Posts Tagged ‘Holly Holm

02
Jan
17

Women’s Boxing Circa 2017

Women’s Boxing Circa 2017

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Amanda Serrano defending title against Calixita Silgado, July 30, 2016. Photo Credit: Behind The Gloves

While women’s boxing has been around since “modern” boxing began in the 1720s, its place in American sports consciousness began with a trickle in the 1950s and grew to a steady flow by the late 1990s before petering back in the late 2000s.

Boxer Christy Martin’s bout against Irish fighter Deirdre Gogarty on the undercard of a Mike Tyson pay-per-view championship in 1996, put women’s boxing on the “map.” Not two weeks later Martin was on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine in her characteristic pink boxing attire, and for the likes of boxing impresarios Don King and Bob Arum, it was a race to find other female fighters to add to the undercard of boxing bouts.

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Such fighters as Lucia Rijker and Mia St. John, while not household names by any means, were becoming known in the boxing community—and even sported decent pay days that could be numbered in the thousands rather than the hundreds. At the same time, women’s boxing became a sanctioned amateur sport leading to the development of a national team in the late 1990s. The beginnings of international amateur competition began in 2001 coinciding with the legalization of the sport in countries across the world.

In the United States, the entry of Mohammad Ali’s daughter Leila Ali along with other boxing “daughters” such as Jacqui Frazier-Lyde, thrust the sport into the realm of popular culture including covers of TV Guide and a myriad of talk show appearances. With Leila Ali’s ascendency, however, other American female boxers of the period such as Ann Wolfe, Belinda Laracuente, and Layla McCarter, could not find traction on pay-per-view cards or on cable, despite excellent boxing skills (frankly much better than Ali’s) and by 2010, it was hard if not impossible to find female boxing on American television.

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At the same time, internationally at least, women’s boxing was in an ascendency in such places as Mexico, Argentina, South Korea, and Japan, not only with opportunities for decent fights, but reasonable paydays, and most importantly, fights which were broadcast on television—and continue to be to this day, with female bouts routinely marketed as the “main event.”

International amateur women’s boxing was also on the ascendency culminating in the inclusion of women’s boxing as an Olympic sport in the 2012 Games in London. For such European fighters as Ireland’s Katie Taylor and England’s Nicola Adams, winning gold medals became very important national achievements leading to endorsements and other opportunities, not the least of which was recognition of their place in history and as role models for younger women and girls. For America’s boxing phenomenon, Claressa Shields, who at 17 was the first American female to ever win a gold medal for boxing, the usual promise of Olympic gold endorsements never appeared, and any sense that the inclusion of women’s boxing in the Olympics would perhaps enable a resurgence of the sport in the United States did not materialize. The other American female medalist who won a bronze in the 2012 Games, Marlen Esparza, had slightly better luck in winning endorsements, with adds for Coca Cola and Cover Girl, and a certain amount of traction in the Hispanic community, but otherwise, her Bronze had little effect on the sport as a whole.

In fact, women’s professional boxing has remained virtually absent from the airways in the United States with very, very few exceptions over the past eight years—and in fact, with respect to national exposure, i.e., network television or nationally televised cable boxing programs (ESPN, et al), such instances can be counted on one hand between 2012 and 2016.

The exceptions have been certain local fight cards such as New York City-based promoter DiBella Entertainment’s Broadway Boxing series, which have promoted and televised female bouts on local cable television channels. The same was true of a few of boxing champion Holly Holm’s fights in her local New Mexico market.

Some women’s bouts are also available live from time to time on US or internationally based internet pay channels at anywhere from $10 to $50 a pop. Otherwise, the only other means of watching female bouts has been on YouTube and other video services, where promoters may upload fights days after the bout. Viewers have also come to rely on uploads from fans that record all or some portions of female bouts. The clips are uploaded to social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram and now Facebook Live, in addition to YouTube, Vimeo, et al. Additionally, it is possible to watch international female professional boxing bouts via satellite television. International amateur female boxing tournaments are also available on occasion for website viewing, and certainly women’s boxing in the 2012 and 2016 games were available on the NBC Sports website, albeit, after much searching.

Three of the handful of professional female bouts broadcast since the 2012 London Games included, boxing champion Amanda “The Real Deal” Serrano’s six-round bout which was televised on a CBS Sports boxing program on May 29, 2015, boxer Maureen “The Real Million Dollar Baby” Shea’s pay-per-view title bout on a Shane Mosley fight card broadcast in August 29, 2015, and the last nationally broadcast women’s bout on NBCSN, which pitted two highly popular local North East fighters Heather “The Heat” Hardy and Shelley “Shelito’s Way” Vincent for the vacant WBC international female featherweight title on August 21, 2016. This latter fight was the first female bout to be broadcast under the new upstart Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) promotion arm that has brought boxing back to broadcast television on NBC and CBS, as well as broadcasting on cable television outlets including Spike TV, NBCSN, and ESPN.

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Heather Hardy (R) defeated Shelito Vincent by MD in their ten round slug fest on August 21, 2016. Photo Credit: Ed Diller, DiBella Entertainment

Four months on from the PBC broadcast, with a second Olympic cycle resulting in Claressa Shields winning her second back-to-back gold medal at the 2016 Rio Games – the first American boxer, male or female to have won that distinction – the status of women’s boxing in the United States is at a crossroads of sorts.

Since 2012, mixed-martial arts (MMA) have made significant inroads across platforms on cable, broadcast and internet-based telecasts. Moreover, this increase in visibility has come at the detriment of boxing—with more and more advertising dollars being thrown towards MMA contests. Of significance, however, has been the increasing popularity of women’s MMA (WMMA)—especially since UFC, the premier MMA league added female MMA fighters to their roster. Beginning on February 23, 2013 (UFC157), UFC began broadcasting WMMA bouts.

With the announcer declaring it a “gigantic cultural moment,” Ronda Rousey, a former bronze winning Olympian in Judo, and the Strikeforce* bantamweight WMMA champion, easily defeated her opponent Liz Carmouche with a classic “arm bar” move and in so doing, established a new first for women’s martial sports. Rousey went on to capture the imagination of country with her girl-next-door looks, winning ways, and eventual appearance in films such as The Expendables 3 and Furious 7. This catapult of a female warrior in gloves (albeit not boxing gloves) to include being only the second female fighter to ever appear on the cover of Ring Magazine (to much consternation by the boxing community), did not, however, have any particular visible effect on the fortunes of female boxing, per se,

Her first loss, however, in UFC 193 on November 15, 2015, was to a female boxer turned MMA fighter, Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm. A highly experienced female boxing champion, Holm’s boxing career of (33-3-2, 9-KOs) while very impressive, never led to the kind of breakout name recognition or big dollar paydays that should have been her due, given her talents, and caliber of many of her opponents including bouts with such boxing royalty as Christy Martin and Mia St. John (albeit later in their careers), British boxing star Jane Couch who single-handedly created women’s boxing in England, and the truly fearsome French fighter, Anne Sophie Mathis. Ensconced in her hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Holm enjoyed a loyal following and excellent local coverage, and while she was a known quantity in the boxing community; it was only with her forays into MMA that she was able to break through to a larger audience and a chance at bigger paydays and television exposure.

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The irony of a Rousy’s loss to a boxer was not lost on the boxing community (nor has the fact that Rousey’s recent loss in UFC207 was due to her inability to defend against her opponents unrelenting boxing “strikes”). A growing number of boxing writers who have also begun to champion the place of women in the sport with such features as Ring Magazine‘s monthly feature by Thomas Gerbasi.

November 2016 brought a flurry of attention to women’s boxing. Claressa Shields appearance on the November 19th Sergey Kovalev-Andre Ward fighting a four-rounder against former foe and USA National champion in the amateurs, Franchon Crews not only ended in a unanimous win on the cards, but the chance to see the fight live as a free streaming event. Shields has been quoted as saying, “It’s definitely a big deal, and it’s a big deal for women’s boxing, period …We really wanted a fight where we could put on a show.”

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Claressa Shields delivering a straight right to Franchon Crews in their four round professional debut on November 19, 2016. Photo Credit: AP Photo/John Locher

Boxing writers and Shields herself have asked if this will be the launch point for women’s boxing—and with Claressa Shields recent appearance on the cover of Ring Magazine in celebration of her remarkable back-to-back Olympic gold medal appearances, she is certainly an important figure to be reckoned with as 2017 looms—not to mention her 77-1 boxing record in the amateurs.

Ireland’s Katie Taylor also be turned professional in England in early December, and quickly racked up to back-to-back wins with the second one also broadcast live on Showtime’s streaming online service.

Additionally, in late November, Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President at Showtime stated they intended to include female boxing on the network in 2017—a first since 2009. Espinoza has been flirting with the idea of putting a female bout back on the air for the last couple of years—and has paid keen interest in the success of DiBella Entertainment’s local fight cards that have included such female fighters as Amanda Serrano, Heather Hardy, and Shelito Vincent.

In an interview with The Sweet Science, Espinoza is quoted as saying; “It’s been on our to-do list for a couple of years. It’s really at its capacity. But we made a decision we are going to prioritize it.”

The first event is slated to be a WBO women’s world super bantamweight championship with the remarkably talented Amanda “The Real Deal” Serrano (30-1-1) set to fight Yazmin Rivas (35-9-1) in what promises to be a hard fought bout between two technically proficient warriors.

AIBAs (the world international amateur boxing association) rules change just this past week may be the most far-reaching. All women’s amateur elite bouts will now be contested with in three rounds of three minutes each. The parity of the rounds and number of minutes per round is a first in the amateur world—and while elite men will still contest without helmets, there is further discussion of this otherwise controversial rules change that took effect before the Olympics in 2016.

With respect to the number of minutes per round—the normalization of the three-minute round will, in my estimation put pressure on the pros to accept this change, especially as amateurs with experience in the changed format turn professional. Given that in MMA men and women contest using the name number of rounds and same number of minutes per round, there will certainly be more impetus to push through three minute boxing rounds for women. Some states allow this already—such as New York State, but there has been reluctance to push for fights using three rounds based on the perception that women will want more money. Given the pay equity issues that already exist, there may be somewhat of a case to be made, however, with the push to three minutes, that last claim of women’s boxing being “less” than men’s because of the number of minutes in a round will be pushed aside once and for all.

Showtime’s potential entry into broadcasting female boxing along with signs that boxing sanctioning organizations are beginning to put resources into the sport led by the World Boxing Council which has now held two consecutive WBC conventions devoted solely to women’s boxing may help further propel the sport back into a more prominent place in the United States—and in place such as the United Kingdom.

Time will tell whether this actually happens, but as always, I remain hopeful!

 

*Strikeforce was an MMA and kickboxing league operating out of California from 1985-2013. WMMA practitioners such as Mischa Tate and Ronda Rousey were important champions and helped prove the case for televising female MMA bouts. They were particularly popular draws on Showtime. Strikeforce was bought out in 2011 by Dana White and its roster eventually folded into UFC.

 

 

15
Nov
15

Thoughts on Rousey v Holm

Thoughts on Rousey v Holm

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The kick seen ’round the world: Women’s Boxing champion Holly Holm (l) took down Ronda Rousey in the second round of their UFC Women’s Bantamweight championship in the co-main event of UFC193. Photo credit: Paul Crock/AFP/Getty Images

By now, the kick seen ’round the world has played out across countless twitter posts, Instagram photos, newspaper headlines, YouTube replays, and conversations, casual and otherwise at gyms, across breakfast tables, on subway platforms, and in every other place one can think of where people stop to shoot the breeze.

Even my sixteen year old daughter and her pals were full of opinions this morning, to a person, cheering on Holly Holm for her stupendous and stunning win over Ronda Rousey, to capture the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship title in the co-main event of UFC193. A bit of schadenfreude aside, for what has been interpreted as arrogance on the part of Rousey towards the boxing world, male and female, Holm’s picture perfect performance, quick hands, and focus, have brought into sharp relief, Holm’s superior multi-dimensional skills, ring savvy, focus and insistence, that if boxing couldn’t bring her the attention, opportunity and exposure she needs, then switching to MMA would.

That Rousey has garnered the attention she has received since bursting on the scene at Strikeforce, and becoming the first female to crack Dana White’s all male Ultimate Fighting Championship bastion, has been nothing short of phenomenal. She has garnered well-deserved accolades and a cross-over recognition into the wider public consciousness of a female martial sports practitioner that hasn’t been seen since the hey day of Laila Ali’s forays into the boxing ring.  One could argue that what Rousey has achieved is all the more stunning since she did not bring the name recognition of a famous father into the Octogan with her. What she did bring was a bronze Olympic medal in Judo, talent, gumption, and the kind of golden-girl good looks that get recognized, but that shouldn’t take away from her do-or-die performances in the ring and what that has meant to popular culture and the perception of what fighting females are capable of–very much on equal footing with their male counterparts.

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Holly Holm (l) with a left strike to Ronda Roussey during their UFC Championship bout. Photo credit: Quinn Rooney/Getty Photos

UFC193 is also notable for having had two-main events–both of which were female bouts.  A very, very long way from the kind of offerings UFC had on tap for its fans a mere two years ago.

But it is to Holly Holm and the women she represents we must really speak to: the female boxers who work hard day in and day out for peanuts, but who ply their trade anyway for love of the sport and the sense of accomplishment that comes with climbing into the ring. Holm came into her battle with Rousey not only with a 9-0 MMA record (now 10-0), but a 33-2-3 (9-KOs) boxing career behind her with a string of championship wins, and a veritable alphabet soup of titles to include WBC, WBF, WBA, IBA, NABF, WIBA, and IFBA (and maybe a title or two, I haven’t found).  She’s also fought, arguably, some of the best in the business to include such fighters as Chevelle Hallback, Jane Crouch, Belinda Laracuente, Mary Jo Saunders, Myriam Lamare, Anne-Sophe Mathis (who KO’d Holm in 2011 only to lose to her six months later) and Diana Prazak.

What is galling is that none of those battles, ten-round championship bouts all, with arguably the pound-for-pound greats in the sport, ever made it to Showtime or HBO or ESPN or were ever really known outside the tiny world of female boxing — and in Holly’s case, the local New Mexico sports community and their fans.

In fact, none of these fights were more than tiny ripples nationally, although blessedly Sue Fox’s WBAN was there to sing their praises if for no one else than folks like me who actually care about the sport and the women who put so much of themselves into pursing a professional career. And goodness knows while to a person, each of those fighters would deserve consideration at the International Boxing Hall of Fame, with the exception of consideration by the fledgling International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame (full disclosure, I am on the board), they will be forgotten, never mind having never really been known.

Still, those fights were sellouts, with screaming, cheering fans who LOVED  those battles and coined them as the “fight of the night.”

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 6.08.54 PMMore galling was to see Ronda Rousey’s face on the cover of boxing’s venerable Ring Magazine. Okay, okay, yep, I “get” it, she’s a true million-dollar-baby, but come on … she is NOT a boxer, and if the point was to honor the notion of female athletes in the ring, why not Holly Holm with an extraordinary record of achievement in the sport. But then again, perhaps I answered my own question, when it comes to women in boxing, there is utter silence, and not even Christy Martin cracked that code during her sensational career.

In the run up to the fight, Alicia Ashley, a champion many times over, who at 48, beat Bernard Hopkins by a month to become the oldest boxing champion in the world, said the following:  “I feel it’s insulting to traditional female boxers that Ring Magazine chose for its historic cover a female that’s not a boxer. I think a montage of iconic female fighters to reflect the evolution of women in the sport would’ve celebrated women more than creating controversy. The fact that female MMA fighters are more accepted than female boxers is a testament that the more exposure given, the more common place it becomes. The fact that Holly Holm and other females of her caliber are crossing over into MMA with increasing regularity because they are more [likely] to be showcased, which translates into increased pay or sponsorship can only be attributed to the lack of support women are getting from promoters. The sport of women’s boxing will not advance if promoters insist on using one female to reinvigorate it. It certainly didn’t happen with Christy Martin or Laila Ali and it won’t with Ronda Rousey if she is the only female shown twice a year.”

Perhaps the Holly Holm win, coupled with the achievements of female boxers in USA Boxing’s elite program coming into the second Olympic cycle, will bring promoters and sports television producers to their senses about the opportunities for the great female boxing battles to come. And perhaps too,  Oscar De La Hoya, who promised to put women on his fight cards at last year’s historic WBC women’s boxing conference will finally come through–though I tend to doubt it since his idea of promoting female boxing was to sponsor Ronda Rousey.  Hmmm.

Oh and did I mention that Claressa Shields, will have the opportunity to compete for the chance to win a second gold medal for the USA in Rio in 2016–another greatest story, largely untold (and no Wheaties box, surprised?).

Meanwhile, women’s boxing does have an extraordinary champion to cheer for in Holly Holm, and in what can only be described as a true female boxer’s style, she felt only gratitude at having been given that chance to prove her metal.

All I can say is this: Female boxers … this 60-something girl boxer salutes you!

Holly Holm’s tearful, humble acknowledgement of her win:

05
Sep
15

We only have each other … women’s boxing

We only have each other … women’s boxing

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Six Women’s Boxing Champions at Gleason’s Gym: (l to r) Melissa St. Vil, Fire McLeod, Heather Hardy, Ronica Jeffries, Susie Ramadan, Alicia Ashley. Photo credit: Hosking Promotions

Women’s boxing has garnered a fair amount of press in the United States of late from the split-draw IBF Female Super Bantamweight title fight between Maureen “The Real Million Dollar Baby” Shea (24-2-1) and Luna “La Cobrita” Avila (12-2-1) on Shane Mosely’s Pay Per View extravaganza, to the announcement that Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm (33-2-3) will fight UFC’s reigning WMMA champion Ronda Rousey in November on the UFC193 card in Melbourne, Australia.

Action will also be heating up in September with a series of bouts featuring East Coast professional female boxers including the return of Alicia “Slick” Ashley (22-10-1) in a WBC Female Superbantamweight title fight on September 15th, Shelito Vincent (14-0) in an 8-rounder at Foxwoods Casino on September 12th (with the top of the card broadcast on NBC), Ronica Jeffrey (13-1) in a 6-rounder on September 11th, and Amanda Serrano in a 6-rounder on September 10th.

Added to that mix will be Australian boxer “Shotgun” Shannon O’Connell (11-3)  making her North American boxing debut in Toronto against Canadian fighter Sandy “Lil Tyson” Tsagouris. The two will battle in an 8-rounder on the undercard of a PBC/Spike TV card headed by the Adonis Stevenson v. Tommy Karpency WBC World light heavyweight title fight.

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(l to r) Susie Ramadan, Alicia Ashley, Shannon O’Connell, Photo Credit: Hosking Promotions

Ahead of her fight, Shannon O’Connell along with two-time world champion Susie Q. Ramadan (23-3) have embarked on a tour of the U.S. with their trainers, promoter Lynden Hosking of Hosking Promotions and U.S. advisor, Eddie Montalvo. The tour has led the two fighters to New York City, and the world-famous Gleason’s Gym where both women had the opportunity to meet with the likes of Keisher “Fire” McLeod, Ronica Jeffries, Melissa St. Vil, Alicia Ashley, and Heather Hardy–a veritable who’s who of women’s boxing champions.

Girlboxing had a chance to meet and talk with O’Connell, Ramadan, promoter Hosking and Heather Hardy who sparred Ramadan for three tough hard-fought rounds.  While the interviews were brief, the sentiment expressed was one of optimism for the sport over all and most importantly of the need for connection and support among the fighters as they battle for recognition and opportunities to practice their art.

Here’s what everyone had to say:

01
Aug
15

Ever the optimist, the longer view of women in boxing

Ever the optimist, the longer view of women in boxing           

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Heather “The Heat” Hardy (13-0) fights Renata Domsodi (12-6) on 8/1 at the Barclay’s Center on PBC’s Daniel Santos v. Paulie Malignaggi card.

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.

IMG_4729“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Christy Martin, April 15, 1996, Photo Credit: Brian Smith

Is there a lot wrong with the sport?

Yes.

Inequity, lousy pay (if any), and a PROFOUND lack of respect.

Still, women box, and continue to claim their rightful place in the ring!

07
Feb
14

Friday night at the women’s boxing fights – 2/7/2014

Friday night at the women’s boxing fights – 2/7/2014

Friday Night Fights

Here we are again fight fans! And if Chicago-based new boxing sensation and 6-time Golden Gloves champ Kristen Gearhart (2-0) who is fighting Alliana Jones (1-0) on the ESPN Friday Night Fights card doesn’t get on the air — female boxers will still find themselves shut out of the major US TV networks this weekend.

As alternative …. we have tonight’s fight card with two sensational fights from this past week!

First up is Canadian fighter Lindsay Garbett (8-7-s, 3-KOs) vs. Chinese fighter Xu Chun Yan (4-3, 1-KO) who fought for the vacant WBC International Female Featherweight championship in Haikou, China on February 5, 2014. Garbett lost the battle by majority decision and according to CanadianBoxiana.com told her fans, “Unfortunately I lost a majority decision. I left it all out there and I knew what I had to do. Couldn’t get it done this time. I Had a great time and can’t wait to come home! Thanks again everyone for all the support. I’m so grateful!”

Both are very skilled boxers–and the audience was very attentive. You be the judge! (BTW, Commentary is in Mandarin)

For the main event, here is the complete Cecilia Braekhus (24-0, 7 KOs) vs. Myriam Lamare (22-4, 10-KOs) fight for the WBA, WBC and WBO female welterweight championship held on 2/1/2014. Braekhus took the fight by unanimous decision on points.

Lamare had her pro debut in 2003 and has fought Jane Couch, Belinda Laracuente, Anne Sophie Mathis, Holly Holm, Ann Saccurato and Chevelle Hallback along the way among others. Her only losses other than to Braekhus, had been against Holm and Mathis (twice). Lamare also fought as an amateur

Braekhus, listed as number 1 on everyone’s p-4-p list seems unstoppable with mad, crazy skills and an iron will to win, but let me tell you, Lamare’s no slouch either. The fight, likely Lamare’s last, is all Braekhus, but still a pleasure to watch–with a very lively crowd! (Commentary in Norwegian)

 

28
Jan
14

Boxer Diana Prazak – Bittersweet …

Boxer Diana Prazak – Bittersweet …

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Australia’s boxing phenomenon Diana Prazak (12-2, 8-KOs) won her WBC Female Super-Featherweight title in dramatic fashion in June 2013 when her knock out of Swedish boxer Frida Wallberg (11-1, 2-KOs) left Wallberg to suffer from a burst blood vessel at the outer edge between the meninges and the brain. What was lost in the frightening minutes and hours until word was received that Wallberg would likely recover, was the fighting brilliance of Prazak who under the tutelage of the great Lucia Rijker had come a long way in the six months since she fought a respectable bout against Holly Holm (33-2-3, 9-Kos) in December 2012, and further still from her first professional fight less than two years before that.

Prazak will be defending her title on March 1, 2014 against boxer Shannon O’Connell (8-2-0, 5 KOs) at The Melbourne Pavillion in Flemington, Victoria, and has otherwise been very busy keeping up with her training.

She’s also the subject of a documentary by Dutch filmmaker Marieke Niestadt, tracing Prasak’s experiences in the run up to her epic battle in the ring with Wallberg and its aftermath. The film is an official selection of the upcoming Macon Film Festival 2014 and the Charleston International Film Festival 2014.  If the trailer is indicative of anything, it is a sensitive portrayal of Diana Prazak’s boxing journey.

For more information on the film, click the link: www.mariekeniestadt.com/bittersweet

15
Jun
13

Women’s Boxing champ Frida Wallberg KO sends her to the hospital for emergency brain surgery.

UPDATE 3 (6/16/2013):  The Swedish press is reporting some very good news. It seems Frida Wallberg is off the respirator, awake and talking. It’s also been reported that the bleed was not an internal brain hemorrhage, but a blood vessel at the outer edge between the meninges and the brain. This is excellent in terms of her recovery and likely she will be kept in the hospital for another 5-6 days so that she can continue to be assessed and have the rest she needs. Meanwhile, the matter is being investigated by Swedish boxing authorities.

Women’s Boxing champ Frida Wallberg KO sends her to the hospital for emergency brain surgery. UPDATE 1  & 2 (below)

Boxer Frida Wallberg being assisted by Lucia Rijker and opponent Diana Prazak shortly after Wallberg's devastating KO loss to Prazak on 6/14/2013. Credit: Maja Suslin/Scanpix

Boxer Frida Wallberg being assisted by Lucia Rijker and opponent Diana Prazak shortly after Wallberg’s devastating KO loss to Prazak on 6/14/2013. Credit: Maja Suslin/Scanpix

Swedish Boxer Frida Wallberg (11-1, 2-KOs) suffered a devastating KO in her title fight against the new WBC super featherweight champion, Australian fighter Diana Prazak (12-2, 8-KOs). It has left the wildly popular Wallberg in an intensive care bed at the Karolinksa Hospital in Sweden on a respirator. She was placed in a medically induced coma after receiving emergency surgery to relieve the pressure on her brain from a cerebral hemorrhage. Surgery took place in the early morning hours after the bout.

Prazak spent the night pummeling Wallberg with bombs and rocked her in the 7th round with a sweeping left according to a report on boxingscene.com. Wallberg buckled under the force of the blow, but continued the round.  In the 8th round, seemingly still under the effects of the 7th round blow, Wallberg was on the receiving end of Prazak’s hard punching. Wallberg was knocked to the canvas by short left hook, but after getting up and receiving an 8-count from the referee, Bela Florian, she continued only to be hit by a short right hook which sent her to the deck again.  Bela Florian called the fight at that point and Prazak was given the KO win.

Wallberg was assisted to the corner by Florian, her nose bleeding and tentative in her movements. Even as she was being examined by the ring doctor, one could observe her visibly slumping and hanging on to the ropes. Still he walked away, and it was the quick thinking of Prasak’s trainer, Lucia Rijker who while celebrating her own fighter’s victory saw that Wallberg was in trouble and ran to her aid. Rijker demanded that the doctor return and that Wallberg be given serious medical aid. Wallberg was subsequently attended to and brought out of the ring on a stretcher.

Wallberg’s boyfriend, Robert Ludwig later told the Swedish press that she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage described as a stroke. In other reports, it has been said that doctors may try to revive Wallberg at some point today to assess her condition.

UPDATE 1: According to press accounts from Sweden, Frida was partially brought out of her coma and has had her medications reduced to assist in the process of bringing her to consciousness. That will reportedly happen at about 4:00 PM, 6.15.2013, Swedish Time. No word was given on the state of her injuries or likely prognosis. The press is continuing to state that she suffered a stroke.

UPDATE 2: Wallberg was reportedly awakened, was able to move her fingers and answers questions, but from what could be gleaned, she has likely been re-sedated somewhat to allow her time to heal. There is some cause for optimism, but no answer yet on whether she will make a full recovery from the stroke–and things are still very serious at this point. She remains in the hospital in intensive care.

Whatever happens, under Swedish boxing rules, Wallberg will no longer be able to box professionally in Sweden.  It is also said that she had an MRI two weeks ago as part of her pre-fight medical which showed no signs of abnormality or vessel weakness.

Wallberg’s last fight was 14 months ago against the tough Brooklyn fighter, Amanda Serrano (17-1, 12-KOs). Wallberg won the fight by decision in her native Sweden. Prazak on the other hand most recently fought Holly Holm (33-2, KOs-9) for a shot at the then vacant IBAF and WBF female light welterweight titles. It was Prazak’s only loss.

Responding to questions about Wallberg in a post-fight interview, Prazak with her coach Rijker was overwhelmed by the quick succession of winning the title after a long hard road of training — and the sense that her only way to defeat Wallberg to take the title was by KO, given that the fight was on Wallberg’s home turf in Sweden — and the devastation of knowing that Prazak was so seriously injured.  As Prazak said on her Facebook page last night, “All fighters want the win by KO … just what we had planned and trained for [came] at a big cost.” She went on to say, “My prayers and thoughts are with Frida and her loved ones. Please send your prayers and thoughts for her too.”

Ishika Lay in Recovery, Photo: Florida Times Union

Ishika Lay in Recovery, Photo: Florida Times Union

The injury sustained by Wallberg and subsequent surgery is reminiscent of the devastation suffered by Ishika Lay in November 2011. During Lay’s bid for the National Golden Gloves in the run-up to the Olympic Trials, she collapsed in the ring, the likely victim of second impact syndrome–a form of brain injury that occurs when brain injuries are not given adequate time to heal.

Whenever this happens in boxing — questions arise as to the role that coaches, managers, referees and ringside physicians play in the health and safety of fighters in the ring. The safety of fighters outside the ring, during training, is just as important, if not more so, and it is up to those who care for their fighters to take the precautions necessary to keep their boxers safe–incorporating the adage “when in doubt sit it out.”

It is helpful that in Sweden fighters are required to have brain scans on a regular basis. The fact that Wallberg was cleared two weeks prior to the fight is also good. What we don’t know is whether she sustained any serious head blows in the interval between her MRI and the day of the fight that could have compromised her in some way. By all reports both fighters had tough training camps in preparation for the bout–Wallberg had also been coming to the fight after a 14 month layoff and whether that had anything to do with the severity of her injury is also unknown.

What we do know is that boxers, hockey players, football players, MMA fighters and other athletes in close contact sports sustain traumatic brain injuries–the question is how can we all help protect these remarkable athletes from further trauma. We know that fighters in particular aim for the KO. It is the “cookies” in boxing–and let’s face it, is what garners the big money fights on the men’s side of game, and while women make a pittance by comparison, the KO remains the holy grail.

Making sports illegal is certainly not the answer, but making sports safer with headgear that can minimize the impact of such injuries, as well as vigilance in the gym, on the playing field and in the ring, would seem to be a step in the right direction. Rethinking the importance of big hits is also something to consider–though that is an unlikely change.




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