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World Boxing Council to launch transgender category to protect female fighters

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Months after banning trans-identified males from competing against women, the head of the World Boxing Council reportedly said the organization is looking into launching a new category for trans fighters to ensure “safety and inclusion."

“We are going to put out a global call for those (trans-identified athletes) who are interested in 2023 and we will set up the protocols, start consultation and most likely create a league and a tournament,” WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman told The Telegraph last week. “We are doing this because of safety and inclusion."

The WBC, one organization that oversees professional boxing worldwide, issued “Statement/Guidelines Regarding Transgender Athletes participation in professional Combat Sports” last August, declaring that boxing matches should only occur “between two equally matched competitors.”

“In boxing, a man fighting a woman must never be accepted regardless of gender change,” Sulaiman stressed in his exclusive interview with the British newspaper. “Woman-to-man or man-to-woman transgender change will never be allowed to fight a different gender by birth.”

In the August statement, the WBC said it “advocates for two equally skilled and matched athletes competing in the cage or ring, on a level playing field and to keep matches fair, competitive, entertaining, and most importantly safe for all combatants.”

The statement added: “At present level of scientific knowledge, the WBC consensus is that allowing transgender athletes to compete raises serious health and safety concerns.”

FINA, which governs competitive swimming worldwide, and USA Powerlifting are among the professional sports organizations that have implemented policies limiting athletes to compete against members of their biological sex instead of their stated gender identity in some or all cases.

As USA Powerlifting explained, men have “increased body and muscle mass, bone density, bone structure, and connective tissue,” all factors that, on average, give them an advantage over their biologically female counterparts in competitive sports.

In addition to listing concerns about fairness as the justification for implementing a new policy, the WBC pointed to safety hazards in the notoriously high-contact sport.

“Combat sports such as boxing are unique since every punch thrown at the head is thrown with the intention of winning by causing a knockout (which is nothing but a concussive head injury),” the association stated.

“These sports carry an exceedingly high risk for both acute and chronic neurological injuries. Boxers have died during a bout or in the immediate aftermath due to traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) such as an acute subdural hematoma (SDH), epidural hematoma (EDH), subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), intracranial hematoma and injury to the great vessels of the neck such as [the]carotid or vertebral artery.”

In a position statement last month, the International Olympic Committee stated that “sports organizations may at times need to issue eligibility criteria for sex-segregated competition to maintain a fair and proportionate distribution of competitive advantages among participants.”

The IOC "also recognises the particular importance of advancing equality for women in sport and preserving fair and meaningful competition for elite women athletes, which may require criteria that limit eligibility in some cases.

In 2021, Lia Thomas, a trans-identified male swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania who competed on the school's men's swimming team for three years as Will Thomas, gained national headlines after breaking records competing last season on the women's swimming team.

The participation of trans-identified males in women’s sports has become a significant point of contention in American politics.

Eighteen states have passed measures requiring athletes to compete on teams that match their biological sex rather than their gender identity: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

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