By Nick Butler

Womens boxing London 2012August 7 - A petition has been launched demanding equality for female boxers in the wake of the announcement that the number of weight categories for women will remain at just three for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The petition, set-up by the he Women's Boxing Archive Network (WBAN), has been sent both to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Boxing Association (AIBA) and calls for changes to a schedule which currently involves just 36 women competing across three divisions in comparison with over 250 men across ten classes.

This is despite the popularity of women's boxing debut at London 2012, where the bout between eventual champion Katie Taylor of Ireland and home favourite Natasha Jonas registered the highest decibel level of any event across the entire Games.

The petition claims that the decision is "against the ideals of the Olympic spirit and Movement" as set out in the IOC charter, and hopes that it will impact decisions made regarding "women in sports at the Olympics" so therefore encompassing disciplines including sailing, swimming and cycling as well as boxing.

Attention is also drawn to the fact that competitors belonging to the eight divisions not on the programme will have no opportunity to compete, unless "they seek to lose or gain significant weight which could prove extremely damaging to their health and welfare," it is claimed.

katie taylorIreland's Katie Taylor was one of the biggest stars of London 2012  and is pictured here celebrating after beating Britain's Natasha Jonas on way to a gold medal

After making the decision in July in Lausanne the IOC released the following statement:

"The Executive Board discussed the topic of possible modifications to disciplines, events, quotas and competition formats at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and reiterated that any request from International Federations (IF's) that would result in a higher number of athletes or increased number of medals, thereby adding to the cost and complexity of the Games, would not be considered."

It is understood that the extra competitors and events imposed by the inclusion of golf and rugby sevens to the 2016 schedule deems it logistically more difficult to add additional events in pre-existing sports, especially now the Brazilian organisers are already struggling to get ready in time for the Games.

Shortly after the IOC's announcement AIBA wrote that although "it takes note and respects the IOC's decision, it hopes that more opportunities will be opened to women boxers at the 2020 Games."

AIBA Communications Director Sebastien Gillot has since repeated this message to insidethegames as well as insisting that "in the meantime, AIBA will do its utmost to further promote and develop women's boxing around the world."

He also added: "We encourage everybody who loves women's boxing to follow tomorrow's talents at the upcoming AIBA Women's Junior/Youth World Boxing Championships in Albena, Bulgaria."

rugby sevensThe inclusion of  golf and rugby sevens is one of the likely reasons why the IOC is reluctant to add more events to an already hectic schedule

These messages are likely to be of little solace to the WBAN however as they seek more publicity for their petition.

One high profile supporter has been Brazil's professional world champion Rosilete Dos Santos who, despite not being able as a professional to compete, plans to fight hard for changes ahead of her home Games:

"With only three categories, the injury risk to female Olympic boxers is huge, and this limits the number of women in the Olympics," she said.

"Three categories makes the difference in weight much greater and the boxers have to lose or gain too much weight - the IOC should [therefore] change its decision and open up more options.

"If men have 10 categories, we women might have the same number and can make sure that women have fight levels in all categories.

"Much is made of ending discrimination between men and women, but this inequality we still see at some points, as is happening in Olympic boxing.

"If we do not change and show that it is possible to reach the top, this difference will not end, therefore, we have to keep fighting in every way and I will be part of this fight."

dos santosFormer professional world champion Rosilete Dos Santos is one athlete who is firmly supporting the WBAN petition.

More than 1,000 signatures have already been added and a Facebook group has also been set up to further spread the message.

The petition comes at the same time as several other gender equality movements within the Olympic Movement, including a campaign launched by former world cycling champion Emma Pooley to support a women's Tour de France to be held alongside the male version in 2014.

It is hoped that these efforts will go some way to address the imbalances between male and female sport which still exist despite recent improvements – such as the original inclusion of women's boxing in the programme for 2012.

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