Olympics: Female boxers demonstrate their worth

By David Leggat in London

New Zealand amateur lightweight boxer Alexis Pritchard, in blue, ( along with Siona Fernandes ) will be the first female boxers to represent New Zealand at the Olympic Games. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
New Zealand amateur lightweight boxer Alexis Pritchard, in blue, ( along with Siona Fernandes ) will be the first female boxers to represent New Zealand at the Olympic Games. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

There will always be people uncomfortable at the idea of women's boxing for any number of reasons.

It may be an unease at the notion of women hitting each other; or simply an opinion that it's not 'real' boxing.

The New Zealand women who form part of the field for the discipline's Olympic Games debut in London acknowledge those minds won't be swayed.

Equally they recognise the importance that the event does land a few solid rights to demonstrate it's worth to be on the programme.

Auckland pair Siona Fernandes, a flyweight and classically trained Indian dancer, and lightweight Alexis Pritchard, are confident and determined to do their part for the sport.
''Really that's their opinion and I can't change that," Pritchard said.

''I think women have the potential to do anything and I'd encourage little girls to do what they want to do.

''We can't help that some people are close-minded about what females can and can't do. But we hope to show them what we do and maybe change their opinions a little bit."

Mention of the recent Jaime Ridge-Rosanna Arkle celebrity nonsense brings a gritting of the teeth.

''People are confusing the two. What Siona and I do is a lot different to what they do," Pritchard said.

''It's great they had the opportunity to bring boxing in the limelight, but this is the real thing, and I hope New Zealanders appreciate what we do and not think that was boxing."

Coach Cameron Todd, who is Pritchard's husband, also took a swipe at prominent boxing aficionado Bob Jones, who is no fan of the female pugilistic game.

''I think level of boxing will surprise a few people but there will always be knockers out there. They don't get how hard the women train," he said.

''You get the Bob Jones' of the world who don't like women's boxing and he's never going to change his mind, and to be honest we don't need his opinion. It doesn't bother us at all."

The pair, who qualified by dint of their efforts at the world championships in China in May, spent three weeks training in Cardiff with a range of boxers from around the world. Todd likes what he's seen and rates their chances, depending on a bit of luck with the draw.

Each division has 12 fighters; the format has four byes. Therefore should a fighter get a first-round bye they need only win one bout to be sure of a medal. Beaten semifinalists both receive a bronze.

''The advantage is less numbers, so I guess you're closer to the medals,'' Todd said.

''But the disadvantage is because of less numbers they're all good. You don't get an easy fight first up."

The weigh-in and draw are on tomorrow. A first round fight will be on August 5; those with a bye start the following day.

- APNZ

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