By Padraic Halpin
LONDON (Reuters) - Russia's Elena Savelyeva won the first ever women's Olympic boxing bout on Sunday, bringing an end to the last all-male sport at the Games in front of packed crowd that quickly warmed to their presence in the ring.
Rejected in the past because of a perceived lack of global interest, women boxers were given a hearty welcome in London when Savelyeva and North Korea's Kim Hye-song were enthusiastically clapped into the ring for the first of Sunday's 12 fights.
After throwing the first punch, the most anticipated of the London Games so far, world amateur championship bronze medallist Savelyeva was acutely aware afterwards of just how momentous her 12-9 victory was.
"It was pleasure to make history. I tried to show my pride, it was an amazing thing to do," said Savelyeva, who became a boxer after a trainer at her self-defence class recommended she give it a try.
"It's a normal thing in Russia, there is no discrimination against female boxers. There was no pressure."
The flyweight was rarely troubled but failed to land the kind of devastating blow needed to energise a crowd noticeably quieter than they have been for the men all week.
However Venezuela's Karlha Magliocco, whom Savelyeva now faces in the quarter-finals, got the crowd excited a bout later, and the arena was as noisy as it has been at the Games so far when India's five-time world champion Mary Kom entered the fray.
After winning a bout as fearsome as any of the men's fights over the first eight days, Kom, one of the pioneers of women's boxing, was close to tears as her 19-14 victory was announced, hugging Karolina Michalczuk of Poland as the pair left the ring.
Kom, the face of the long campaign to get women's boxing into the Olympics, was unable to hold back the tears after the fight, wiping them away as she told reporter of her long battle to get to this moment.
"I have been boxing for 12 years, I have been trying to play in the Olympic Games," mother-of-two Kom said.
"Today is very emotional, today is my twins' birthday, their fifth birthday, and I can't celebrate their birthday but I am fighting in the ring and winning, that will be a gift for them.
International Boxing Association's (AIBA) president Wu Ching-kuo, who said last week that he hoped more women will box at the Games in four years time, said he was proud to watch them finally join the Olympics.
"I am very proud today to witness the first women boxers taking in an Olympic ring. It is an historical moment, not only for AIBA, but for the Olympic Movement in general," Wu said in a statement.
"We have put a lot of effort into making this happen and now we are very excited to see that our dream has become a reality."
(Additional reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Mark Meadows)