Women's boxing

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2017-12-02 Tina Rupprecht - Anne Sophie Da Costa - DSC2902.jpg
Anne Sophie Da Costa and Tina Rupprecht boxing, 2017
Also known asPugilism
FocusPunching, Striking
Olympic sportYes, as of the 2012 Olympics

Although women have participated in boxing 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.[4]


Bennett sisters boxing, c.1910–1915
Louise Adler, female lightweight world boxing champion of the 1920s, training for her title defense

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.[5]

During the 1920s, Professor Andrew Newton formed a Women's Boxing Club in London.[6] However women's boxing was hugely controversial. In early 1926, Shoreditch borough council banned an arranged exhibition match between boxers Annie Newton and Madge Baker, a student of Digger Stanley.[7][8][9] An attempt to hold the match in nearby Hackney instead was defeated by a campaign led by the Mayor of Hackney, who wrote "I regard this proposed exhibition of women boxers as a gratification of the sensual ideals of a crowd of vulgar men."[9] The Home Secretary Sir William Joynson-Hicks was among those opposing the match, claiming "the Legislature never imagined that such a disgraceful exhibition would have been staged in this country."[7] The story was reported across the country[10] and even internationally.[11]

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. One named Susan MacGregor (Laurenckirk, Aberdeenshire) and the other Joanne Cawthorne (Peterhead, Aberdeenshire). 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.[12] In 2007, Jennifer Barber saw her way into the spotlight.

Lucia Rijker and Jane Couch boxing, 2003

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,[13][14][15] contrary to the expectations of some observers. Around these (2009) hearings, in conjunction with AIBA (International Boxing Association), the International Olympic Committee agreed to include three additional women's weight classes to the 2012 London Olympic Games. However, a new "gender-appropriate" women's boxing uniform was in the works, this would require women (under AIBA rules) to wear skirts during competition. Traditional gender role sentiment was prominent to the news of women and skirts. Top amateur coaches have been documented stating, "Women are made for beauty and not to take blows to the head" and "By wearing skirts…it gives a good impression, a womanly impression". The issue was widely ignored till amateur boxer and London student Elizabeth Plank, brought the issue to light and created a petition at Change.com to end the gender-based mandatory uniforms.[16]

Although women fought professionally in many countries, in the United Kingdom the B.B.B.C. refused to issue licences to women until 1998.[17] 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.[18][19]

Renata Cristina Dos Santos Ferreira punches Adriana Salles, São Paulo, Brazil (2006)

In October 2001 the 2001 Women's World Amateur Boxing Championships were held in Scranton, United States.[20]

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge announced that it would be an Olympic sport at the 2012 Games in London.[21][22]

Women were allowed to competitively box for the first time at the Olympics during the 2012 Summer Olympics, producing the world's first 12 female Olympic medalist boxers.[23][24][25][26]

In 2015 the World Boxing Federation unified various women's titles to have one title holder.[27]

History in the US[edit]

Barbara Buttrick was the first televised boxing match between two women on television and radio.[28]

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. Cathy Davis was the 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. Marian “Tyger” Trimiar and Jackie Tonawanda were pioneers as they were the first women in the United States to get a license for boxing in the United States.[29][30][31]

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[32]

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.[33][34][35][36][37]

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.[38]

Although positive strides in recent years have been made to women's boxing, reports of sex-based harassment[39] in boxing gyms and tournaments across the United Kingdom and the United States remain. In addition to harassment and unfair policy, women have also been grossly under-promoted or sponsored in the professional rankings.[40][16] Major boxing broadcasting networks such as HBO and P.B.C have yet to feature a woman's headlining bout.[41] In a recent press conference, 2x Olympic Gold medalist Claressa Shields stated, "All the respect to all the women that box, we have more than one fight… [we are] fighting for equal pay and equal time on T.V… we don’t get enough sponsorships or endorsements as the men".[42]

On 16 April 1992, after eight years in court in Massachusetts, Gail Grandchamp 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.[43] 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.[44][45][46][47]

Professional women's boxing has declined in popularity in the United States and struggles to get viewership and sponsorship and many fighters have to fight in Mexico or Europe in order to make a good living.[48][49][34][50] Among females, the sport has been supplanted by Women's MMA.[34][51][52]


Women's boxing in Benin

Women's boxing is not as common as in western countries.[53] Esther Phiri is one of the more prominent champions[54]


In Argentina, women's boxing has experienced a notable rise in popularity, due in part to the presence of boxers such as Alejandra Oliveras, Marcela Acuna, Yesica Bopp and Erica Farias.[55] Women's boxing fights are featured prominently on many of TyC Sports' Boxeo de Primera television shows during weekends.


Women's boxing in Australia has a small following in the country.


There professional boxing, physical therapist and actress, Dessislava Kirova better known as Daisy "The Lady" Lang. Along with other competitors, Stanimira Petrova and Stoyka Petrova.


The 2006 Women's World Amateur Boxing Championships was hosted by India from November 2006 in New Delhi wherein India won four gold, one silver and three bronze medals.

Mary Kom is a five-time World Amateur Boxing champion. She is the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the six world championships.[56]

Three Indian female boxers, namely, Pinki Jangra, Mary Kom and Kavita Chahal were placed in the world's top three in AIBA world rankings (1 March 2014) in their respective categories.[57]


The sport is growing in Mexico.[58] Boxing is one of the top spectators sports in Mexico. Similar to soccer, boxing inspires pride that directly translates to Mexican nationalism. Male boxers have been seen in Mexico as icons and are hugely celebrated by fans in international competitions. Despite the popularity of boxing in Mexico, women weren't allowed to participate in professional matches, due to a bill enacted in 1947 that banned female professional matches.[59] In 20 April 1995 Law student Laura Serrano became the first Mexican woman to win a boxing world title (WIBF lightweight title). Later in 1998 Serrano was supposed to fight in Mexico city, but the Legislative Assembly of the Mexico City used the 1947 female boxing ban to cancel the match. It wasn't until 1999, that women’s professional boxing became legal in Mexico City after Serrano, brought a lawsuit against the boxing regulations that banned women from the practice, as the ban infringed equality rights, the Legislative Assembly of Mexico City was then to permanently remove the ban.[60] A small sector of female boxers began to develop in spite of the scarcity of training facilities, the open hostility of their male counterparts, and the scarcity of tournaments and fights open to women. Women in Mexico had to fight the social stigma of female fighters. However, Mexico has produced a number of female fighters who previously and currently hold world titles. Some notable female boxers from Mexico are Jackie Nava, Irma Sánchez, Kenia Enriquez and Alejandra Jiménez. In 2005 Jackie "The Aztec" Nava was the first woman ever to win a female world title fight sanction by the WBC.[61] As a result of her ground breaking achievement Jackie Nava is alongside Serrano one of the women who is credited with opening the door for the next generation of female boxers in Mexico through empowerment.[62][63] [64][65]


First introduced in the Soviet Union, the women's boxing has been growing in popularity for the last 50 years. Since the introduction of the women's boxing to the Olympic programme, Russian female fighters have won two silver medals (2012) and one bronze.

Differences between men and women's boxing guidelines[edit]

As of 2017, the only differences between men's and women's boxing are the ones related to boxer safety.

As stated by the AIBA Technical Rules and Competition Rules:

- head guards are necessary for female boxers of any age;

- breast guard is advised for female fighters in addition to pubic (crotch) guard;

- pregnant sportswomen are not allowed to engage in combat.

In cinema[edit]


See also[edit]


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

External links[edit]