Burly men accompanying their wards as coaches to a boxing ring is a common sight. They are the ones who put in tireless hours with pugilists to devise strategies and churn out the big results. But you hardly come across a woman donning such a role in the sport – who is the sole in charge of a boxer, even in women’s boxing. Such is the situation here at the AIBA Women’s World Championship that only two teams from the participating 63 nations have females as their head coaches.
So when you see Finland’s Olympic bronze-medalist Mira Potkonen making her way to the ring with a female coach, that is bound to turn heads. The coach in question – Maarit Teuronen, half the size of some of her male counterparts, matches stride to stride with Potkonen and shouts out instructions from the ringside. In between the rounds she’s the one who does the pep talk and knows how to get the best out of a boxer.
Being the head coach of Finland’s women’s boxing team, and Potkonen's personal coach too, Teuronen does whatever her job demands and takes care of all the responsibilities that any regular male coach would. An experienced 3-star AIBA coach, she has it in her to be called, perhaps one of the best in the business.
Upon being asked why there aren’t more female head coaches with the teams, Teuronen is caught off guard at first. Perhaps it is something she never paid heed to. After a long pause, she says, “There is no definite answer as to why there are not many coaches. Boxing has been a male-dominated sport for a very long time so maybe that’s one of the reasons.”
“I think there are some really talented women coaches as I have seen around me. I wish to see them come up but that is a personal choice,” she told News18 Sports.
So what makes her a mighty successful coach? Perhaps her rich experience of facing the top players back in the day, when she was herself a boxer. She has over 150 top-level bouts to her name, that include participation at the inaugural World Championship too. Also having someone like Potkonen as her ward helps, who is always motivated to do her best.
"I have been a fairly successful boxer myself. So I know what these girls need to train. Then I don't give up easily. And what makes me go the extra mile is the fact that I feel I have a lot to give to boxing.
"I love training boxers who are self-motivated and put in extra effort for results. Mira is one of them, so part of my success goes to her as well," Teuronen added.
The struggle for the female coaches out there is real and Teuronen too acknowledges. Back in 2013, when during an AIBA course for level three coaches, she was the only female in a group a 50. She recalls the event and says that it was challenging, but fun at the same time.
"You just don't see female coaches anywhere. That happened in the AIBA course I attended in 2013. But it's the same with all the sports I guess."
"We do need more female coaches in the sport."
But this statement does come with a 'but'. Teuronen is of the opinion that women shouldn't be head coaches just for the sake of it. If they deserve the job, that is only when they should be appointed.
"We need to see what a boxer needs. Maybe a certain team is doing fine without a female coach, and maybe one is not. So there shouldn't be just one fixed criteria for landing the job. That way maybe I can be a coach for men's team too, if the need arises." she concluded.