MELBOURNE – A full-contact muay Thai bout between two young girls has sparked outrage in Australia after some 500 people watched the seven and eight-year-olds pummel each other to tears.
Sports officials in the northern state of Queensland have launched a probe after the bout on Saturday sparked a barrage of criticism from health experts and Internet users.
Jasmine Parr, daughter of world champion John Wayne Parr, fought three 90-second rounds against seven-year-old Georgina Barton for a prize of A$100 ($106) at an amateur event at Gold Coast Police-Citizens Youth Club.
Video footage of the fight showed the girls kicking each other, swinging boxing gloves at their opponent’s head and one throwing the other to the floor as spectators cheered.
Muay Thai is a traditional martial art from Thailand that incorporates the use of elbows and knees in striking as well as the hands and feet.
Queensland’s minister for child safety and sport said in a statement the bout was “disgraceful”.
“I have three daughters aged under 10 and like many mums and dads across Queensland, I was absolutely appalled at the image of children of this age being put in a boxing ring,” minister Phil Reeves said.
“If reports about a $100 cash prize for the winning child is correct, then I find the whole situation even more disgraceful.
“I have instructed the Director-General of the Department of Communities to immediately investigate the circumstances of this event.
“I also want the Director-General to provide recommendations on actions the government should consider to ensure the best interests of children are first and foremost when these types of events are being conducted.”
The branch manager of the Gold Coast venue, part of a network of community clubs in partnership with Queensland police, was unavailable for comment.
Parr’s father coached her throughout the bout, urging her on as she wept between rounds, and said he would prepare her for future fights.
“My daughter and I shared an experience which no medical expert will ever understand,” he told Australian media.
“It was amazing, it was history and something we’ll never forget … Jasmine is already talking about her next fight.
“She might have two fights a year — I’m not trying to smash her.”