Maho, first transgender boxer authorized to compete in the category of his choice in France

After 28 English boxing fights among women and a title of French military champion in 2022, Maho Bah Villemagne won an unprecedented victory: he is the first transgender man in France to be able to officially compete in the men’s categories. “It’s incredible news,” rejoices the boxer, who is preparing for his first fight in his new category.

In the historic Panier district of Marseille, the training room in which Maho exercises every day can be identified thanks to the numerous boxing gloves hanging in the window. The trainer who has followed him since his debut in 2017, Diego Negri, describes his colt as “a fighter, a soldier” with “the same mentality, the same discipline, the same courage”. Outside of the ring, Maho is a lieutenant in the Air Force.

In recent years, he has participated in 28 amateur fights among women, winning the title of French military champion in 2022 and vice-champion of French amateur. But “I wasn’t really me,” he says, which led him to take the medical and legal steps for a gender transition. The change in civil status has been official since December 22, 2023 and immediately, Maho requested a modification of his license from the French Boxing Federation. On May 10, the members of the federal steering committee unanimously approved his amateur boxing license as a man: a first for a transgender athlete in boxing in France.


A unique case because it may seem absurd “to compete among men, as a transgender man, against physically superior athletes”, deciphers Ekain Zubizarreta, sports sociologist at the University of the Basque Country. However, “we are not yet able to describe” the physical differences between the two categories, “nor to quantify them”, he assures AFP.

As “sport is based on the idea of ​​equality of opportunity and victory for the most deserving”, a gender transition from the category considered the weakest to that seen as the strongest, however, goes better than the reverse. American swimmer Lia Thomas’ academic title sparked controversy, with critics saying that having previously competed as a man, she had an unfair physiological advantage. For Mr. Zubizarreta, behind the participation of transgender athletes, “there is also the question of what a man or a woman is.” In November 2021, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) passed the buck to each sport on the issue of transgender athletes, highlighting the lack of “scientific consensus on the role of testosterone in performance across sports.”

Medical commission test

Maho Bah Villemagne will have to undergo a series of tests from an independent medical commission in the coming months: “Regarding my transition, I am taking testosterone. There is a certain level that should not be exceeded, otherwise it is considered doping. The decision concerning Maho Bah Villemagne “already sets a precedent”, underlines the deputy director of the French Boxing Federation, Serge Pautot.

There remains one last step: the Federation required that Maho participate in five amateur fights before the end of 2024, before granting him his professional license or not. Which creates particular pressure for him: “If I lose these fights, I want it to be my problem. I don’t want it to fall on my entire community.” For his coach, “there is a different psychological, social, political dimension in these matches. But often, boxing has been more than a sport,” he recalls. “In my time, it was forbidden for women to box. To think that today would be scandalous.”

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