The Amateur International Boxing Federation (AIBF) will take steps toward ruling on women's Olympic boxing uniforms this week.
In a week-long series of meetings that began in Thailand on Wednesday, the AIBF Technical and Rules Commission is expected to make recommendations on whether or not Olympic athletes should be required to wear skirts in the ring. According to Inside the Games, a respected Olympic digital newsletter, the AIBF Executive Committee is expected to listen to these recommendations, but will not make a final ruling until July.
The AIBF found itself under fire after a 2011 suggestion that women's boxers should wear skirts to help differentiate themselves from male competitors.
Television viewers have complained that they are unable to tell the difference between men's and women's boxing because of the athletes' bulky headgear, argued AIBF's president, Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu, argued last fall.
As of Wednesday afternoon, a change.org petition led by Elizabeth Plank, a Canadian amateur boxer based in London, had gathered more than 50,000 digital signatures asking the AIBF to reconsider its ruling.
"The idea that female boxers should be made to wear skirts reduces these skilled athletes to sex objects," argues Plank in the petition. "It undermines the the respect they have long fought for."
Some boxers, however, are at least open to having the option to wear skirts in the ring. In a December interview, top Canadian boxer Mary Spencer told CTV she fought in her first skirt at a World Championship competition in 2010. She even found it to be a more comfortable alternative to shorts.
"I put it on and I was like, this is amazing," Spencer said. "This is so practical, it's comfortable, I can move better.
"A lot of people who aren't in the sport don't realize how practical it is, so they make a big deal out of it. But it's not like playing basketball in a skirt. Any given night you can put on (men's boxing program) Friday Night Fights and you'll see some men who are wearing a skirt because they're so practical."