Female boxers in search of equality with their male counterparts will have a home in New Jersey.
The New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, which oversees combat sports in the state, announced Monday that it will give female boxers the option of competing in fights with three-minute rounds, as is the case for fights involving men.
Previously, women's bouts in New Jersey were limited to having two-minute rounds -- but not because of any rule. Rather, it was merely because of the tradition that has evolved in women's boxing around the world.
"It was tradition. We were in lockstep with everyone else," Larry Hazzard, commissioner of the NJSACB, told ESPN. "Everyone has done two-minute rounds, but the important consideration here is that we don't know of any definitive reasons why women should be limited to two-minute rounds and men fight three minutes. There is nothing we've seen that showed us that the extra minute is any different."
Some high-profile female boxers have lamented that women's bouts have been relegated to two-minute rounds, including flyweight Nicola Adams, a 2016 Olympic gold medalist for Great Britain, and lightweight Katie Taylor, a 2016 Irish Olympian and 2012 Olympic gold medalist. Both have recently turned pro and called for their rounds to be the same length as the men.
"Upon consultation with our medical staff, review of our past MMA, kickboxing and Muay Thai matches involving females, and consultation with female contestants, we feel that it is time to provide this option," Hazzard said of the three-minute rounds for women.
Hazzard said NJSACB felt it was time to treat men and women the same in boxing since they already do so in other combat sports in New Jersey.
"This agency has not required shorter round times for females in the sport of MMA, kickboxing or Muay Thai, and now the sport of professional boxing will be treated just the same as these other combat sports," Hazzard said. "We do not feel that there is conclusive medical evidence to show that females must compete at a shorter round length time than their male counterparts. There are females in all of the previously listed combat sports that are very talented, well trained and extremely skilled.
"The use of two-minute rounds will continue to be an allowable option for female contestants, in bouts where the contestants and/or promoter still desire this limitation."
Hazzard said the NJSACB has been looking at the issue for the past "couple of months."
"With decisions like this we -- the administrative staff -- don't make these decisions without consultation with our ringside physicians that we rely upon for this type of advice," he said. "And they are in concert with us."
Hazzard said the option of women fighting three-minute rounds will be offered beginning with the next time there is a female bout scheduled on a card in the state.