Ever the optimist, the longer view of women in boxing
My day job has me pretty busy these days, but it hasn’t stopped me from coming to the gym upwards of three days a week—working as hard as a 60+ girlboxer can to learn to slip my trainer’s straight rights and hooks and gain more savvy in the ring.
“Damn” is about all I can say about those unseen punches, but I have been moving a heck of a lot more in the twelve-foot squared circle we spar in, which has given me my latest “eureka” moment when it comes to boxing, and after four tough rounds last Saturday I thought, “so that’s what it means to set up punches.”
It’s the “seeing more” that got me thinking and the idea that stepping back while in the pocket of engagement, gives anyone of us the opportunity to place ourselves in the grander scheme of things.
So too with women’s boxing.
If we step back for a moment, we can see enormous shifts.
The amateur game has never been better in the United States and globally, with young girls entering the sport as young as seven and eight, and contesting it with remarkable prowess right on through the Elite women, such as 2012 Gold Medalist Claressa Shields, who on the heals of her stunning performances at the 2015 Pan American Games, where she won gold, will contest the sport with vigor alongside her brilliant boxing sisters in the 2016 Rio Games.
On the professional side, the view form the United States may seem bleak, but the excitement of the sport in places such as Argentina where Canada’s Jelena Mrdjenovich (35-9-1) is putting her WBC world female featherweight title on the line against the other Matthysee, Edith Soledad Matthysse (13-7-1) as the main event on top flight card in Buenos Aires, gives hope of opportunities to come.
There’s also a main event bout in Brandenberg, Germany tonight between SuperFeatherweights Ramona Kuehne (22-1) and Doris Koehler (12-13-2), a WIBA World Minimum Weight title fight in South Korea between titleholder Ji Hyun Park (21-2) and Gretchen Abaniel (15-7), and a main event ten-rounder between Esmeralda Moreno (30-701) and Jessica Nery Plata (15-0) in Michoacán de Ocampo, Mexico.
In the United States Heather “The Heat” Hardy (13-0) will be facing Renata Domsodi (12-6) in an eight rounder on the Danny Garcia v. Paulie Malignaggi card to be fought at Brooklyn’s premiere boxing venue, Barclay’s Center. This will be Hardy’s third appearance on a major card at Barclay’s and while once again, her fight will not be broadcast, she is creating momentum in the sport and along with the able work of her promoter Lou DiBella, is on the precipice of being televised rather sooner than later.
Most recently in late May, world champion Amanda “The Real Deal” Serrano (24-1-1) appeared on CBS Sports in a six-rounder against Fautima Zarika Kangethe (24-11-2), the first female bout to appear on the network since the late 1970s. That is pretty heady stuff, and despite the sense that the sport continues to decline in the US, I’m feeling rather more optimistic.
The fact that Elite amateur boxing star and Olympic gold medal winner Katie Taylor will appear on boxer Andy Lee’s fight card on September 19th is also a step forward—especially since Andy has been such a vocal supporter of the sport and of Taylor’s importance to female athletics not only in their native Ireland, but around the world. He’s also a very visible fighter in the US and his recent statements in support of Taylor and women in the sport against his upcoming oppenent Billy Joe Saunders’ rather sexist remarks have gotten a lot of play here.
In the United States, the phenomenal success and incredible skill of Ronda Rousey (who fights on the UFC 190 PPV main event tonight) have firmly placed women’s MMA in the spotlight. Boxing stars such as Holly Holm are finding success crossing over into the the sport and in doing so are putting female boxers in the spotlight.
While I have my theories as to why women’s boxing died on the vine vis-à-vis the media in the middle oughts (a piece for another day), women never stopped entering the ring—which has meant the sport has continued to improve by leaps and bounds.
The women of the ring circa 2015, are faster, stronger, better trained and perhaps even more motivated than their sisters who fought 19 years ago when Christy Martin graced the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Is there a lot wrong with the sport?
Inequity, lousy pay (if any), and a PROFOUND lack of respect.
Still, women box, and continue to claim their rightful place in the ring!