Boxing - Debutant women a stunning success
LONDON (Reuters) - Some wondered if they would be a novelty, others questioned whether they should be in the ring at all but for four days at the London Games, women boxers were the talk of the Olympics for all the right reasons.
While boxing had its now traditional dose of controversy - notably when two officials were expelled and another referee suspended - all that will be remembered when the next punch is throw at the Rio de Janeiro Games is how women's boxing was such a stunning success.
From pioneers of the sport, like India's Mary Kom, weeping as they finally made their Olympic bow to the trailblazing Katie Taylor of Ireland receiving the loudest roar of the whole Games, the debutant women firmly left the men in the shade.
"I think the majority of people appreciated the women boxers at this Olympic Games," said International Boxing Association (AIBA) president Wu Ching-Kuo, who wants to at least double the 36-strong quota of female competitors in four years time.
"The IOC president Jacques Rogge was sitting with me to watch the final and he was so impressed and very, very happy to bring the women boxers into the Olympic Games."
Wu's first challenge will be to make sure the women who had such an impact in London will still be eligible to box in 2016.
AIBA Professional Boxing (APB) is the governing body's vehicle for stopping the exodus from men's amateur boxing by offering professional contracts as well as another shot at gold, something pro fighters unaffiliated with the AIBA cannot do.
But women were not considered when APB was conceived and while Wu told Reuters AIBA would quickly review this, Ireland's Taylor, who has emerged as one of the faces of the Games, will likely get plenty of lucrative offers in the meantime.
So too may Britain's Nicola Adams, who by winning flyweight gold, became the first Olympic women's boxing champion.
The third of the Olympic golden girls, American teenager Claressa Shields, would be a hot ticket in the heartland of boxing.
The sensational Shields, at 17 the youngest champion in the ring, rescued a dire fortnight for the once great amateur boxing nation whose men left without a medal for the first time, with only one of their nine fighters reaching the quarter-finals.
QUESTIONS TO ANSWER
In the men's tournament, Britain, Ukraine and Cuba shared the title of kings of the ring, winning two gold medals each.
Inspired by Adams' unexpected gold in the women's flyweight, Britain won five medals in total with Luke Campbell and Anthony Joshua, who had never boxed a round before the Beijing Games, taking gold.
Ukraine could not quite follow up their domination of last year's world championships, but Vladimir Klitschko was on hand to see his compatriot Vasyl Lomachenko prove once again why he is the best in the amateur ranks.
Classy Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo won Cuba's first Olympic gold in the ring for eight years, a long wait for the great amateur boxing nation, while thrilling teenager Robeisy Ramirez Carrazana added boxing gold number 34.
There were golds too for Japan, their first in 48 years as well as Russia, China and Kazakhstan, the rising boxer power who will host next year's world championships.
Yet controversy over the judging of bouts was never far away as demonstrated in the Games' final contest when the last of a record number of appeals saw Joshua's medal ceremony delayed.
Organisers want to scrap computerised scoring for Rio but other key questions will also need to be answered before then - like whether it is wise to ditch headguards, to allow more professional fighters in and increase the women's compliment to such a level that it may dilute the ranks like it has for men.
For now though, women's boxers can rightly bask in their moment.
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
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