Women finally join Olympic fight club

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It is not the first time the world has proclaimed the Olympic Games in London to be like no other. London is the only city to host the Olympics three times. The 1908 Olympic Games in London gave the competition its first swimming pool. It was those same games that marked the first time athletes marched into the stadium by nationality for the opening ceremony. London likes to be first. The 2012 Games will feature female boxers in the Olympics for the first time in history.

U.S. women outnumber the men for the first time in the history of the Olympic Games. Saudi Arabia will let women compete in the Olympics for the first time. There is an athlete from Malaysia who will participate in her sport 8 month's pregnant. Ladies are now having a big impact on the games.

It is not clear when the change in mind set began or what caused it but former pro-boxer and member of the Kentucky Boxing and Wrestling Authority Bud Schardein reminds us, "It's not so long ago, people may not remember until about 1968 in the Olympics they thought it was dangerous for a woman's health to run beyond a half mile in track and field."

It was that same line of thinking that has kept women "out" of the boxing ring "in" the Olympics.  It was the only summer sport without female representation until the International Olympic Committee voted to include it in the London Games of 2012. Terry Middleton trainer and owner for forty years of his own gym in New Albany, Indiana has watched as these athletes have battled quite a few opponents. Some of their opponents in the ring and some opponents never stepped through the ropes. Their first fight was against discouragement, disregard and outright discrimination.

"Well I think the sports organizations are finding out the women...the girls...can do anything the guys can do," Middleton said with a grin.

Schardein agrees with Middleton," They'll probably be better boxers instead sluggers in the ring."

Still smiling Middleton added, "A lot of times better"

U.S. Olympic team member, lightweight and five-time U.S. Champion, Queen Underwood, 28, said when you see her in the ring your questions about women boxers will be replaced with ovations. "When they see us women boxers they're gonna say wow instead of why. I think we're gonna change a lot of people's ideas of women boxers.  I think we're gonna open some eyes," Queen says wide eyed and excited. Underwood also hopes to "close" some eyes of opponents and bring home gold.

You would think the only conflicts the women have to worry about now would be in the games in the arena. The International Amateur Boxing Association recommended the women boxers wear skirts during OIympic competition. Officials claimed with headgear it is hard to distinguish the sexes. That ruling has since been amended. It is now an option to wear trunks or a skirt after lots of criticism and charges of sexism. The tough trio of team U.S.A. is ready for every fight.

"To have this opportunity to be the first to make history and go represent in London in these Olympic games, it just means the world to me," explained Underwood knowing the world will be watching.

Esparza, the first to make the team is also ready to hear the bell and hit her opponent. "I think like the atmosphere and the energy is going to be like something I've never felt before.  I think that's one of the main things I'm looking forward to," explained Esparza.  She is also looking forward to receiving love from the Latino crowd.

The saying "fight like a girl" will have a new meaning to the world when they see the punching power of these ladies.

"I'm doing the same thing every single day even more whenever summer comes.  I train twice, three times a day," Claressa Sheilds proudly explains.  She believes if you are not dedicated, this is not the sport for you.

Middleton believes it is that dedication often setting the women apart from the men, "The ladies they just keep training, keep training and when the opportunities there, they're ready."

The ladies are also ready to be given what all other Olympic athletes have received since the sixth century B.C, a simple seven letter word, respect.

"Millions of people will be watching so they'll demand it," Middleton shared.

Lightweight queen Underwood, 28, flyweight Marlen Esparza, 22, and the youngest U.S. Olympic boxer in 40 years, middleweight Claressa, 17, shields make up the first ever Olympic women's boxing team.

Sheilds is favored to take home a gold medal. The three women of team U.S.A. will compete against 33 women from countries all over the world in the sport of boxing. There are only three weight classes for the women. There are ten for the men. With only three weight classes that in the women's boxing  that knocks a lot of the best talent out of the competition because they cannot qualify for the games because of their weight. More weight classes, more women. This is certainly at least a starting point to start punching to a brighter future.

"Why shouldn't they box. It's long overdue," Schardein said in a matter of fact voice with a shrug of his shoulders.

One Jordanian female boxer has removed herself from the Olympic competitions because they will not let her wear her religious Hi jab.  The fights for the female boxers start august 5th with Queen Underwood being the first one to step into the ring. 

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