bout against a policewoman in Wigan. It was nice, she said, to be able to beat up a cop without getting arrested.

Her opponent Simona Lukic hails from Yugoslavia but has done all her boxing in Germany where the sport is big business. Simona is 10 stone and has wone three, lost three and drawn two of her eight professional bouts.

She flies to London for the weigh-in on Tuesday and the following night it will be seconds out for the first women's professional fight in Britain.

It's bound to be controversial, it's bound to be tough and nobody would deny that it's bound to be interesting.

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