Patricia Manuel celebrates after a bout in the Police Athletic League national… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
The first competitors won't step into the ring in London for seven months but already a controversy has broken out over women's participation in the Olympic boxing tournament.
Only this time it has nothing to do with a woman's right to fight.
The battle now has shifted to what the women should wear, with some members of the International Amateur Boxing Assn. — the governing body for the sport — urging the boxers to don skirts instead of the baggy shorts they've been wearing.
"This is absurd," complained Patricia Manuel, a former national champion from Long Beach and an Olympic hopeful at 132 pounds. "To put fighters in skirts to label them as women is incredibly outdated. It seems to me sexist."
The Badminton World Federation took a similar stance this month after a marketing firm advised officials that the sport needed to look more feminine to attract fans and sponsors. At its meeting in New Zealand the BWF called for women to ditch the shorts and sweat pants they have traditionally worn and "dress nicely" to "promote the image of badminton," according to Paisan Rangsikitpho, deputy president of the executive board.
"Women should wear women's clothing," Rangsikitpho said in summing up the board's ruling. "BWF wishes all players to be more fashionable and good role models."
AIBA officials, meanwhile, say a uniform change is necessary in boxing to help spectators tell the women from the men. Currently athletes in both competitions fight in similar shorts, singlets and headgear.
And though boxers from Poland and Romania donned skirts at the European Championships in October, few fighters appear to favor the change.
One exception is Mikaela Mayer, a three-time national champion from West Hills who will also compete at 132 pounds in February's U.S. Olympic trials.
"I would fight in them," Mayer says. "I actually want to get one because I think it's cute."
However, Mayer said, the decision should be up to the individual fighters, not the AIBA.
"Let us make our own decision," she says. "If we want to wear skirts, fine. If we want to wear shorts, fine."
The AIBA is expected to make a final decision next month.