The nation's first collegiate boxing tournament to include women in championship bouts continues tonight at the University of San Francisco. The series of matches is the first tournament of the newly formed United States Intercollegiate Boxing Association, which intends to emphasize women's boxing.
"In the past, on previous organizations, they were just part of the show -- a win and a loss," Angelo Merino, head boxing coach for USF, told KQED's Peter Jon Shuler. "And they’re just showcasing female boxers but not recognizing their efforts as being champions."
"There's a lot of boundaries being broken with this event," said Nargis Shaghasi, a 22-year-old graduate student. She has been boxing about two years, and her first tournament match is scheduled for Friday night. "There's a lot of history happening with this event, and to be able to say that I am a part of that -- it just feels amazing."
Shaghasi, a first-generation American, said she initially met some resistance from her extended Afghan family, but now she hopes her example will inspire more Muslim women to step into the ring.
The idea for the new organization was born at the London Olympics, where the U.S. men's boxing team suffered one of its worst performances. But the games also featured women's matches for the first time, and it caught the attention of USF's Merino, who was watching ringside. "One can only imagine how many more medals the U.S. could have won if the Olympics allowed more weight classes for women,” he told the New York Times.
Merino and Luke Runion, coach for the University of Maryland boxing club, thought they could better promote amateur boxing for both men and women through collegiate matches. To that end, they joined other college coaches to create the United States Intercollegiate Boxing Association (USIBA). The organization then awarded hosting rights for the first National Championships to USF. The USIBA currently represents less than 1 percent of the more than 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, but the association hopes to grow by assisting in the formation of new clubs and by expanding regional tournaments and competitions.