Fighting for London

ALISON KORN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

A few weeks ago, I suggested golf should be kept out of the Olympics -- and now here is one sport that should be brought in: Women's boxing.

In contrast to the various other sports wanting to get on the Olympic program, boxing already is at the Olympics -- but for men only. How embarrassing. Women's boxing is now practised in more than 120 countries and on five continents.

The International Boxing Association, known by its French acronym of AIBA, is making its pitch to the International Olympic Committee to include women's boxing at the 2012 Olympics in London. It will get an answer in late 2009.

"I can't see how they could possibly refuse the women's boxers," said Peter Wylie, head coach at the Cabbagetown Boxing Club, and former national women's team coach.

"The technical quality of the women boxers is comparable to the men now. I'm telling you, if you stand at the back of a hall and you watch the top women boxing, you wouldn't know that's not a man in the ring."

Windsor's Mary Spencer is one Canadian whose career would be boosted if her sport got Olympic status. Just last weekend, Spencer, coached by Charlie Stewart, won world championship gold in China in the 66-kilogram division -- the first Canadian boxer to win two career world golds. (Her first came in 2005.) She is optimistic that women will box at the Olympics, eventually.

"I just have this feeling that it's going to be there, and, if it's not in 2012, it's going to be in 2016," said Spencer, 23, whose record over six years is 85-5. "There is so much for me to learn right now that I'm not spending any time thinking about (the Olympics), because I still kind of feel like I'm just starting out."

Canada won three medals at the women's amateur boxing worlds. Along with Spencer, Quebec's Arianne Fortin won her second career gold in the 70-kg division and Sudbury's Amber Konikow took bronze in the 75-kg class.

"I don't think Canadians realize how good the women's boxing program is," Spencer said.

"Out of 42 countries at the worlds this year, we were ranked No. 4. And we only took a team of eight. The top three teams had full teams of 13 boxers."

Boxing Canada couldn't afford to send a full team.

COMPANIES STEP UP

Here's a cheery followup to my recent column on how the weak economy is torching amateur athlete endorsements:

Ideaca Knowledge Services announced this week the signing of three Canadian skiers to sponsorship agreements through 2010. Ideaca, a Canadian information technology services company with offices in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, will support 2007 world moguls champion Kristi Richards, Olympic aerialist Kyle Nissen and national team alpine skier Larisa Yurkiw.

Also this week, General Mills put out a call for summer sport athlete applications for its Aspiring Olympian program, to be featured on cereal boxes and online next summer. Winter athletes will be featured starting in February 2009. Every athlete is guaranteed a minimum of $5,000 in financial support with the potential for more when shoppers redeem product codes online.

A TOUCH OF GLASS

Twenty years after winning silver at the Calgary 1988 Olympics, figure skating sweetheart Elizabeth Manley is pitching a new set of Vancouver 2010 glassware to support Canada's Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

Selling for $3.99 at Petro-Canada locations, approximately 50% of the proceeds from the sale of each glass will go towards helping Canada's Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

"The funding from the glasses is so important," Manley said. "I came from just my mom raising me and figure skating was such an expensive sport, and any little help was a major thing for me."

Canadians bought more than 50 million Petro-Canada Olympic Winter Games-themed glasses when the Games were in Calgary in 1988.

The first glass is available now with the remaining three glasses to be released in May 2009, November '09 and January 2010.


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