Gender bias blocks Taylor bout against professional world champion

AIBA rules no WSB fight allowed without headguard

Not for the first time in her career Katie Taylor has become the victim of a sexist decision by the International Boxing Association (AIBA).

The AIBA had hoped female boxers would swap their shorts for skirts but they will not permit the European, world and Olympic champion to fight against a professional world boxing champion without head gear following an approach from the World Series of Boxing (WSB) to take part in their event.

The WSB, a professional competition in which amateurs are encouraged to take part, asked Taylor to participate in an exhibition fight in the semi-final phase of the series next month.

Taylor enthusiastically agreed and suggested a fight against the professional American world champion, Holly Holm or professional Argentinean world lightweight champion Anabella Farias. The idea was to have the best amateur in the world, Taylor, in a head to head against the best professional.


However, the AIBA ruled that Taylor could not fight on the card without a headguard. This is in spite of the fact that male boxers in the amateur ranks have been doing so since the beginning of March, when the rules in the sport were changed. Men will not wear headguards in the 2016 Rio Olympics, while women and juniors continue to wear them. Taylor wants to compete against Holm or Farias as men do under the WSB format, with no guard. They won't allow her.

'Another hurdle'
"It's just another thing, another hurdle," said her father and coach, Pete Taylor. "Katie has fought so hard to get on a par with the lads in boxing and now they are taking it away again.

“The WSB came to us and asked when Katie would be available to fight. I said now, we are ready for it now, ready right now. The idea of it was to see how Katie measures up against the best professional in the world in her weight division. It would have been a great promotion for boxing.

“So we said great, get the world professional champion, Holly Holm, Anabella Faria and we’ll fight 8x2 minute rounds. No head gear. No problems. Let’s go for that because we are ready now to see who is the best pound for pound boxer in the world.

“But it’s like the women aren’t good enough without head guards. The first invitation was for Katie to fight on a WSB bout but you can’t do that with head gear on because then it’s not a WSB bout. Then they said to fight with the guard on but we can do that any time.”

It is not the first time Taylor has, as a woman, has faced adversity in her sport. She tirelessly campaigned for women's boxing to be included in the Olympic Games and took part in demonstration bouts prior to London 2012 in Chicago and St Petersburg. As a world ambassador for boxing, she condemned the seedy decision that women should switch from shorts to skirts to make the sport more attractive before threatening legal action if the issue was pursued. Women now have a choice of wearing skirts or shorts.

While she has lined up fights later this month in Dublin and Castlebar, it has been known for some time that Taylor, voted the best amateur in the world for the last three years, needs to stretch herself. As the sport is in great transition with all boxing now professional (the name is also changing to Olympic Boxing), the boxer, who regularly spars with men, is prevented from furthering her career because she is female.

“It’s a freedom of choice issue,” added Pete. “If you go after this legally – men in the sport with guards and women with no guards, like two different sports – you’ll win every time. They don’t want the girls to get cut but you also want the freedom to choose.

“I’m not saying taking the guards off is correct but if you make a rule, you make it down the line. They haven’t a leg to stand on. Amateur boxing isn’t amateur, it’s professional. It’s very frustrating, a load of rubbish, just another hurdle.”

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times