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Why Is Irish Boxing's Latest Star Not Going To The Olympics?

Conor O'Leary
By Conor O'Leary
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News that Ireland's next female boxing hero was through to her first World Championships final was met with plenty of delight but given the absolute glory hunters that we all are, it's difficult not to see her at her best and think, what if?

It takes absolutely nothing away from her performances at the World Championships but there is a small sense of disappointment knowing that she won't be going to the Olympics.

Given the way Harrington dominated her opponent, Sara Kali, in the semi-final - it's not hard to think that she wouldn't have been a medal hope for Ireland at Rio this year.

So why isn't Kellie Harrington going to Rio?

It's because the weight class that she fights in isn't offered in the Olympics. Harrington is a light welter-weight (64kg), and there are only three weight classes in the Olympics for female boxers - flyweight (51kg), lightweight (60kg), and middleweight (75kg).

See Also: Updated List Of Every Irish Athlete Qualified For 2016 Olympics

Why are there only three weight classes for women's boxing?

There are ten weight classes for men's boxing at the Olympics - so why the disparity?

In fact, no other combat sport - for men or women - has so few divisions in the Olympics. No other Olympic combat sport has non-continuous divisions.


When the decision to include women's boxing in the Olympics happened in 2009, only including three divisions raised eyebrows. Women who didn't fit into the weights were forced to chose whether to gain/lose a lot of weight, or simply not box.

Harrington has simply chosen not to box outsi.

Why Are There Only Three Weight Classes?

It's not the A.I.B.A.'s fault. They were limited to having 286 boxers at any one Olympics. This meant that to include women's boxing originally they had to cut the number of weight classes for men from 11 to ten - allowing 250 male boxers, and 36 female. Dr. Charles Butler the chairman of the medical commission of boxing’s international governing body, the A.I.B.A. wished this wasn't the case, and that there is a desire for equality:


We wish we had 10 slots for men and 10 for women because we believe in equality.

With the limits given, Butler said that the task of selecting which weight classes would be represented was tough. He said back in 2009:

We tried to pick the best classes we could get. We tried to look where there are real strengths. We want to go to London and people to go, ‘Wow — look how good the women are.’

The AIBA pushed for additional weight classes in women's boxing after the success of London, but the IOC ruled it out citing concerns over cost and complexity of the Games. The AIBA decided it wasn't practical to take out further weight classes in men's boxing to facilitate the addition of the weight classes for females.

What that means is that while the appetite to change is there from the AIBA, until the IOC wants to do something about it, Harrington will probably not go the Olympics unless she wants to drop down a division to join Katie Taylor as a lightweight.

[New York Times]


See Also: Ireland's Next Female Boxing Hero Through To The World Championships Final

Photo by AIBA via Sportsfile



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