New Delhi: Five-time world champion MC Mary Kom on Friday lauded the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) for leaving to women boxers the choice of fighting in shorts or skirts.

The AIBA had come under fire from women's rights groups in the past one year for encouraging female boxers to fight in skirts. Many boxers felt the suggestion was sexist. The sport is all set to make its Olympic debut in London later this year.

AIBA president Wu Ching-kuo's reasoning for asking women to fight in skirts was that fans and amateur boxing officials could distinguish women from men because both wear similar protective headgear.

Stung by the widespread criticism, the AIBA on Thursday amended the rules leaving the choice to the boxers.

AIBA's Competition Uniform section on its official website read female boxers will wear "either shorts or the option of a skirt". The new rule also doesn't specify any particular length for the skirt.

"I think this is a very good gesture. Women boxers should be allowed to fight in the dress in which they feel comfortable. Personally, I am happy in both," Mary Kom said.

Women's boxing was included in the Olympic programme in 2009. The London Games will feature 36 fighters in three weight categories.