The World Boxing Council has announced a new policy that requires participants in the sport to compete against members of their biological sex as the debate about men competing in women’s sports continues.
In a statement Monday, the World Boxing Council, one of the organizations that oversee professional boxing worldwide, issued a “Statement/Guidelines Regarding Transgender Athletes participation in professional Combat Sports.”
The statement, published on FightNews.com, declares that boxing matches should only occur “between two equally matched competitors.”
“The WBC 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.”
The WBC added: “There is no consensus whether a bout between a transgender woman against a cisgender (biological) woman is a fair bout between two equally matched competitors.” However, the organization expressed concern that because a trans-identified male competing in professional boxing has “already gone through puberty,” he has “the musculature and bony structure of a male.”
Therefore, the organization concluded that a trans-identified combatant “may have an unfair advantage” over their biologically female competitor. The statement included a similar comment implying that biologically female boxers who identify as males would be disadvantaged against biologically male fighters in a head-to-head matchup.
The World Boxing Council joins FINA, which governs competitive swimming worldwide, and USA Powerlifting as professional sports organizations that have implemented policies requiring 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.
A study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that trans-identified males retain an advantage over biological females even after one year of taking feminizing hormones.
In addition to listing concerns about fairness as the justification for implementing a new policy, the World Boxing Council pointed to safety hazards posed by not doing so 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.”
The new policy from the World Boxing Council comes as the participation of trans-identified males in women’s sports has become a major 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.