A woman boxer has become the first from the United States to qualify to compete in this summer’s London Olympics. Marlen Esparza will compete in the summer games during the first ever women’s boxing event. There are 10 weight divisions in the Olympics for men, but only three for women. She is the only eligible American woman in her weight division. Two other female boxers from the United States have the potential to qualify, Quantitta Underwood and Claressa Shields. Their status will be determined in a championship competition.

The Feminist Daily News Wire reported that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted in August 2009 to add women’s boxing to this summer’s Olympic Games. Boxing was the only remaining sport not open to women in the Olympics. Olympics minister Tessa Jowell said, “It will be a landmark moment come London 2012 when for the first time every sport will have women participating in it. There are still major disparities in the number of medals women can win compared to men but this is a step in the right direction.”

Women’s boxing dates back to the 1720s, and there are currently over 500,000 licensed female boxers in 120 countries across the world. Supporters of the IOC decision said in 2009 that they hoped that the inclusion of women’s boxing in the Olympics would provide young girls with role models and would increase participation in the sport.

Media Resources: New York Times 5/15/12; AP 5/15/12; Feminist Daily News Wire 8/14/09