Posts Tagged ‘Mia St. John

02
Jan
17

Women’s Boxing Circa 2017

Women’s Boxing Circa 2017

serrano-zarika-ii-photo-by-marilyn-paulino

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.

cover-christymartin-si

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.

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-3-21-11-pm

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.

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-3-22-50-pm

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.

rs_1024x759-151115105326-1024-ronda-rousey-ufc-defeat-cm-111515

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.”

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-3-32-13-pm

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
Aug
12

Women’s boxing: past, present, future tense

Women’s boxing: past, present, future tense

Christy Martin & Mia St. John, WBC Title Fight, 8/13/12, Photo: Mary Ann Lurie Owen

Pictures always tell stories.  They speak of triumph, pain and the extraordinary toughness that is distilled down to a moment in time.

For Christy Martin (49-7-3, 31-KOs) and Mia St. John (46-11-2, 18-KOs) two legends in the field of women’s professional boxing those pictures, framed within the confines of a ten-round championship battle are indelible for what they tell us about tenacity, courage and love for the sport that both of these women has put so much heart into. Mia St. John won the fight by decision: 96-94, 96-94, 97-93. The decision was considered fair, and evened up their previous meeting on June 12, 2002 when Martin defeated St. John by decision.

Both women announced their retirement after the fight and given that they are 44 and 45 years old respectively, why not.  They’ve earned the right to hang up their gloves as much as any two champions who ever lived.

Christy Martin (r) & Deirdre Gogarty, March 16, 1996, Credit: fscclub.com

Christy Martin began her boxing career in the Toughwoman contests of the early 1990’s before finding her way to Don King and her most famous bout against Ireland’s great boxer Deirdre Gogarty on Showtime’s PPV in 1996.  That fight put women’s boxing on the map — and ready or not, into the primetime of promotional gambits that sought to capitalize on Martin’s success in the ring without regard for the women who actually fought these battles, or the consequences ten years later when the bottom seemed to fall out of professional women’s boxing in the United States.  Mia St. John was able to capitalize on that first wave herself, entering the ring in 1997 and signing first with Don King and then with Top Rank. She continued to box, just as Christy did through the good and lean times of the sport.

Women fight, win, lose, and tough out purses that barely cover expenses, never mind the cost of hitting the gym every day or going into camp for several weeks before a particularly tough bout, things that are taken for granted in the world of men’s boxing, but seem like flights of fancy for the female fighters. Martin and St. John and countless other women who fought alongside them, some highly renowned, others only in their respective cities or gyms, fight on even now if for nothing else than for love of the sport and the opportunity to fight through the things that bring them to the ring in the first place.

Martin and St. John’s bout was their last battle, but to borrow a term from track and field, they have passed on the baton and then some to countless women who have been inspired by their fortitude as they’ve braved the gauntlet to fight and fight hard in the ring. That it comes on the heels of the debut of women’s boxing in the 2012 Olympics is so much the sweeter.

Women’s boxing has Marlen Esparza (Bronze, flyweight medalist), Queen Underwood (lightweight Olympian) and Claressa Shields (Gold, middleweight medalist) to mark another milestone in the sport as great as the night of March 16, 1996 when Martin and Gogarty put the sport on the map. But they’ve also got sisters in gyms across the United States and the world working out two to three hours a day for the chance to climb through the velvet ropes to tell their own stories in minute frames of images.

What we owe to Christy Martin and Mia St. John is incalculable, suffice to say Girlboxing sends a salute to these two remarkable women who have literally pounded the flesh for glory.

 

 

21
Mar
12

Mia St. John and Mary Kom: Female Boxers in the news …

Mia St. John and Mary Kom: Female Boxers in the news …

From barely a trickle of stories about women’s boxing, there is a fair amount of press — all over the world about women’s boxing.  Here are stories featuring American boxer Mia St. John and India’s great amateur Olympic hopeful Mary Kom!

Mia St. John has granted an exclusive interview to Jake Emen over at Proboxingfans.com on her upcoming June 19th battle against the great Christy Martin.  Here’s a smattering of the interview …

“You’ve been fighting professionally since 1997, so it’s been 15 years. How much longer will you continue to fight, and is there any way this is your last fight?

Mia: I have to fight Christy one more time after this! We have to do the rubber match! Other than that, I’m done. I’ve lived out dream and it was a hell of a ride.”

The article link is here.

India’s leading contender for Gold in the upcoming 2012 London Olympic Games — with a eye first on winning a berth to the 2012 Women’s World Championships this coming May in China is none other than Mary Kom.  The five time amateur champion has recently upped her weight class to 51 KG  in order to compete.  She is currently a participant in the 6th Asian Women’s Boxing Championships being held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia where she has advanced to the quarter finals.

This recent piece entitled India’s Mary Kom keeps proving doubters wrong is particularly revealing of her struggles to become a world-class boxing champion and is well worth the read.  Here is a brief preview …

“When I started boxing, people laughed at me and said, ‘What can women do in boxing?’” she said. “I took it as a challenge. If men can do it why can’t women? And I became a world champion before my marriage.

“When I got married, they doubted if I can win again after marriage. I took it as the second challenge and proved myself.”

The article link is here.

India Today also has a story on Mary Kom entitled Boxing: Mary Kom off to a winning start about her quarterfinal win.

08
Mar
12

Engaging in the ring on International Women’s Day!

Engaging in the ring on International Women’s Day!

I grew up in the sixties and well remember my father informing me at the age of 13 that since I was now “liberated” I could pay for my own lunch.

Bra Burning, Atlantic City 1968, Credit: Media Myth Alert

That was in the late 1960s and while I admit to some confusion when I watched images of college women burning their bras or heard about consciousness raising sessions where women would meet to talk about how to become “unoppressed,” I suppose I could say that I reaped some immediate benefits — well sort of …

When I was 17, I was literally chased around the desk by a lecherous office manager and subsequently fired for not being “friendly.” A woman at the unemployment office took pity on me and figured out how to “stick-it” to the company by giving me the unheard of sum of $75.00 per week for my troubles.

That was how my consciousness was raised: don’t get mad get even.

Doris Day and Rock Hudson, Lover Come Back, Credit: Leo Fuchs

With the blissful joys of late 1950s and early 1960s sex romps filling my head — those Doris Day and Rock Hudson gems which were “teaching” me how to get a man, you know, lie, cheat and don’t put out on the first, second, third or even fourth date, well a few kisses maybe but that was it — didn’t exactly prepare me for reaching my “womanhood” in the disco world of the early 1970s in NYC!

Not to mention, of course, that Rock Hudson was famously gay and Doris Day the victim of spousal abuse and a renowned animal rights activist beginning in the 1980s.

The point is we all change. Whether through “consciousness raising” or time, but when it comes to women, some things don’t seem to change.

We in the United States may assume ourselves to be “enlightened” when in comes to women’s rights — you know, we can drive, support our families, even box, and heck, there are more women graduating from architecture school than men these days so that’s equality, right?

Scratch that surface though and we find the political rhetoric of this year’s Republican campaign season attacking women’s health and birth control! Birth control?!?!? I mean really, what is up with that?!?!?

(Dare I mention that most women on birth control are married and that a good percentage take the pill for non-birth control reasons — despite what certain radio talk show hosts have stated!)

Women are also still assaulted in record numbers by spouses and boyfriends, trafficked for sex right here in the old US of A, and while women have made inroads in the Armed Forces, the “dark side” is the spate of sexual crimes against women — right smack dab in the middle of the theater of war where they proudly serve.

To my way of thinking, we are all in the ring all the time, duking it out for things like adequate child care for our children because let’s face it “choice” is not an option for most women — it’s work or starve — which brings up issues like maternity rights (nothing like leaving your 11 week old baby to go back to work, I know, I had to do it) and that old chestnut equity in pay (still!).

Ask ANY female boxer in the United States if she can earn a living as a fighter and she’ll give you a litany of jobs she has to have to “support” her professional boxing career. Oh, and then ask her about how much respect she receives for plying her trade … think Christy Martin who boxed in pink for years to seem more feminine and therefore a lot less threatening.

I could go on and on — but will end my rant by standing and raising my body into a huge cheer for Christy Martin and Mia St. John who will enter the ring of combat on June 19th for the WBC Super Welterweight World Championship.

To my mind this is the best antidote to feeling the blues about how much further women have to go: two f’n warriors giving it their all in a ring they claim as their own.

And at the end of the day, that’s all it’s about: what Virginia Wolfe famously coined, a place of one’s own to just be without all of the ugly crap that gets heaped on in piles pushing you down.

In the parlance of my childhood “rock on sisters!” — and have a great day!

14
Nov
11

Rola El-Halabi’s day in court.

Rola El-Halabi’s day in court.

Rola El-Halabi in court, Photo: Axel Schmidt / dapd

Rola El-Halabi (11-0, 6-KOs) is 26 years old and had a full career ahead of her as an elite female professional fighter before her stepfather shot her in the hand, knee and foot in her dressing room prior to her fight against Irma Balijagic Adler of Bosnia for the vacant IBF lightweight title this past April.

El-Halabi, originally from Lebanon was the pride of Ulm, Germany when she defeated American fighter Mia St. John for the WIBA and WIBF Women’s Lightweight Titles in March of 2010.  She subsequently returned her titles due to a domestic situation and had been away from the ring for a year.

Rola El-Halabi

Her promising career also ran afoul of her stepfather’s sense of honor which eventually led her to fire him as her manager back in January.   He had allegedly vowed to put her in a wheelchair — and nearly did, though her tenacity and has seen her to face her attacker in a German court.

The showdown with her stepfather has led to a guilty verdict and a nearly seven-year sentence in prison.

While one speculates that this is vindication for the horrific attack against Rola El-Halabi, the fact remains the injuries she sustained have left their mark and she will likely never enter the ring again.

Stephen Brown over at Frontpagemag.com has a terrific piece entitled Unfair ‘Honor Crime’ Fight in Berlin that is well worth the read.

>>>UPDATE>>>

AP story published in Washington Post here.

UK Guardian story here.

 

03
Apr
11

What’s up with this?

What’s up with this?

 

Rola El-Halabi (11-0, 6-KO), Lightweight Female Boxer

So what’s up with this:  “Female boxer shot before fight” !?!

The AP wire had it this way, “German female boxer Rola El-Halabi‘s career is in doubt after she was shot by her stepfather and former manager before a title fight on Friday. The undefeated 25-year-old was preparing to fight Irma Balijagic Adler of Bosnia for the vacant IBF lightweight title, when the 44-year-old man entered her dressing room and shot her in the hand, knee and foot.” (link here & link here)  Also shot were two security guards both of whom are expected to make a full recovery.  Rola El-Halabi had reportedly ended her stepfather’s role as her manager back in January.

As WBAN points out, this is the second shooting of a female boxer, following on the horrific assault Christy Martin endured late last year.  (link here)

Am I missing something here?  I know people get shot, but this is really too much.

Girlboxing sends heart-felt wishes to Rola El-Halabi for a swift and full recovery.

Here’s a great video of Rola El-Halabi and Mia St. John from last year.  This is really tragic.




May 2017
M T W T F S S
« Feb    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,885 other followers

Girlboxing Now! on Twitter

@Girlboxingnow

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Share this blog!

Bookmark and Share
free counters
Blog Directory

Blog Stats

  • 680,655 hits

Twitter Updates

© Malissa Smith and Girlboxing, 2010-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Malissa Smith and Girlboxing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

%d bloggers like this: