Saccurato eyes 2012 Games

MURRAY GREIG, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

World Boxing Council lightweight champ Ann Saccurato says it would be a dream come true to represent the U.S. at the 2012 Olympics in London.

"Being a world champion is one thing, but representing your country on the international stage at the Olympic Games is something that I can't even imagine ... it would be huge," said Saccurato, the slick-punching New Yorker who is defending her title against Edmonton's Jelena Mrdjenovich tonight at the Shaw Conference Centre.

The International Olympic Committee voted in August to add three women's weight classes to the boxing competition at the London Games, with one of the 11 men's divisions (light flyweight) dropped to make room. The women will fight at flyweight (48-51 kg), lightweight (56-60 kg) and middleweight (69-75 kg).

No decision has yet been made on whether professionals will be allowed to compete, but Saccurato is keeping her fingers crossed.

"They let NBA basketball players and other professionals go to the Olympics, so I can't see why they wouldn't let female pro fighters ... especially since it's the first time," she said.

"I'm 31, so (London) would probably be my only shot. That's three years from now, and a lot can happen between now and then. I just think it would be an incredible opportunity, both personally and in terms of growing our sport."

The IOC obviously agrees.

"Women's boxing has shown tremendous growth in the last five years and it was time to include them," IOC president Jacques Rogge said in announcing the results of the vote.

The decision was heralded as "historic" by British Olympics minister Tessa Jowell, who added: "It will be a landmark moment come London 2012 when for the first time every sport will have women participating. The London Games will create the first-ever generation of boxing heroines and hopefully inspire even more women to take up the sport."

That's Saccurato's hope, too.

"Even though women's boxing has been around for quite a while now, I don't think it's gotten the respect it deserves -- but we're gaining in popularity all over the world," said the champ.

"I've fought in the U.S., Canada, Japan and Europe and it's the same everywhere: our sport is winning more fans all the time. Getting it into the Olympics shows that it's not a fringe sport anymore; it's one that's going to be on the world stage. I just hope I'll be able to be a part of that."

Right on the Marks

The curtain-raiser on tonight's six-bout Redemption card at the Shaw will feature Edmonton lightweight Brad Marks in just his second pro outing. A graduate of the Cougar Boxing Club program, Marks is an exciting puncher who took just 24 seconds to starch Dave McQuaker (1-1) of Lethbridge on Oct. 16 ... The World Boxing Organization will bestow the title of "Super Champion" on the winner of tomorrow's WBO welterweight showdown between Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. That designation includes the right to be considered the mandatory challenger in higher or lower divisions and eligibility to be considered the mandatory challenger in the same division. This one has all the earmarks of a watershed bout in the tradition of Hagler vs. Hearns or Duran vs. Barkley. My pick: PacMan by KO in Round 8.

MURRAY.GREIG@SUNMEDIA.CA


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