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London 2012: Shock defeat for Mary Kom at boxing event

MC Mary Kom, Indian boxer
Mary Kom is one of India's best hopes for Olympic gold at London 2012

MC Mary Kom's hopes of winning India's second ever Olympic gold medal were dented recently as she was knocked out of a London 2012 test event.

The historic competition at London's Excel Centre was almost overshadowed by a minor but controversial question - should women boxers wear shorts or skirts at next year's Games?

Since the amateur boxing's organising federation (Aiba) proposed that female fighters should wear skirts, critics have been quick to label the organisation sexist.

Britain's Natasha Jonas believes: "The only people who would want to see women in skirts are men".

Following her quarter-final defeat, five-time world champion MC Mary Kom argued: "The tennis players wear skirts and the badminton players are wearing skirts so why don't the boxers wear skirts?"

The official line from Aiba is that competitors will choose what they wear: "It has never been Aiba's intention to make skirts compulsory for women boxers," said Aiba spokesman Sebastien Gillot. "Aiba is just sounding opinions from all around the world".

We wore skirts at the last world championships and it's comfortable. The tennis players wear skirts and the badminton players are wearing skirts so why don't the boxers wear skirts?
MC Mary Kom

In the upset of the tournament, MC Mary Kom was beaten 13:9 by Argentina's Pamela Paoloa Benavides.

The mother of two from the Indian state of Manipur still believes she is on course for London 2012.

"Today was not my lucky day," Mary Kom says. "Before the bout I had a minor ankle injury.

"The world championships are the qualifiers for the Olympics so that is the main tournament and I will do my best for my country there."

Most of the fighters at the event will make history next summer as women boxers compete at an Olympic Games for the first time ever. Looking down on them was another history maker.

In the 1950s 'Battling' Barbara Buttrick made a living as a boxer on both sides of the Atlantic at a time when women were barred from the sport. She participated in hugely popular exhibition fights, one of which even appeared on television.

She is immensely proud to see women welcomed into the Olympic fold.

"It's very satisfying to see how the sport has developed and to see women accepted on the same level as men. I had such a struggle with public opinion in my day but I just ignored it and carried on," she said.

Matthew Archibald, boxing manager for Olympic organisers Locog reiterated the significance of the event. "We're really delighted and I think the whole Olympic movement is proud to see women's boxing included and it is well justified," he said.

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see also
Mary Kom wins fifth world title
18 Sep 10 |  World Olympic Dreams
Boxing goes hand in glove with Mary Kom
08 Sep 10 |  World Olympic Dreams
'Magnificent Mary' aims for London knock-out
26 Jul 10 |  World Olympic Dreams
Women in boxing over the years
28 Jul 10 |  World Olympic Dreams

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