Following the trend set by a number of sporting governing bodies this year, Boxing New Zealand has announced transgender men and women will not be allowed to compete in their corresponding gender categories. The governing body also announced an open category will be established for transgender and non-binary boxers.

The main contention, according to BNZ President Neil Hartley was safety concerns, especially for cisgender women.

“Our priority first and foremost is the safety of competitors in our sport, all competitors, regardless of any sexual persuasion or gender preference,” BNZ president Neil Hartley said in a statement Monday. “There is potential for injury or worse if the margins of safety are breached. This is why boxing has sex specific, age specific and weight specific categories to maximise the inclusion of as many people as possible in this great sport, while also prioritizing safe and fair competition for all.

“The safety of, and fairness for, female boxers is not up for negotiation. Boxing New Zealand will not be implementing gender self-identification in the Male or Female categories.”

Boxing New Zealand proposed the creation of an open category for both transgender and non-binary athletes seeking to box. Its statement noted they are prepared to work with “interested community members on the creation of an open category for gender diverse boxers and anyone else who claims to not fit in the traditional gender categories.”

An open division was proposed for national and regional competitions

One of the main contentions by the governing body centers around questionable data from World Rugby, which implemented a much-discussed ban on transgender women at elite levels two years ago. The data includes a stat that claims there is a ”160-percent advantage in punching force for a male versus a female boxer”.

World Rugby’s data has been challenged and criticized, but the effects of its decision have made an impact on national governing bodies in the sport. In June, both codes of the sport in England put forth a blanket ban on transgender women.

Something similar could happen in the ring. The International Boxing Association, the world governing body for amateur boxing, has no official policy on transgender inclusion. Building such policy is a low priority for an organization dealing with a number of problems.

The IBA is recovering from suspension from the International Olympic Committee in 2019 over corruption concerns. It also lost control of officiating the Olympic tournament through the 2024 Games in Paris, and boxing is in danger of being left out of the Olympic program for Los Angeles in 2028.

In amateur boxing, the issue of transgender inclusion has largely been left to individual federations. USA Boxing’s policy, for example, calls for both hormonal and surgical requirements.

The IOC removed gender affirming surgery as mandatory in 2015.

In contrast, Boxing Canada follows IOC guidelines prior to the Framework for Fairness that went into effect in March. Their regulations call for a 5 nanomole/liter serum testosterone limit for 12 months prior to competition.

The decision was the first such effort made by a governing body in amateur boxing. In the professional ranks, the World Boxing Council plans to be the first of the four major pro boxing governing bodies to discuss the issue in detail at a meeting during the North American Boxing Federation convention in Las Vegas next month.

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