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Soon to be a hit in the foothills?

Locals weigh in on women’s boxing after its successful debut at the 2012 Olympics
By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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For years, people have said boxing is dead.

Those who tuned in to the 2012 London Olympics, where the inaugural women’s boxing event was a big hit, might think otherwise. 

The debut tournament got rave reviews from fans, boxers and Olympic officials who loved the sold-out crowds, evenly matched bouts and the emergence of stars on the international stage, including U.S. teenager Claressa Shields, Ireland’s Katie Taylor and Britain’s Nicola Adams. 

Jaime Kirkpatrick, whose husband owns Newcastle Ringside Gym located at 9385 Old State Highway, is among those who are still giving rave reviews.

“Seeing this sport grow and make it to the Olympics is huge,” said Kirkpatrick, who was once the No. 2-ranked amateur female in the United States at 119 pounds and happened to be watching boxing on television when recently reached by the Journal.

Kirkpatrick, 34, began boxing competitively at 17. Though she stopped competing at 22, she still shadow boxes and works with punching bags.

“It keeps me in great shape,” she said.

When Kirkpatrick started boxing, the sport was relatively new for girls. She competed in the second, third and fourth U.S. national tournaments for women.

She’s seen the sport come a long way, and believes the exposure at the world level from the Olympics will continue to boost its popularity.

“Absolutely it will help it grow,” she said. “The (American) women are the only ones who medaled (from the U.S.) and the (American) men were always dominant in the past. It said something for the women.”

Kirkpatrick, who lives in Lincoln, wouldn’t be surprised if future Games have more than three weight classes as this year’s did.

IOC President Jacques Rogge said he was thrilled the competition removed any doubt of the sport’s Olympic worthiness. Association Internationale de Boxe Amateur (AIBA International Boxing Association) President Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu is determined to at least double the Olympic field for the 2016 Games in Brazil.

Size differences apart, Kirkpatrick said the men and women in London displayed similarities.

“You couldn’t tell much from the difference in their skills,” she said.

While boxing for women is growing worldwide, Kirkpatrick and her husband, Greg, both said they haven’t noticed a spike of lady boxers in the local area.

Greg has trained many female boxers over the years. Currently, Sadie Gildone, a Del Oro High School alumna who has had six bouts but is sidelined by injury, trains with him.

“I have a lot of other accomplished boxers training at my gym — both male and female,” Greg said.

Jaime would like to see more women boxers at their gym.

“I have a bit of a soft side for the female boxers,” Jaime said. “I’ve experience the same emotions they go through in competitions.”

Added Greg: “I’m hoping they come around. … I think more will compete. I don’t know how popular it was on American television. They did get quite a lot of publicity. I’ve seen boxers all over the ads on Yahoo! There was a lot of publicity. Who knows how much it will affect them.”

Jaime said boxing has multiple benefits for women aside from just exercise.

She already has her 7-year-old daughter, Lucia, named after the famous boxer Lucia Rijker, taking up the sweet science. Jaime said that boxing will allow her daughter to learn self-defense and give her the confidence that she can protect herself.

Lucia’s been boxing and kickboxing for six months. She’s been training at her parents’ gym, which they’ve owned for 14 years, twice a week during the summer.

Jaime said Lucia’s in “amazing shape for soccer season” because of the work she’s put in.

The Kirkpatricks have another daughter, Carissa, 3, who could end up taking after her mother, too.

“She’s in a boxing family,” Jaime said, “she’s going to learn how to box.”

Time will tell if the Olympics influenced young girls in the foothills to become boxers. Regardless, around the globe, boxing certainly isn’t dead.

“I don’t know why people say that,” Greg said. “Other than soccer, boxing is one of the most popular sports in the world. It’s definitely not dead. It’s on all the time all over the world.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Reach Matthew Kimel at matthewk@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewkimel