Equality for Female Boxers in the Olympics

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Interview 2003 Past Article 1978
In August of 1978, Cathy "CAT" Davis was the first woman to ever make it on the cover of RING MAGAZINE.  Unlike the response the public had over the highly publicized 1996 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED issue of Christy Martin, you would have thought that the world had come to an end. 


After CAT was featured on the front cover, RING MAGAZINE, which was only trying to be fair to women and display one of the more note protest of RING doing such a thing.   In that era, RING never showcased another female.

CAT DAVIS and two other boxers, Lady Tyger Trimiar and Jackie Tonawanda took it upon themselves to fight for and finally achieve the right to box in New York State, after a supreme court ruling.  Some highlights of CAT's career--she KO'D Lavonne Ludian on 4/10/81 in the third round at the Mid Hudson Civic Center, Poughkeepsie, New York State.  She weighed 136 1/2 lbs. for the fight, and Ludian came into the fight weighing 6 1/2 lbs. more at 143 lbs.  Cat fought Uschi Doering of Germany in 1979, and stopped her in a six-round bout.  She had a very questionable fight decision with Ernestine Jones, when it was reported that Jones TKO'd Cat, and then the fight decision was changed to a "no contest."   Her record is reported to be 15-0. 

The Washington Post
February 5, 1978, Sunday, 
Final Edition

Copyright 1978 The Washington Post
The Washington Post
February 5, 1978, Sunday, Final Edition
SECTION: Sports; E4
LENGTH: 966 words

HEADLINE: Woman Boxer Proves Hype to Gate As Sport Returns to N. Carolina  
By John Feinstein, Washington Post Staff Writer

It has been almost 100 years since a professional boxing match had been held in Fayetteville, N.C. Boxing had been illegal in Cumberland County from 1880 until early in 1977, when the ban on the sport was lifted.

In September, boxing returned to Fayetteville. But only a few more than 1,000 people showed up at the Cumberland County Memorial Arena for the debut.

For their second show in November, Ringside Promotions Limited decided it needed a hype for its program.

The hype is decided on was Cat Davis.

Cathy (Cat) Davis, who is 5-foot-10 and 135 pounds, is the women's lightweight boxing champion of the world. Her three-year record is 6-0.

But few have heard of her. When she boxed Margie Dunson in Fayetteville Nov. 11, the crowd was about 1,000.  Davis, 25, a native of Winfield, La., and a drama major at the University of New Orleans, is aware of the struggle of women's boxing, but doesn't find the odds insurmountable.

"When I first got involved in boxing, I never even gave a thought to the sex barriers," she said from her New Jersey training camp recently, where she was preparing to compete in the Women's Superstars Competition. "I was really just in it for the exercise.

"The thing the women have to do to gain recognition and to get people out to watch is prove that this isn't like wrestling - that this is a real sport and we're real athletes."

There appears to be little doubts that Davis is a real athlete. She originally got into boxing as a means of having skills as a fencer, a sport she has worked at for the past eight years.

"Actually, I just took up boxing because I thought it would be a good trainer for my fencing," she recalled. "I just went into a gym and started working out.

I enjoyed it and I was pretty good at it, so I kept at it."

The gym was in poughkeepsie, N.Y. The man running the gym was Sal Algieri, and it was Algieri who set up Davis's first exhibition match. Now he is her manager, and her fiancee.

Algieri and Davis are currently battling the New York Boxing Commission and its head, Floyd Patterson. Patterson doesn't want women boxing in New York.

"Patterson claims women shouldn't fight for medical reasons," Algieri claimed angrily. "What medical reasons? If Patterson wants a court fight, we'll give him one. Personally, I plan on writing a letter to the governor calling for his removal."

If women's boxing is to establish itself, the New York commission will be just one of many obstacles it will have to overcome.  Right now, the sport is struggling to establish itself as a draw among fight fans.

"We decided to give the women a shot in Fayetteville because it would be something new, a novelty," explained Ed McCarthy, public relations director for Ringside Promotions. "I guess you could say it was an experiment.

"We were hoping with all the army men there are in this area we could draw.  But they have amateur boxing at Fort Bragg that's free. The women just didn't draw. Actually, they've never drawn anywhere."

Not exactly. Davis says the biggest crowd she has boxed in front of was 8,000 last summer in Seattle.

"It's going to get better," Davis said. "If the women work at making it better, that is. I think potentially women's boxing could be a better draw than men's boxing. Most of the people who watch boxing are men and women and prettier than men."

Davis is testimony to that. With large, dark eyes, long brown hair falling below her shoulders, and a slender figure, she is certainly far more attractive than the average boxer - male or female.

But when Davis and Dunson headed the card in Fayetteville in November they hardly provided the meager crowd an opportunity to become enamored of the female style of boxing.

It took Davis exactly 2 minutes 34 seconds of the first round to knock out her opponent from Maine. The result pointed up a major problem for the women - there just aren't enough good boxers around to schedule many fights that will be competitive.

"I know that if you put two boxers out there and one has four or five years experience and the other is just starting you're going to have a boring match," Davis conceded.

"But I think more good women athletes will turn to boxing when they see it's legitimate. I mean, you can only have so many tennis players.

"Boxing is a contact sport and women are going to need an outlet when they want to get into contact sports. I think boxing can fill that need very well."

Davis makes constant reference to the importance of the women proving themselves to be "legitimate." This appears to present a problem. McCarthy referred to the women as "a novelty." Clearly, a sport must prove itself to be more than a novelty in order to succeed.

"But you know Cat is a very good promoter for the sport," McCarthy pointed out. "When she was down here, we took her around to promote the fight and she was just terrific. She's bright and articulate. She's one of the best things women's boxing has going."

But it is the limelight of the big cities that Davis is striving to reach.  Headway has been made. There is now a women's boxing federation in New Rochelle, N.Y., and women are beginning to receive rankings in the different divisions, like the men. More importantly, purses are improving.

"When I first boxed, between the traveling and the rest of our expenses, Sal lost money," Davis remembered of her beginnings. "Now the purses are getting better and so are the crowds. There's still work to do, though."

Convincing promoters that women boxers are more than a mere novelty, convincing boxing fans that it is worth good money on a regular basis to watch the women box, and convincing the media that women's boxing is deserving of regular coverage, are the keys for the sports.

GRAPHIC: Picture, Cathy (Cat) Davis, is en route to a first-round knockout of Margie Dunson in North Carolina bout. "This isn't like wrestling- . . . this is a real sport and we're athletes," the native of Winfield, La., says.  "Actually, I just took up boxing because I thought it would be a good trainer for my fencing." By Steve Aldridge

A special thanks to the Washington Post for covering women's boxing in the past when many of the media would not do so. Sue TL Fox



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