Posts Tagged ‘WBC

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!

10
May
15

Three Minute Rounds for Female Boxing In New York State

Three-minute rounds for female boxing in New York State

Susan Reno

 

When Susan Reno (1-3-2) and Paola “La Loba” Ortiz (0-5-1) step into the ring at Brooklyn’s storied Masonic Temple on May 15th, they’ll be doing something no other female fighters in a sanctioned New York State bout have done before, they’ll be contesting their battle using the three-minutes per round they’re trained to fight, not the two-minute versions they’ve been consigned to.

A smattering of states quietly sanctioned three-minute rounds over the years. In California, current IBO heavyweight champion Sonya Lamonakis fought six hard three-minute rounds in 2013 against the current WBC champion Martha Salazar. While a surprise to Lamonakis, who’d expected the bout to be fought at two-minutes per round, in a recent conversation as she readies for her championship battle against Gwendolyn O’Neil in St. Maartin on May 30th, she said, “Well I’m all for it. I did it already for six rounds in California. I think it may even make the women more elite.”

Of all the states, however, Nevada has led the way in sanctioning three-minute round female bouts. Most notably, beginning in 2007, the Boxing Commission worked with pound-for-pound women’s boxing great Layla McCarter  to not only sanction longer rounds, but twelve round championship bouts. In the late 1970s, there were also more than a few boxing matches that were contested at three minutes per round, and even a couple of fifteen round championship bouts, but otherwise, women’s boxing has long been relegated to near on amateur status when it comes to professional fighting: two-minutes per round with a maximum of ten rounds for a championship fight.

The issue of three-minute rounds has been a crucible for women’s boxing, and lies at the heart of legitimizing the hard work and effort that goes into professional boxing contests between female fighters including such matters as television time and the pay checks female boxers receive, which are paltry compared to their male counterparts. The “joke” is that women are told they receive less pay because they only fight two-minute rounds! It is also part of a continuing argument on issues of female stamina and even whether the monthly menstrual cycle affects the ability of women to fight longer. The latter was part of the argument used by the World Boxing Council (WBC) sanctioning body, which in supporting championship belts for women, has also waded into the fray by stating they would only sanction two-minute round, ten round bouts for women.

Alicia “Slick” Ashley, a former WBC champion has been outspoken on the three-minute round issues. In her experience, she’s, “felt the pressure to perform quicker because of the two-minute time limit which of course is better suited for volume punchers but as a boxer I’ve learned to adjust and started my fights off faster.”

She also argues that, “MMA had the foresight to have women on an even footing immediately is something that powers behind boxing never had,” and goes on to say, “How can you say women cannot box three-minute rounds when MMA proves that women can fight five-minute rounds? Hopefully MMA will help open the eyes of the boxing world. We as female fighters can only keep pushing for change or at least the option of fighting for three minutes.”

When asked about New York State’s decision to sanction three-minute rounds, she said, “I’m very happy that NYS had the option of women fighting three-minute rounds if both parties agree. The fact that the Commission understands that women can and will fight longer if given the opportunity is a step in the right direction to competition and hopefully pay equality.”

Boxing trainers also agree that holding women to two-minute rounds is arbitrary at best. Veteran Lennox Blackmoore who has been training female champions since the late 1990s including Jill “the Zion Lion” Mathews the first woman to win a New York Daily News Golden Gloves contest in 1996 said, “I think that’s great. When a woman trains, she trains three minutes a round like anybody else. I don’t see why she shouldn’t fight that way. There are a lot of good women boxers, and it’ll show people what they can do. Jill Mathews fought ten rounds for a championship belt, but it could have three-minute rounds too, she had the experience and the endurance to do that because she trained that way.”

Grant Seligson, a trainer at Gleason’s Gym who works with an array of female fighters from White Collar boxers on through competitive fighters agrees. “Women’s endurance is not only as good as a man’s, but is often better. Besides it’s women competing against women of the same weight, so why shouldn’t it be three minutes a round.”

Given the momentum of women’s MMA with its five-minute rounds–the same for male and female fighters–, and the obvious appeal  female boxers continue to have with audiences even given the virtual media blackout in the United States, the fact that the NYS Boxing Commission has opened things up is something to be applauded.

To learn more about how this all came about, boxer Susan Reno agreed to take time from her busy training schedule to detail her experiences with Girlboxing readers. We all owe a lot to the New York State Boxing Commission’s, Melvina Lathan and David Berlin, along with Susan Reno, Paola Ortiz and Uprising Promotions for what will be an historic event on May 15th.

Paola “La Loba” Ortiz (l) and Susan Reno (r) will fight the first sanctioned 3-minute per round female bout in New York State on May 15, 2015 at Brooklyn Masonic Temple. Credit: Susan Reno

 

  1. In the world of women’s boxing, 3-minute rounds have been the “Holy Grail”? How in the world did you convince the NYS Boxing Commission to sanction 3-minute rounds for your upcoming six-rounder with Paola Ortiz?

There was very little convincing! It just took time. I feel New York has seen female boxers demonstrate time and time again, that we belong in the ring and know what we are doing.  In 2013 Vanessa Greco and I fought a fast-paced, six round draw. After witnessing our action packed bout, NYSAC Chairperson, Melvina Lathan and long-time NY Promoter Bob Duffy both agreed that it was time for women to fight three-minute rounds. Not only are we capable, but we are entertaining and the longer rounds could help avoid draws.

The opportunity did not present itself until this year (I had only fought in California in 2014). In a conversation with NYSAC Executive Director, David Berlin, he wondered out loud “why don’t women fight three-minute rounds?” I jumped on that thought and said, “I’ll do it!”  He too, recognized women have the skill, stamina and focus to fight the same amount of time as the men. His response was “let’s make history!”

I was unaware that there had not been a female boxing match consisting of three-minute rounds in New York. I knew that both Melissa Hernandez and Belinda Laracuente had both fought Layla McCarter in Vegas and their bouts were three-minute rounds. I definitely wanted to seize the opportunity and follow in their footsteps.

My team, Ronson Frank/Uprising Promotions and Paola Ortiz’s camp all agreed to the three-minute rounds and the Commission approved and as the saying goes, “the rest is history.”

  1. WBC has come out to say they would not sanction 3-minute round female boxing championships citing what many have considered to be specious “science.”  What do you feel the response should be from female fighters?

I respect the WBC’s decision to not sanction three-minute rounds. They run a business and every business has to protect itself. I love your phrase “specious science” Malissa! There is no shortage of it on the internet! I can understand a company’s struggle with “inconclusive” or “cloudy” data. Maybe when the question regarding three-minute rounds came up, the answers where not ones they were ready for. From a business standpoint the question is to invest (sanction 3 minute rounds) or not invest? While I respect their decision, I don’t have to agree with it. I feel female fighter’s response should be to invest in our ourselves. Take the best possible care of ourselves physically and mentally and get in the ring and prove them wrong!

  1. Every woman I know who boxes (myself included) trains and spars for three-minute rounds, but when it comes to fights, has had to adjust to two-minute rounds competitively.  How does that affect your fight plan?

I feel the adjustment from training three-minute rounds to fighting two-minute rounds applies unnecessary pressure to “get the job done.” I know many women who can pace out and box the two-minute rounds. World Champion Alicia Ashley does it beautifully and consistently. But many times, the two minutes can create more of a battle than a boxing match. While this can be exciting and fan friendly, it can be difficult to set traps for your opponent and catch them before the bell rings. I imagine the short rounds can make judging difficult as well.

  1. With a three-minute round fight, what adjustments to your fighting style do you feel you will make–or, is this the “natural” way to fight, since it’s the way you train, and the adjustments have come in the two-minute round battles?

I have proven time and time again that I can fight. Now it’s time to box and I feel I will be more comfortable knowing I have more than 120 seconds at a time to hunt, trap and catch my prey.

  1. Now that NY State has sanctified a three-minute fight, what do you think the future will hold?

I feel this fight will open the door to all of the talented and dedicated female fighters in New York as well as those (such as my opponent Paola Ortiz) who are hungry to prove our worth in the business of boxing. Boxing is a business. I understand that. One excuse women are given in regard to our fight purse, is that we fight shorter rounds. Some promoters say that since we fight less time, that equals less pay.  So I say, let’s fight the same amount of time and take away that rationale. I recognize that what I can do in boxing right now, can benefit women in the future. It is my hope that in the near future, professional female boxers can get on TV, gain recognition and get paid for their work same as professional male boxers. I believe fighting three-minute rounds will help level the playing field and create equal business opportunities.

11
Apr
15

Q and A with Boxer Federica Bianco

Q & A With Boxer Federica Bianco

Federica Bianco

Boxer Federica Bianco is making her pro debut on April 25, 2015 in Richmond, CA, Photo Credit: Shelly Vinson

On April 25, 2015 at the Richmond Auditorium in Richmond, California, a Bay area town near San Francisco, Federica Bianco will be making her pro debut at the age of 36 against a fighter named Laura Deanovic. They’ll be fighting on Squarevision Entertainment’s Night of Glory II, card with the top contenders in the Bay Area fighting for the new GBO belt. (And by the way, the promoters will also be donating a dollar from every ticket to the Race to Erase MS (multiple sclerosis research) charity—so if you’re in the Bay Area, you should think about supporting a worthy cause.) Federica came to boxing from the world of Brazilian capoeira. She got good enough to teach it, but started to get intrigued with boxing and switched over completely a few years ago. I got to know Federica in and around Gleason’s Gym, though her true boxing home is at Manhattan’s Church Street Gym. She’s been competing as an amateur with fights in and around New York City, and as far afield on Beautiful Brawlers’ cards and at Bonnie Canino’s 2014 National Golden Gloves tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where I got to Federica bang, and bang hard. As a boxer and someone who has developed a love affair with the sport, Federica helped arrange to bring IWBHOF hall of famer and boxing champion Lucia Rijker to Church Street Gym this past February. Rijker spent two days training and motivating participants in boxing and kickboxing in her unique style—prompting Federica to commit even more to the sport she loves. I had the opportunity to speak with Federica recently, and then through a series of emails, we ironed out a Q & A for Girlboxing readers. Here’s what Federica had to say.

  1. You have your first professional fight coming up at the end of the month?  What can you tell Girlboxing readers about the fight?  

I have been cuddling with the idea of going pro for some time, and I am really excited that this is happening! We’ve been trying to find a match for about a year. It is not easy: there is no money behind women’s boxing, so its hard to get an opponent from afar, or finding a promotion company that is willing to fly a debuting fighter out, and no local matches were coming up. My opponent has more experience, and is a bit bigger than me. But I saw her boxing and I think she has a style that will suite me well.

Federica Bianco

Federica Bianco getting ready for an amateur bout, Photo Credit: J. J. Ignotz

  1. In discussions we’ve had, you’ve stated that you are “not so young.” At 36, what is prompting you to step into the ring for the first time as a pro–at an age, when on the one hand many fighters are stepping out of the ring and on the other, when it comes to female boxers, many are still finding great success.

That’s right: I am no spring chicken! I am 36, and I only started competing a few years ago.  But, honestly, I am in the best shape of my life. Boxing is physical, but also very mental, so I think age helps: I know how to pace myself better than I would have 10 years ago, I am a more experienced athlete, I know how my body is feeling through training camp, I know what diets work for me to make weight responsibly, and I know how to control my emotions way better. So much more is known about sports medicine, and how to train responsibly, that the peak athletic age has definitely shifted ahead. In fact about a year ago I was looking at statistics about title holders: the mean age for boxing title holders for males, as well as for the WBC women title holders, is over 31! Two years ago the age cut for the amateurs was 35, and as I was approaching it, with such few chances for women to compete in the master division, it became clear that I would either have to hang the gloves, or turn pro. I could not keep up the level of intensity in the training that I am used to without a goal in sight (and I am not one to do things half way…). So “pro or couch?” was the question buzzing in my head. And I feel physically great, and mentally ever so eager to continue training and learning, and fighting. So the couch is not really an option – yet. Even as they increased the age limit to 40 for the amateurs, the thought of going pro was in my head. I am ambitious, I want to continue challenging myself, and so it is time to bring it to the next level, and turn pro. In addition to that, there are some things that were frustrating about the amateurs. There are a lot of tournaments I cannot do, either because they have different age cuts (like the New York Daily News Golden Gloves which tops out fighters at 35) or because I am not a citizen. I am Italian, (I am a permanent resident in the USA), and finding matches outside of tournaments was getting harder and harder: with so few women, we all know and have fought each other in each weight class.

  1. Having started out in capoeira, the Brazilian martial arts form with roots that go back centuries, you’ve brought a background of a pretty tough form into the ring.  What prompted the switch to boxing and what adjustments have you made between the two styles?   

I got to capoeira through dance and dance-theater, and then capoeira brought me to boxing – a pretty winding path. There are many different styles of capoeira, and a few years back I had to move from Boston to Santa Barbara for work, and my school of capoeira was not represented in SB. I started teaching classes, but of course that meant I was not getting the same workouts that I was used to training every day in a large and competitive group in Boston, so I picked up boxing for the conditioning (choosing boxing over other martial arts cause I did not want to try a style that would mess with my capoeira kicks). And it stole my heart. As a capoeirista, my best assets were aggression and fearlessness, and the same goes for boxing. I love capoeira; it is such a rich art, with profound cultural depth. I love the ritual, the instruments, and the sense of community. But ultimately, it is the competition, and the confrontation swayed me, and that is on another level in boxing – you are in the corner, looking at your opponent, and she is surrounded by all her own demons. Everything about boxing is clear and plain. Unlike most martial arts, the technique is simple: there are only a few punches! So the name of the game becomes perfecting them. You get in the ring, and in most cases it is clear who is getting the better of the other. Plain and simple. I love that about boxing. And every time you step into the ring, you face yourself. As for the adjustments, I remember going to my boxing coach in California and telling him my capoeira Mestre was complaining my capoeira started to look like boxing, and him saying “well, that’s weird, cause I am still waiting for your boxing to stop looking like capoeira!.” Of course they are very different forms, but it is interesting that among all martial arts and combat sports, both capoeira and boxing put a lot of emphasis on avoiding getting hit, rather than blocking, so they are end up being more ‘fluid’ so to speak, than other martial arts. Coming from a different athletic background in general helps at the beginning, then gets in your way for a while, and only later you start being able to integrate your diverse background in your new style.

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Federica Bianco stunning her opponent with a hard right, Photo Credit, Anthony B. Geathers

  1. You’ve been a trainer and with your boxing have switched more and more into a role as a fighter?  What has this given you in terms of your understanding of the sport, and more importantly, your feelings as you commit yourself to competing on the professional level?

I love teaching and training, but I love being a student best. For me it is really all about improving and learning, that is what I like to do: I am a student for life! Of course though, looking through a coach’s eyes helps tremendously as a fighter! I enjoy every opportunity I have to coach and corner fighters, it sharpens my eye and my brain, so that I can become a smarter, and more tactical fighter! The feelings of a fighter though are always hard to deal with, and I am not sure that seeing them from the other side helps at all. Being conscious of the process does not always make it easier: as a fighter you really just want to rely on your coach for emotional guidance, and a good coach will know how to work your energy to keep emotions in control. And then again, as hard as fighting is emotionally, it is that fear, that uneasy sensation, and the fact that it dissolves as the bell rings, that draws us to fighting. 10421272_871329859575991_920216048370414717_n

  1. You had the chance to work with Lucia Rijker having helped set up her training seminars this past February at Church Street Gym in New York City. Please share your experiences and how it has affected your boxing as you look towards your first pro fight?

Meeting and working with Lucia has been one of the best things that boxing brought into my life! I met her in California for a few training sessions when I still lived there: a present from my husband. Of course I knew her from her fame – my first coach handed me Shadow Boxers [the 1999 film by Katya Bankowsky] the moment I expressed interest in competing – and my expectations were oh so high in meeting her. Well, she fulfilled and exceeded them all. Her coaching is great, but better than her boxing coaching is her vision of the sport, and of a fighter’s experience. She obviously witnessed her own journey in a very conscious way, and has such terrific heritage to share. That is why I really wanted to bring her to NYC and share her with my teammates! She taps into the kinesiological and the spiritual aspects alike. And again, boxing is mental, at least as much as it is physical. Each time I worked with her I was reinvigorated, empowered, and more focused and centered than before. I consider her a friend and her positive energy and encouragement (her motto “be your best self”) mean so much to me!

  1. As with many female boxers you also have a entire life outside of the ring?  What are your other passions and how do you integrate them with your training and the competitions you participate in?

Well in my “other life” I am a scientist – an astrophysicist. I am a postdoctoral fellow at NYU [New York University], and mostly I study exploding stars. It’s a lot of fun: I get paid to do research, which in a way means I get paid to play around and solve puzzles to improve our understanding of the Universe! Of course it is a demanding job, so juggling that with boxing is not easy – I don’t get a lot of hours of sleep, but if you really want to do something you will find the time and way to do it. Luckily my job affords me a flexible schedule and the possibility to travel, as I need to for boxing. It is interesting that both my careers are in male dominated, very competitive fields. I guess I like the challenge.

  1. Having watched you fight last year at the National Golden Gloves, I know how tough you are in the ring and have a good chin. What is your fighting style and what do you expect of your performance in your pro bout?

I do have a good chin and I am a stalker in the ring. I like working inside in phone-booth, toe-to-toe fights. I am excited to fight with smaller gloves, and no headgear: together with a good chin I have good power, and the pro style suites me better than the Olympic style of touch-and-go.

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Federica Bianco working her opponent towards the ropes. Photo Credit: J. J. Ignotz

  1. For readers who may not yet have sparred or fought competitively, what advise can you offer as they embark upon their journeys into boxing?

Keep an open mind, and if you are eager to improve yourself, there is no better environment! I have seen many people stepping into the gym thinking they will be professional fighters, and just hating it in the ring – either hating getting hit, or hating hitting the opponent. And I have seen people that were reluctant to exchange leather, only to find out they loved it and could no longer live without it!  Sparring and fighting are truly nothing like one would guess not having done it. There is no rage, it is not emotional – at least for me, it is very rational in the fight, I find myself as lucid and focused as I ever am.

  1. Once your down with boxing professionally — say ten years from now 🙂 — what’s next for you in the sport?

I enjoy the ride, it is hard for me to think ahead by years: my life keeps surprising me! But I love teaching and coaching, and I especially love how I see boxing empowers women. I would love to be involved in raising some women fighters. For ticket information to attend Federica’s pro debut, please click on the link: SquareWarriors.com

30
Jul
14

Martha Salazar, still fighting, still going strong: Exclusive Q and A

Heavyweight boxer Martha Salazar, still fighting, still going strong: Exclusive Q and A

Martha Salazar

Martha Salazar, Photo Credit: Steven Solidarios

As Sonya “The Scholar” Lamonakis (9-1-2, 1-KO) and Carlette Ewell (15-7-1, 9-KOs) get ready for their heavyweight IBO title bout this coming Saturday, August 2nd at the L.B. Scott Sports Auditorium in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Martha “The Shadow” Salazar (12-4, 3 KOs), long considered a “fighter’s fighter” is waiting in the wings with the hope that she can take on the winner.

Girlboxing had the opportunity to pose some questions to Martha Salazar, a former kick-boxer who took to the professional boxing ring in March of 2001. Now at 44, having had a few breaks in her career, Martha hopes to continue in the sport she loves, both as a fighter pushing to gain recognition and a shot at another title fight, and as a mentor and coach to the young amateur women of Beautiful Brawlers Boxing who are striving to become the next generation of female boxing champions.

Here’s what Martha Salazar had to say.

1. When female boxers in the heavyweight division are discussed, your name inevitably comes up. You are considered one of the most skilled in the sport and your title wins were strong showings–not to mention the very close losses. With a career that began in 2001, you’ve had a chance to see the sport change considerably — and gain legitimacy with its inclusion in the London 2012 Olympics. What are your aspirations for your career at this point?

There are three aspirations I have for my career.  One, to become the WBC and the IBO world champion. The second to be in the women’s boxing hall of fame as one of the best heavyweights in the world of boxing. Third, to keep sharing the knowledge of boxing as others have shown me.  I want to keep inspiring young people to reach their goals in the sport of boxing and in life.

Sonya Lamonakis and Martha Salazar (r), April 2013

Sonya Lamonakis and Martha Salazar (r), April 2013

2. Your last fight was a six-rounder against Sonya Lamanokis in April of 2013.  You put on a strong showing in a fight with three-minute rounds, an almost unheard of event these days. What is your take on the controversy surrounding that bout and would you consider a rematch with two-minute rounds?

All I have to say about the controversy [of that] fight is that I train 110% for all my fights. Once I get in the ring all I am worried about is to make sure I am punching more [than] my opponent. I am not worried about how long the rounds are while I’m fighting. If I lose it is because I didn’t train hard enough or my opponent was better than me.  My team and I have told Lamonakis and her camp that we would give her the rematch anytime and anyplace but always get the same answer, “No. I don’t want anything to do with Martha.”

3. One of the most intriguing aspects of female boxing is the rise of young female amateur fighters. You’ve been very involved in working with Beautiful Brawlers Boxing — Girlboxing readers would love to know more about the organization and your part in it.

Beautiful Brawlers was created to provide a stage for the young boxers to shine on.  Our program consists of sparring and support for all female boxers no matter what age or experience. We mentor, coach, train and provide a safe sparring environment for any boxer who walks through that door.  We accept everyone for who they are. We create an environment of empowerment and strength for the younger female boxers. Veterans and world champions such as Me, Eliza Olson, World Champ Melissa McMorrow and more teach technique and give guidance.  There are also plenty of sparring opportunities. Girls come from all over California to spar with the best. It’s so much fun. Boxing brings us all together.

Martha Salazar4. Having begun your career in martial sports as a kick boxer before debuting as a boxer in 2001 — you’ve been a professional for a long time, and while you are entering your mid-forties, current WBC boxer Alicia Ashley is still going strong at 46.  Do you feel you still have it in you to continue professional boxing and if so, what can we expect from you over the coming year or so?

At 44 years old I still feel that I have it in me and continue in the sport of boxing. Expect me to have to fights one for a world title and the rematch with Sonya Lamonakis. If she wants it.

5. When you started in the sport, women were still appearing on ESPN and Showtime and on PPV — and now the drought of media opportunities for female boxers in the United States seems almost permanent. Not so in Mexico, Argentina, South Korea and Germany to name a few countries. What do you think has to happen to bring the sport back into the boxing’s mainstream in the US?

We need promoters to put more women’s fights on their shows and for us women to keep pushing as a group the movement of women boxing.  PERIOD.

beautifulbrawlers

Martha Salazar, Eliza Olson and Beautiful Brawlers, July 2014

6. As the Olympic Games in Rio loom — giving American amateur boxers a second shot at repeating their medal winning performances, from your vantage point with Beautiful Brawlers, do you feel enough is being done to support these young athletes?  What, in your view, are the things that need to happen to help further publicize and get the public behind these amazing young women?

I believe through the Beautiful Brawlers we are constantly helping girls reach their goals.  We have a few National champions that trained and sparred with us before the Nationals and were successful when they competed.  We have one Olympian Beautiful Brawlers Champion – Queen Underwood,  when we asked her if she would participate on the show she  said she wanted to take part because it was  an all-female show.  I believe her being the main event on our last show brought our event to a whole new level.  She was a huge role model for these younger boxers.  She is an incredible athlete who gives back to others.  We as a group share knowledge and that philosophy: to give back so that the younger boxers get better and better, and now that is happening. We have a very good USA Boxing program for women and some train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. Females are now given opportunities that have never been given before. These baby steps lead into much bigger things. I do believe that Claressa Shields should have more endorsements and should be given more exposure because she won the Gold medal and she is a beautiful young lady who deserves the credit.  Shows like the Beautiful Brawlers give these champions a place to shine because we match the best against the best.

7. It’s obvious that in your career, you’ve chosen to “give back” to other young people by offering your sage counsel and efforts at coaching. What do you hope for the future for yourself as you continue to play a role in the sport you love

For me,  I want to fight and win a World Title. I want to legitimize the Heavy Weight Division by showing there are very skilled boxers in our division. I will always give back to the girls what boxing has given to me. Boxing has always been my passion and it will always be.

Many thanks to Martha Salazar for sharing her thoughts with us!

***

Video of Martha Salazar in her WBC heavyweight title bout versus Vonda Ward from February 10, 2007. Vonda Ward, at 6’6″ had a large height and reach advantage over the 5’9″ Salazar who held her own throwing a succession of excellent overhand rights, in a well fought 10-round battle. Ward won a split-decision, 93-97 x 2, 95-95. You be the judge!




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