Womenâ€™s Boxing: A History
The birth of women’s boxing can be loosely traced back to the 1700’s in London. However, due to the violence of the sport, women’s boxing was banned for the better part of the 20th century. The sport experienced a slight surge in interest in the 1970’s, which was also a time highlighted by many ‘firsts’, including the lifting of bans in most states, granting of boxing licenses to women boxers, and the sanction of boxing matches for women. The boxing ban was officially lifted in 1977, after which the first sanctioned match between Cathy Davis and Margie Dunson on November 1977 was held. It was also in the 70’s when approval was given for more than four rounds in women’s bouts.>
The First Organization
The first organization to sanction boxing matches for women was the Swedish Amateur Boxing association back in 1988, a year after former Women’s Lightweight Marian “Lady Tiger’ Trimian staged a much publicized hunger strike to protest for better money and conditions for female boxers. The British Amateur Boxing Association will only follow suit almost a decade later, in 1997.
Women’s boxing in California enjoyed a renewed interest from the public in the 1980s, with the rise in popularity of women boxers and sisters Dora and Cora Webber. However, American female boxers were not officially recognized by USA Boxing until 1993, after losing to a lawsuit by 16 year-old Dallas Malloy, who challenged USA Boxing’s bylaw which did not allow women boxers to compete. The court ruled in favor of Malloy and passed a legislation to support female boxing. The first amateur bout between Dallas Malloy and Heather Poyner was held in Bellingham, Washington, a fight that resulted in a victory for Malloy.
Women’s Boxing in the 20th Century
The 1990s were heralded as the decade of the boom of women’s boxing, when world champions like Stephanie Jaramillo, Delia Gonzalez, Laura Serrano, and others rose to fame. The New York Daily News Golden Gloves tournament opened their doors to women boxers for the first time in 1995 and included female events for the first time.
March 16, 1996 was the date for the much-publicized bout between Christy Martin and Deirdre Gogarty, a match which was considered by many as the birth of modern professional women’s boxing. The 6-round match greatly impressed those at ringside and the worldwide, pay-per-view audience and opened the gates for more televised and worldwide coverage of female boxing matches. In 1998, USA Boxing held its first ever Women’s National Championships and in 1999, the first sanctioned man vs. woman fight took place in Seattle, Washington, where female boxer Margaret McGregor faced Loi Choi in a four 2-minute round fight.
The match between Muhammad Ali’s daughter Laila Ali and Jacqui Frazier, Joe Frazier’s daughter, was also unprecedented in the level of national and international press coverage. The match was held in upstate New York on June 8, 2001, in front of 8,000 fans and eventually ended in a victory for Ali after 8 action-packed rounds.
Although women’s boxing has still not gained the same level of popularity that men’s boxing enjoys, women boxers are continuing to steadily gain public interest with a lot of help from television and Internet exposure.
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