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WBC proposal for transgender boxing category could 'set the precedent for other sports to follow'

The WBC is planning a new category to allow transgender boxers to compete; it won't necessarily involve a title belt or championship; Unified champion and Sky Sports pundit Natasha Jonas believes the WBC proposals could lead the way for other sports to follow

Tyson Fury v Dillian Whyte - Open Workout - BOXPARK Wembley
World Boxing Council president Mauricio Sulaiman during an open workout at BOXPARK Wembley, London. Picture date: Tuesday April 19, 2022.
Image: WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman wants transgender athletes to come forward in 2023 so they can help establish a boxing program

The WBC, one of the four major world title sanctioning bodies in boxing, is proposing a new category to include transgender boxers in the sport.

The WBC won't necessarily sanction a new championship or title belt. Primarily they want to create an event so transgender fighters can take part in the sport.

"We don't know [when a bout could be sanctioned]. Our interest right now is the sport. At first safety of course for all athletes. If there is a common group of [trans] athletes and it leads to having more people reach out and register, we don't know where this could finish," WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman told Sky Sports.

The WBC women's boxing title belt is displayed on the ring prior to the women's unification world middleweight championship boxing bout between Claressa Shields and Christina Hammer, Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Image: A new WBC championship won't necessarily be introduced, the new category is to create opportunities to compete

"But what we want to do is create a transgender boxing program. Not necessarily a belt, or a championship. Simply a competition, so they can be included in boxing and not excluded."

Firstly they need to register how much interest there would be in participating in such an event.

"We put this together, we're going to be working. We're trying to find how many potential athletes there are out there, so we can help them and establish a boxing program," Sulaiman said.

Their plans for the new category would see the WBC adopt the "at birth" rule, meaning that a trans fighter assigned as a male at birth would only be able to compete against a fellow trans fighter assigned as a male at birth.

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Mauricio Sulaiman emphasises that as a combat sport boxing needs to be mindful of competition categories
Image: Mauricio Sulaiman emphasises that as a combat sport boxing needs to be mindful of competition categories (Photo: Associated Press)

"The WBC medical committee and the technical committee met during the [WBC] convention. It was decided that the WBC absolutely rejects and opposes to any born man to fight against a born woman," Sulaiman said.

"We created a committee to put together a program for transgender boxing that can find inclusion to those athletes who wish to take part in boxing. But under this program that adheres to absolutely no man against woman.

"It is important to address the situation," he continued. "Boxing is not a game.

"You don't score goals or break records of time. We had to address this. We need to include and bring the opportunity if there are potential athletes who want to box."

'This could be the precedent for other sports to follow'

Natasha Jonas, the unified WBC, WBO and IBF super-welterweight champion and Sky Sports pundit, believes introducing a transgender category in the manner the WBC proposes could become an example for other sports to adopt.

"There shouldn't be any barriers to sport, to being included and being able to participate in a sport that you love and you want to do. Saying that it also needs to be fair," Jonas told Sky Sports.

Jonas supports the WBC creating categories for transgender boxers using the "at birth" rule, so that for instance a trans fighter assigned as a male at birth would only be able to compete against a fellow trans fighter assigned as a male at birth.

Image: Natasha Jonas believes the model for inclusion the WBC are proposing could be adopted by other sports

"For inclusivity, I think it's a good position to take," Jonas said.

"This is not a movement [in sport] that's going away and nor should it," she continued. "Boxing moves with the world.

"The world moves and sport moves and it doesn't stop for anybody and this is the way the world is. There shouldn't be barriers to anyone competing but we have to keep it fair.

"We're a combat sport and there are physiological differences."

First the WBC needs to ascertain how many trans athletes will be interested in participating.

"At least they're trying," Jonas said. "Boxing as a sport can say well, we tried it [even if] there wasn't enough participants to do it.

"It'll be interesting to see how it goes and will they actually set the precedents for other sports to follow?

"I do think it probably will set the precedent for others to follow."

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