London 2012: 10 Things You Should Know About Women's Boxing in Its Olympic Debut
The history of women's boxing is not something many will claim to know much about, but the time has come to pay attention to the tough women of boxing as they will compete in the 2012 London Olympics.
While women's boxing can be loosely traced as long ago as 1720, it has been a sport living in the shadows of other sports. With the announcement of its inclusion to the Olympic games, the sport will see a wider range of acceptance and interest.
The history of women in boxing is one of perseverance, resilience and determination of young women fighting for their rights to compete and be involved in a sport they love.
To prepare for the upcoming insurgence of women's boxing, here are some things you will enjoy learning about the sport.
Women's Boxing on Display in 1904
Credit: Olympic.org IOC
On the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, the 1904 Olympic games were celebrated.
Only the United States competed in boxing, with 18 fighters.
Unknown to most, is the fact that women's boxing first made its appearance as a demonstration and exhibition sport. Since 1904, female boxers have yet to compete in the Olympics and boxing stood as the only sport to not include women.
Unfortunately, the board of members for the Olympic committee decided women's boxing to be a health risk, and only accepted men as sanctioned fighters.
At the New York Hills theater in 1876, the first female boxing match within the United States occurred—a fight between Nell Saunders and Rose Harland.
Despite having historical value for being the first fight within the states, there was also a somewhat peculiar and interesting fact about the match. The prize to the winner was a silver butter dish.
While the fight would later to become a piece of women's culture and history, it also has to have one of the strangest prizes in the history of sports.
First Championship Female Judge
Eva Shain was no stranger to the sport of boxing, since she was married to long-time ring announcer Frank Shain.
After being convinced by her husband to attend a boxing match, Eva quickly fell in love with the sport and the science behind it. She would later attend numerous fights, and become a familiar face at some of boxing's largest events.
In 1977 at Madison Square Garden, a fight between Muhammad Ali and Ernie Shavers for the heavyweight title was just hours away when Mrs. Shain was asked to be a judge—making her the first female to judge a championship bout.
Mrs. Shain may have known little as to how important her presence as a judge would be, but she certainly noticed the lack of women around boxing rings, and expressed her feelings to her husband by saying, ''I didn't want to watch two men beating each other up in the ring.'' She recalled, ''Besides, there were never any women at the fights.''
Well, Mrs. Shain helped change that.
In April of 1997, former lightweight fighter Marian "Lady Tiger" Trimiar staged a well-publicized hunger strike, lasting over a month. During the strike, the protesters and Trimiar directed their picketing towards promoters and those putting on televised events.
Although no immediate actions were taken, Trimiar made quite the statement by losing nearly 30 pounds. The purpose was not only for herself, but all female boxers and their rights, financials and recognition.
Even figures as prominent as Don King took notice, and Trimiar continued to use the media outlets to spread her word:
"Unless women get more recognition, we will be fighting just as a novelty for the rest of our lives. There will be no future."
At the young and tender age of 16 in 1993, Dallas Malloy became the first woman to challenge the United States' boxing bylaws through the federal court. Malloy's wish and dream was to compete in the Olympic games as boxer, and could only be done if a member of the USA team—which did not allow women to fight.
A court injunction was filed in Washington State by the American Civil Liberties Union, and was quickly granted by Judge Barbara Rothstein—temporarily nullifying the ban on amateur fighting for women.
Although Malloy never received the opportunity to fight, her struggles led to exceptional media attention and even the eventual lifting of a similar ban in Canada as well as within the United States.
In 1995, a clever female fighter by the name of Dee Hamaguchi broke the barrier by becoming the first woman named on a Golden Gloves tournament card—though the New York Daily News sponsored tournament had no knowledge of her sex upon applying.
Hamaguchi submitted her application to fight, and filed her name under "D. Hamaguchi" leaving the committee to believe she was male. Unfortunately, she would not come to fight in the tournament but the barrier was broken and the Golden Gloves would later become a breeding ground for female fighters.
Hamaguchi has however, competed professionally since 2000, and has also found fame within the field of Judo by winning a national championship and opening her own Martial Arts school in Harlem, New York.
The Birth of Professional Women's Boxing
Getty Images/Getty Images
In 1996, Christy Martin and Deirdre Gogarty staged a bloody six-round slugger's match during a pay-per-view event featuring Mike Tyson.
The fight impressed the fans along the ringside as well as the national audience viewing on television, causing many to consider the event as the birth of modern professional boxing for women.
Quite fittingly, the women upstaged and easy victory for Mike Tyson, and a flood of worldwide coverage followed. Even Sports Illustrated ran a cover story of Christy Martin's victory despite her wishes not to be the face of women's boxing—as she fought only for herself, rather than a movement.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
In a landmark lawsuit in 1998, Britain Jane Couch took the British Boxing Board of Control to battle for sex discrimination over their refusal to grant her a license to fight in the UK.
Couch had been denied a boxing license since 1997, and had to come to the United States in order to pursue her dreams and box. She was relentless in her fight to face the denial of her rights.
After almost a full year of litigation, she won the right to fight, and sanctioned an event in Streatham, UK. Couch would go on to defeat German fighter Simona Lukic in the second round, but with her victory, also helped defeat worldwide opposition of allowing women to box in professional events.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Although every woman mentioned within this slideshow have proven to be heroes and pioneers of women's boxing, none have transformed the sport into what it is today more than Laila Ali—daughter of the great Muhammad Ali.
At the age of 21, Ali made her professional debut at the Turning Stone Casino in New York. Her opponent Jacquie Frazier-Lyde, was the daughter of long-time Ali nemesis Joe Frazier.
The fight received an unbelievable amount of media attention and anticipation, and was of course named "Ali-Frazier IV". The fight did not disappoint in comparison to the media attention it received, as over 100,000 people payed to watch Ali win the pay-per-veiw event in eight rounds.
Since the coming of Ali, women's boxing has received more media interest than ever and has been transformed into not only an allowable sport for women to compete in, but an sport in which scores of people follow.
The 2012 Olympics
The time has come for women to make yet another mark in the history of boxing. Already fueling some debate and controversy, women will officially compete in the sport of boxing for the first time in Olympic history.
The Amateur International Boxing Association, who governs amateur boxing, had considered requiring women to wear skirts so that they could be more easily distinguished from the men. Of course there was quite the uproar, and rightfully so after hundreds of years of inequality for women in boxing. The AIBA has now decided skirts will be optional, and trunks will be allowed.
After early trials in Spokane, Washington, three woman have won and are fighting to compete for the United States—Marien Esparza as a flyweight, Queen Underwood as a lightweight and Claressa Shields as a middleweight.
Only 36 women in three weight classes will compete in the 2012 London Olympics—compared to 250 men in 10 weight classes—but a large step has been made since the young Dallas Malloy first fought for her right to compete in the Olympics.