Amaiya Zafar has been fighting for two years to box in a hijab. Saturday, she got into the ring for her first USA Boxing sanctioned bout at the Spring Fling United States Amateur Boxing event in Minneapolis.
Zafar, 16, of Oakdale, has been boxing for three years and says it's her passion. But until this weekend, she hadn't been able to convince USA boxing authorities to allow her to wear a hijab and coverings over her arms and legs.
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Zafar said she sees herself as a role model for girls and Muslims interested in boxing. "It's definitely not just about me anymore. I feel like it's a victory for the sport of boxing in general," she said.
For now, the waiver only allows Zafar to fight in local bouts.
In a statement USA Boxing said it's in the process of amending its rules to accommodate the clothing and grooming mandates of boxers' religions.
Other governing bodies have recently modified their policies to account for the religious needs of athletes. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, which said in a statement that it welcomed USA Boxing's religious exemption, notes that soccer's FIFA and the International Weightlifting Federation have lifted their bans on religious headgear, including hijabs.