Spanish women boxers build London dreams on luck and pluck

Fri Apr 13, 2012 5:31am EDT
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By Iain Rogers and Susana Vera

LOS ALCAZARES, Spain (Reuters) - In an isolated spot on the coast of south-east Spain dotted with characterless golf resorts and sprawling fruit farms, a small group of dedicated women boxers and their male coach are chasing their Olympic dream.

The five young fighters, based at a high-performance sports centre next to a salty lagoon called Mar Menor, are training hard ahead of next month's world championships in Qinhuangdao, China, where competition will be fierce for the precious 24 qualification slots - eight in each of the three weight categories - for this year's summer Games.

Women's boxing will make its Olympic debut in London and while the Spanish hopefuls know how tough it would be to even qualify, they are filled with pride that the sport they have dedicated their lives to is finally getting the recognition.

"It's a historic moment," Yasmina Musa Amakhtari, who fights in the flyweight category, told Reuters after a light morning training session in the centre's converted gymnasium.

"In my opinion it should have been done much earlier," the 24-year-old from Torremolinos added. "I think it will raise the sport's profile and encourage more women to get involved."

A three-times national champion whose parents are from the autonomous Spanish city of Melilla on the north coast of Morocco, Amakhtari started boxing to keep herself fit but with time and success, she decided to make it a career despite the initial resistance from her family and friends.

"At the beginning they saw it as a very aggressive sport but I showed them more about what boxing involves and they changed their minds," she said with a smile.

Amakhtari and her compatriots will need all the luck in Qinhuangdao where being paired with a world champion in the first round could mean early elimination.   Continued...

Spanish boxers Jennifer Miranda (L) and Marta Branas do some sparring during a training session at a high-performance sports centre in Los Alcazares, southeastern Spain, April 3, 2012. REUTERS/Susana Vera