• Bunce on Olympics

Here come the girls - they pack a punch

Steve Bunce August 5, 2012
Natasha Jonas will bring female boxing to the Olympics © Getty Images

It has been a monster Games so far for the women and today the female boxers make history when they begin their qualification at the ExCel.

There are 36 women, at three different weights and from 23 assorted countries. Oddly, the Cubans have not entered into the spirit of things and have not put any of their elite athletes forward in competitions or for a 'wildcard' entry. They hate losing, honest.

Medal Table

The Russians are strong, the Chinese, the Americans and the British are all in serious medal contention. It starts today and ends Thursday.

"The women train with men, spar with the men and live with the men - the men stopped thinking they were women a long time ago," says Robert McCracken, the GB boxing director.

Liverpool's Natasha Jonas started boxing to lose some weight and was soon fighting with men and boys. She starts the British campaign today in a lightweight fight against Queen Underwood, an American who has spoken out against child sex abuse and revealed her father abused both her and her sister. He spent six years in prison. Her sister, by the way, could not afford to be in London but the people of Seattle rallied, had a collection, and flew her over.

The pair are, as you would imagine, extremely close.

"I know what she does and she does it well," said Jonas. "She stands in the middle of the ring throwing punches."

Jonas beat Underwood last November at the Olympic test event at the same venue where they will fight today.

There have been a few women involved so far at the boxing with the occasional ref appearing in the ring, but perhaps the highest profile women involved in the boxing at the Games has been the USA coach Gloria Peek, who works the corners for many of the men. When it comes to organising, the USA boxing management team would struggle to pull a pint in a brewery and, with eight of their nine male boxers out, a savage cull is necessary. I think the Yanks will hire a Cuban like the Indians, the Argentineans, the Thais and about a dozen other countries.

Peek will be with the American trio of women in the ring, hoping to restore a little pride in the team.

"These sisters can fight, make no mistake," said Peek. I believe her, they certainly look mean, and it would be impossible to be as unimpressive as their male counterparts.

As a guide, look out for India's tiny Mary Kom, Ireland's Katie Taylor and our very own Savannah Marshall, from Hartlepool. There is also a woman from China called Can Can - she certainly could - and Nicola Adams, who is from Leeds, was an extra in Emmerdale.

It's a line-up to savour so sit and enjoy; the quality will stun you.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Steve Bunce Close
Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.