AIBA chief sees more women fighting in 2016
LONDON (Reuters) - Olympic boxing's governing body hopes more women will box at the Games in four years time and will press the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to increase its quota of competitors to help achieve that goal, its top official said on Saturday.
Women's boxing, rejected in the past because of a limited global appeal that saw them only sanctioned to box in Britain 15 years ago, will make its Olympic debut in London with three gold medals at stake.
Its debut brings to an end the last all-male sport at the summer games.
The International Boxing Association (AIBA) had to squeeze the men into 10 weight categories from the 11 fought in Beijing to make the change and its president said on Saturday it could seek to increase its quota of competitors from 286 at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games to allow more women to take part.
"In 2016 I do hope we can get more women," Wu Ching-kuo told a news conference after the first session of men's boxing and ahead of the first women's bout on August 6.
"The tickets for women are completely sold out, they are really very popular with television so I think then everyone can fully realize that women's boxing is not dangerous, it's all skill."
"In London, the performance of the women is very important," he added. "The IOC is also looking at this result. If it is really positive, as the president of AIBA, I have a duty and responsibility to fight for more (places)."
Wu, who was recently nominated to the IOC executive board, has long been keen on ringing in further changes to the sport, eying the scrapping of computerized scoring, ditching of head guards and introduction of professional athletes by the time the Games head to Brazil.
The Taiwanese has said more than 60 professional boxers will compete at the 2016 Games, chosen from the new World Series of Boxing (WSB) and soon to be launched AIBA Professional Boxing (APB), Wu's own brainchild.
After watching what he hopes will be the future stars of APB from ringside on Saturday, Wu said he was confident he could lure them away from joining the traditional pro ranks with the offer of another shot at Olympic gold, a dream professionals unaffiliated with the AIBA currently cannot chase.
"They have the choice of traditional professional boxing or APB. We can offer this special opportunity, they can come back and represent their country at the Olympic games," he said.
"That package is attractive, and we already have some of the top boxers signed up to join the APB."
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin)