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World Boxing Council to create separate transgender league in 2023 that follows ‘at birth’ rule

World Boxing Council president Mauricio Sulaiman announced Thursday that the league is looking to expand the sport to allow transgender participation but noted that they intend to create a separate category that follows an “at birth” rule to avoid having fighters born of the opposite sex compete against one another because of safety concerns. 

Sulaiman made the announcement during an interview with The Telegraph, telling the British outlet that the goal of the expansion is both “safety and inclusion.” 

“It is the time to do this, and we are doing this because of safety and inclusion. We have been the leaders in rules for women’s boxing – so the dangers of a man fighting a woman will never happen because of what we are going to put in place.”


He continued, “In boxing, a man fighting a woman must never be accepted regardless of gender change. There should be no gray area around this, and we want to go into it with transparency and the correct decisions. Woman to man or man to woman transgender change will never be allowed to fight a different gender by birth.”

Sulaiman said the WBC plans to “put out a global call” to engage interests in 2023 and will likely create a separate “league and a tournament” with its own set of protocols.

The WBC World Champion belt is pictured at the Boxing Championship of Ukraine in Ivano-Frankivsk Region, western Ukraine. 

“We are creating a set of rules and structures so that transgender boxing can take place, as they fully deserve to if they want to box. We do not yet know the numbers that there are out there, but we’re opening a universal registration in 2023, so that we can understand the boxers that are out there – and we’ll start from there.”

The concerns about transgender athletes competing in combat sports follows a decision by the International Rugby League in June that barred transgender women from competing in the women’s league.

“In the interests of avoiding unnecessary welfare, legal and reputational risk to International Rugby League (IRL) competitions, and those competing therein, the IRL believes there is a requirement and responsibility to further consult and complete additional research before finalizing its policy,” the statement at the time read. 

World Boxing Council president Mauricio Sulaiman poses in a sparring ring ahead of an open work-out session with WBC heavyweight titleholder Tyson Fury in Wembley, West London, on April 19, 2022. 

“It is the IRL’s responsibility to balance the individual’s right to participate – a long-standing principle of rugby league and at its heart from the day it was established – against perceived risk to other participants, and to ensure all are given a fair hearing.”

The International Olympic Committee announced last year that the governing body of each sport would be responsible for creating its own policy regarding inclusion, adding that “it must be within the remit of each sport and its governing body to determine how an athlete may be at a disproportionate advantage compared with their peers, taking into consideration the nature of each sport.”

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