The head of the World Boxing Council is planning to create a new avenue for transgender boxers to practice their craft.
In an interview published Thursday on The Telegraph, WBC boss Mauricio Sulaiman informed the UK newspaper that his sanctioning body is looking to form a separate league for transgender boxers, in the name of “safety and inclusion.”
“We are going to put out a global call for those who are interested in 2023 and we will set up the protocols, start consultation and most likely create a league and a tournament,” Sulaiman said. “It is the time to do this, and we are doing this because of safety and inclusion. We have been the leaders in rules for women’s boxing – so the dangers of a man fighting a woman will never happen because of what we are going to put in place.”
In August, the WBC published a release expressing its unequivocal support for transgender athletes. It noted that the notion of what constitutes a fair bout is murky: "At present there is no consensus whether a bout between a transgender man against a cisgender (biological) man is a fair bout between two equally matched competitors."
Under the proposed rules, Sulaiman stated that boxers assigned different genders at birth would not fight each other. In other words, a trans male fighter born a woman would only be allowed to fight against a fellow trans fighter born a woman.
“In boxing, a man fighting a woman must never be accepted regardless of gender change,” Sulaiman said. “There should be no grey area around this, and we want to go into it with transparency and the correct decisions. Woman to man or man to woman transgender change will never be allowed to fight a different gender by birth.”
The news comes as debate about trans athletes has reached a fever pitch. In America, for example, controversy has swirled over swimmer Lia Thomas.
The most prominent transgender boxer is Patricio Manuel, a decorated amateur who has the distinction of being the first openly transgender man to box professionally in the United States.
In November, the International Olympic Committee offered some guidelines for individual sporting leagues regarding trans athletes.
"No athlete should be precluded from competing or excluded from competition on the exclusive ground of an unverified, alleged or perceived unfair competitive advantage due to their sex variations, physical appearance and/or transgender status," the IOC said.
In the Telegraph interview, women’s junior middleweight champion Natasha Jones of England offered her endorsement of the WBC’s plans.
“It’s dangerous either way,” Jones said. “If you are born a woman you should not be fighting a man, and if a man transitioning to a woman fights a born woman there are definitely physiological disadvantages for the female.
Sulaiman said that his organization is “creating a set of rules and structures so that transgender boxing can take place, as they fully deserve to if they want to box.”
“We do not yet know the numbers that there are out there, but we’re opening a universal registration in 2023, so that we can understand the boxers that are out there – and we’ll start from there.”
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