Having just returned from two weeks in Yekaterinburg from the Men’s World Boxing Championships, I am going back to Russia in a few days for the women’s tournament.
Ulan-Ude to be precise, a city in Eastern Siberia around 3,300 miles from Moscow. According to the Russian Boxing Federation, 809 athletes from 75 countries have registered to also make the trip.
This marks a vast increase from the number of competitors at last year’s Women’s World Championships that took place in the Indian city of New Delhi. There, 277 boxers from 62 countries featured.
It remains to be seen whether the figure remains at 809 once the 10-day tournament gets underway on Thursday (October 3), with the official number at the men’s event dropping by about 100 competitors once the draw was held.
Regardless, it will still be an impressive rise in number and may be something to do with the increased opportunities for female boxers to compete at next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo.
There, with the number of weight classes for men reduced from 10 to eight, the weight classes in the women’s competition has increased from three to five. Action will now take place in the featherweight and welterweight divisions alongside bouts in the flyweight, lightweight and middleweight.
The decision follows the International Olympic Committee's commitment to balance the number of female and male athletes competing at the Games.
Subsequently, the number of women participating in Tokyo is set to nearly treble from Rio 2016, growing from 36 to 100. The increase in places is all the more significant when considering that women’s boxing only made its Olympic debut at London 2012.
The upcoming World Championships will not be a qualifying event for Tokyo 2020 after the IOC suspended recognition of the International Boxing Association in July, stripping the organisation of its involvement in next year’s boxing competition. Instead, a series of qualifying events will be held throughout next year.
The World Championships will still be an essential experience for those hoping to compete at the Olympics, something that is now possible for boxers in half of the 10 weight classes set to be contested.
It does appear that many female boxers have registered to travel to Russia to battle with the world’s best and attempt to capitalise on the increased opportunities in Tokyo next year.
Among those expected to compete is Mary Kom. The Indian will be fighting for her seventh consecutive world title, having dominated the light flyweight class since 2002.
This year, Kom has moved up into the flyweight division, with the Boxing Federation of India promising that any gold or silver medallist at the World Championships will automatically earn a place at February’s Olympic qualifier in Wuhan.
Kom earned an Olympic bronze medal in the flyweight division at London 2012, losing in the semi-finals to Britain’s Nicola Adams, who went on to top the podium both at those Games and Rio 20`6.
Adams has since turned professional, however, with Kom now needing to get past Pang Chol-mi of North Korea, the world flyweight defending champion.
The two remaining Olympic champions from the Rio 2016 women’s boxing competition have also now launched a professional career. Lightweight gold medallist, Estelle Mossely of France and middleweight champion, Claressa Shields of the United States, will subsequently not be present in Ulan-Ude.
Kellie Harrington of Ireland, the reigning lightweight world champion, will also not compete, having picked up a hand injury during the European Games in Minsk in June.
The lightweight division is wide-open then, providing one boxer with the perfect chance to make a mark before Tokyo 2020. It could be Finland's Mira Potkonen that does exactly that, with the 2016 world bronze medallist the victor against Harrington in the European Games gold-medal bout.
Yang Wenlu of China will also be a contender, having topped the podium at the Asian Championships in Bangkok earlier this year.
In the middleweight class, Yang's compatriot Li Qian is expected impress. The defending champion is in good form, having also claimed gold at the Asian Championships. Li has Olympic experience as well, receiving a bronze medal at Rio 2016.
Her victory at last year’s World Championships contributed to China’s success in the overall medal table, with the country finishing with four gold and one silver. Dou Dan was the winner in the light welterweight, Wang Lina in the light heavyweight and Yang Xiaoli in the heavyweight. All three will be defending their titles in Ulan-Ude.
And what of the two weight classes which have recently gained Olympic status? Germany's Ornella Wahner is the defending champion in the featherweight division, while Chen Nien-chin of Chinese Taipei is expected to retain her world title in the welterweight.
The Women's World Championships will evidently be full of talent, then, and will become even more competitive if the expected influx of participants transpires.
Action in the five Olympic weight divisions should be particularly fierce, with competitors set to try and take advantage of the new opportunities they are being offered.
Even though the tournament will not offer places at Tokyo 2020, the increase of Olympic weight classes for female boxers will still have a positive impact on the World Championships.