Women's boxing

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Lucia Rijker warms up in the ring.

Although women have boxed for almost as long as the sport has existed, female fights have been effectively outlawed for most of boxing’s history, with athletic commissioners refusing to sanction or issue licenses to women boxers, and most nations officially banning the sport.[1][2][3] Reports of women entering the ring go back to the 18th century, and the first reported American bout occurred in 1876 in New York.[4]

Women's boxing first appeared in the Olympic Games at a demonstration bout in 1904. Its revival was pioneered by the Swedish Amateur Boxing Association, which sanctioned events for women in 1988. The British Amateur Boxing Association sanctioned its first boxing competition for women in 1997. The first event was to be between two thirteen-year-olds, but one of the boxers withdrew because of hostile media attention. Four weeks later, an event was held between two sixteen-year-olds. The International Boxing Association (amateur) accepted new rules for Women's Boxing at the end of the 20th century and approved the first European Cup for Women in 1999 and the first World Championship for women in 2001.

Women's boxing was not featured at the 2008 Olympics; however, on 14 August 2009, it was announced that the International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board (EB) had approved the inclusion of women’s boxing for the Games in London in the 2012 Olympics,[5][6] contrary to the expectations of some observers.[7] Although women fought professionally in many countries, in the United Kingdom the B.B.B.C. refused to issue licences to women until 1998.[8] By the end of the century, however, they had issued five such licenses. The first sanctioned bout between women was in November 1998 at Streatham in London, between Jane Couch and Simona Lukic.[9]

Renata Cristina Dos Santos Ferreira punches Adriana Salles.

Early history[edit]

Women's boxing goes back at least to the early 18th century, when Elizabeth Wilkinson fought in London. Billing herself as the European Championess, she fought both men and women. In those days, the rules of boxing allowed kicking, gouging and other methods of attack not part of today's arsenal.[10] Women's boxing dates back to the early 18th century with Elizabeth Wilkinson-Stokes fighting both men and women in the streets of London.[11] During the 1700s, women boxed in staged competitions at dawn, before fans went to work. James Figg introduced two different forms of fighting: “street” –fighting” or “bare-knuckle fighting”.[12] Back in the 1700s, women took part in more violent forms of fighting: kicking, scratching, and using other methods of attack are not parts of todays boxing rules.[13] This new style of fighting became popular in England. Elizabeth Wilkinson-Stokes is credited for being the first female boxing champion in England. Bare-knuckle fighting continued to grow as the 19th century approached, but this time bringing in a more rough audience. The Victorian Period, however, eventually did away with bare-knuckle fighting and boxing went back to being a man's sport.

History in the US[edit]

Bennett sisters boxing

During the 1970s, a popular female boxer named Cathy 'Cat' Davis came out of the United States Northwest, and a few of her fights were televised. To this day, she remains the only female boxer to appear on the cover of Ring Magazine. But a scandal broke out where it was said that some of her fights had been fixed.

During the 1980s, women's boxing briefly resurfaced in California under the wings of sisters Dora and Cora Webber. The twin sisters were world champions and packed crunching punching power and a good chin. Women took hunger strikes to be noticed [14]

But the boom of women's boxing came during the 1990s, coinciding with the boom in professional women sports leagues such as the WNBA and WUSA, and with boxers such as Stephanie Jaramillo, Delia 'Chikita' Gonzalez, Laura Serrano, Christy Martin, Deirdre Gogarty, Laila Ali, Jackie Frazier-Lyde, Lucia Rijker, Ada Vélez, Ivonne Caples, Bonnie Canino and Sumya Anani, all world champions, jumping into the scene.[15][16]

Women's boxing has experienced more television and media exposure, including the major motion picture Million Dollar Baby. There are a few organizations that recognize world championship bouts, and fights are held in more than 100 countries.[17][18]

On 16 April 1992, after eight years in court in Massachusetts, Gail Grandchamp of North Adams, Massachusetts won her battle to become a boxer, as a state Superior Court judge ruled it was illegal to deny someone a chance to box based on gender.[19] During her battle to win the right to box as an amateur, she passed the age of 36, the maximum age for amateur fighters. Even though she knew it would not help her as an amateur, Grandchamp continued her efforts, and eventually did box professionally for a time.[20][21][22][23]

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge announced that it would be an Olympic sport at the 2012 Games in London.[24][25]

European Championship Women's Boxing 2011[edit]

In October 2011 the 2011 Women's European Union Amateur Boxing Championships were held in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

2012 Summer Olympics[edit]

Women were allowed to box for the first time during the 2012 Summer Olympics, producing the world's first 12 female Olympic medalist boxers.[26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33]

Differences Between Men and Women’s Boxing Guidelines[edit]

Men and women’s boxing are very different when it comes to the specific guidelines.[34][35] Women’s boxing has more rules that are female focused. According to the rules on abcboxing.com, women have to wear a breast guard and have no facial cosmetics. More female boxing specific rules include for female boxers weighing less than 154 pounds have to wear 8-ounce gloves and female boxers weighing more than 154 pounds have to wear 10-ounce gloves. Men’s boxing has male specific rules too. These include wearing protective cups and loose fitting trunks. More men’s boxing specific rules include male boxers in the lighter weight class must wear 10-ounce gloves and male boxers in the larger weight class must wear 12-ounce gloves. Women’s boxing rules are directed to all women’s boxing weight classes unlike men’s boxing. For men’s boxing, the rules differ for male boxers under and over the age of 17 years.

Nicola Adams[edit]

Nicola Adams was the first female to ever win a gold medal in females boxing. Nicola Adams states, “Everyone thinks I'm a woman in a man's world, but to me I'm just a boxer doing the sport I love.”[36] She first got started with boxing through watching famous boxers on TV like Muhammad Ali. One day she went to the gym with her mom and the gym was offering a boxing class for after school care. She was able to join in the boxing match and fell in love with the sport even more, as she was winning matches with boys older and bigger than her. She also became the first openly LGBTQ person to win an Olympic boxing Gold medal. Adams fought her first actual match at the age 13 years. Four years after her first match, Nicola found a second opponent to fight.


Million Dollar Baby (2004) is a powerful motion picture about a woman named Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) who is determined to make something of her rundown life by following her dream of becoming a professional boxer. The beginning of the movie stresses the ideals that only men can be boxers, but Fitzgerald proves this wrong by winning boxing match after boxing match, climbing to the top. Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) the manager of the gym that Fitzgerald practices in wanted her out. He did not want the responsibility of a woman in the fighting ring and had no faith in Maggie as a professional boxer. Fitzgerald proved him wrong after never giving up in her dream and not letting the opinion of a man get in the way of her goal. Dunn ends up coaching Fitzgerald all the way to the top.

Tragedy strikes though when a spinal injury caused from an unfair blow from behind ends her career. She in bed rest is now a quadriplegic; Maggie Fitzgerald goes into a deep dark depression, especially after losing a leg as a result of infected bedsores. During a match, Fitzgerald suffered a spinal injury after an unfair blow from the behind the ears. This ended her career and left her a quadriplegic. Fitzgerald loses her leg as a result of infected bedsores. She becomes extremely depressed and desperate to get out of this horrible state she convinces Frankie to remove her breathing tube from her throat. The movie is an influential documentation of a woman’s journey gaining complete control over her goals and life.[37]

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ Jason Rodrigues. "Women boxers to make Olympic history in city that once shunned them | Sport". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-10-14. 
  3. ^ Woodward, Kath (2010-07-28). "BBC Sport - Women in boxing over the years". BBC News. Retrieved 2015-09-30. 
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  7. ^ [1] Archived 23 March 2006 at the Wayback Machine
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  9. ^ "Sport | Women's boxing makes instant impact". BBC News. 1998-11-25. Retrieved 2015-09-30. 
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  11. ^ "Honoring Women’s Labor: Elizabeth Wilkinson-Stokes, 18th Century Boxer!". Girlboxing. 2015-10-29. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
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  15. ^ Brown, Sarah (2014-05-13). "Against the Ropes". Bitchmedia.org. Retrieved 2015-09-30. 
  16. ^ "The Real Knockouts of Women’s Boxing". The Atlantic. 2015-01-16. Retrieved 2015-11-18. 
  17. ^ "Female boxers' fight for survival in the US". Al Jazeera English. 2014-11-10. Retrieved 2015-09-30. 
  18. ^ "COLUMN ONE : Striking a Blow for Equality : Dallas Malloy has won her fight to be America's first sanctioned female amateur boxer. The scrappy 16-year-old knows the rewards of blood, sweat and a killer instinct". Articles.latimes.com. 1993-10-18. Retrieved 2015-09-30. 
  19. ^ "ESPN.com: BOXING - Historical Events in Women's Boxing". Assets.espn.go.com. Retrieved 2015-10-15. 
  20. ^ "Grandchamp, Local Boxing Legend, Ready to Film Life Story / iBerkshires.com - The Berkshires online guide to events, news and Berkshire County community information". Iberkshires.com. 1987-07-17. Retrieved 2015-10-15. 
  21. ^ "A Fighter's Passion for Her Olympic Dream". Globenewswire.com. Retrieved 2015-10-15. 
  22. ^ Rosenwald, Julius (1987-07-17). "Boxer with a mission - Berkshire Eagle Online". Berkshireeagle.com. Retrieved 2015-10-15. 
  23. ^ [2][dead link]
  24. ^ "BBC SPORT | Olympics | Women's boxing gains Olympic spot". BBC News. 2009-08-13. Retrieved 2015-09-30. 
  25. ^ Nolan, Hamilton (2012-08-03). "Marlen Esparza, Queen Underwood, Claressa Shields: Women boxers are about to become huge stars. Can that last after the Olympics?". Slate.com. Retrieved 2015-11-18. 
  26. ^ Park, Alice (2012-08-09). "Olympic Women's Boxing Has Its First Champions, and a Generation of Girls Have New Role Models | TIME.com". Olympics.time.com. Retrieved 2015-09-30. 
  27. ^ "Women Finally Get Their Chance to Be Contenders in Olympic Boxing". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-09-30. 
  28. ^ "Nicola Adams becomes first ever winner of an Olympic women’s boxing tournament". Telegraph. Retrieved 2015-09-30. 
  29. ^ Hoye, Sarah (2015-05-27). "Can boxer Claressa Shields repeat in Rio?". America.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 2015-09-30. 
  30. ^ Padraic Halpin (2013-09-20). "Boxing: Golden girl Katie Taylor threatens to turn back on Olympics | Others | Sport". The Independent. Retrieved 2015-09-30. 
  31. ^ "Boxing wants more women fight at Olympics". Nation.com.pk. 2015-07-03. Retrieved 2015-09-30. 
  32. ^ Bella, Timothy (2015-03-20). "SXDiaries Claressa Shields". America.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 2015-09-30. 
  33. ^ "A Ring of One’s Own". The New Yorker. 2012-05-07. Retrieved 2015-11-18. 
  34. ^ Gayle, Damien (2014-10-22). "World Boxing Council shortens women's boxing matches because of periods | Daily Mail Online". Dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-11-18. 
  35. ^ "The Fight for Women's Boxing Rights". Psmag.com. Retrieved 2015-11-18. 
  36. ^ "Boxing First Female Olympic Gold Medalist". Edition CNN. Retrieved 24 October 2015. 
  37. ^ "IMDb Movies". IMDb Movies. Retrieved 5 November 2015. 
  38. ^ "Fight Like A Girl The Movie — a gritty, first-person narrative of a female boxer". Fightlikeagirlthemovie.com. 2014-06-20. Retrieved 2015-09-30. 


  • A History of Women's Boxing, Malissa Smith, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014, ISBN 9781442229945

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