Women are finally getting their chance to rumble.
The inaugural U.S. Women's Amateur Boxing Championships begin Wednesday at the Warren Road Gym. USA Boxing, governing body for Olympic-style boxing, first recognized female boxing in 1993 and over the last four years interest has rapidly risen to necessitate a championship.
Steve Ross, of USA Boxing, said female boxers have been competing all over the country and just needed a forum to display their talents.
"They'd been training all year with no satisfaction," Ross said. "We're trying to reward these women for all their hard work."
Ross said choosing Augusta to host the first-ever championship was easy. Augusta was the home of the 1996 Olympic Box-Offs and the site of the Olympic team's training camp. Ross said the efforts of Tom Moraetes, executive director of the Augusta Boxing Club, have put Augusta on the boxing world map.
"There's been a real push to get this tournament going," Ross said. "We opened it up for bids and Tom Moraetes shared the same interests."
"We had a connection with them (Augusta Boxing Club) from last year with the Olympic trials and Box-off. The City of Augusta and Richmond County Recreation Department have really been gracious hosts."
Moraetes said Augusta has earned the right to hold the championships.
"Our tradition, in the national, state and local spotlight has had a big impact on USA Boxing. They know we can put a good tournament on," Moraetes said. "Our 20-plus year tradition let them know we can do it. I'm glad that the Augusta Boxing Club has that big of a tradition."
Kurt Stenerson, boxing promoter, said Augusta's visibility in the boxing community made it the clear choice.
"I truly believe USA Boxing chose Augusta because of the experience Tom Moraetes has putting on a top flight event," Stenerson said. "All you have to do is look at the Box-offs."
"To take it anywhere else would be a mistake. Tom has built the Augusta Boxing Club to be one of the best boxing clubs in the nation."
In the absence of any other women's tournament, organizers can only speculate about its success. However, Moraetes said 200-300 female boxers have registered with USA Boxing since the tournament was announced. Ross said the sport is gaining national attention and believes it will continue to grow.
"If we have good competition, then we'll push women's amateur boxing even harder," Ross said. "We've really been surprised with all the response we've gotten."
"We're pleased we're giving these women's the opportunity."
Stenerson, who worked with USA boxing for six years, said now is the time for a woman's championship because popularity is at an all-time high.
"The rise in popularity in people like Christie Martin has helped bring attention to the sports," Stenerson said. "It's incredible. Hopefully Augusta will help get this rolling."
The championships will get national attention when they are broadcast on ESPN2 on Saturday, Aug. 23 at 4:30 p.m. Ross said ESPN, like many national media outlets, is curious to see how they will be received by the American public.
"ESPN will cover the final, they thought it (the championships) was a great idea. They want to see what their market is as well," Ross said.
Moraetes said women deserve the opportunity to show what they can do. He said the women have sacrificed just for the chance to be the best at their sport.
"If there ever was a true amateur athlete, it is these women. There are no sponsors or money, they are here for no other reason than to be a national champion," Moraetes said. "If it means that much to them, then it is worth it."
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