European Flyweight Championship (EBU)
10 x 2 (min)
July 16, 2004
COMUNE DI TOSCOLANO MADERNO (Lake Garda)
Stefania Bianchini (Champion)
Reka Krempf (Challenger)
5-5-2 (1 KO)
Stefania Bianchini’s the kind of girl you could take home to meet your
mum: studious, sober, sensible — in every way, the perfect daughter-in-law.
There’d be an awkward moment, of course, when the subject of boxing came up
(“Isn’t that frightfully dangerous?”), but your mum needn’t worry. It isn’t.
At least, not in Italy. Between the shiny leather headguards and the
balloon-sized gloves, the only females endangered by Italian boxing are the
cows. In fact the pair of them, when you factor in the boots, must have been
lugging round the best part of a Belted Galloway on head, hands and feet. As
a matter of prudence, the horns, of course, had been removed.
With next to no chance of stopping an opponent, the only interest of the
women is to score points. The number, not the force, of the blows is what
counts. Punches are thrown from a distance; there’s no follow-up on a good
shot; seldom does either fighter throw more than three punches in any one
All this gives the whole thing an air of unreality. Presumably the point of
the headguards is to kill the sport as a spectacle, but if it dehumanizes
the fighters, at least it adds a note of comedy. More than a pillow-fight,
women’s boxing in Italy is nonetheless pretend violence — like Gladiators
without the pugil sticks.
In the interests of humanity, though, something should be done about the
length of the rounds. Two minutes is insufficient time for an Italian
trainer to inhale. Two thirds of the way through the final round break,
Bianchini’s chap was running so short of breath that to everyone’s
astonishment (including her own), the fighter herself managed to get a word
in edgeways. ‘OK’, she said, almost shouting as she spoke, the way deaf
people do. Deaf, by that time, is in all probability what she was.
The discourse was subtly different during the
round breaks this time from when Bianchini fought Cathy Brown. Then he was
explaining how to perform a triple bypass whilst landing a jumbo jet (though
he made it all sound far more complicated than it is). This time, it seemed
to be particle physics. I caught the word ‘velocity’ about a hundred times.
Even with the protective headgear in place (during the round breaks, it
doubles as an ear-muff), Bianchini found it necessary to meet the gale of
words head-on, to ensure that the sound waves only made tangential impact
with her ears. When she opened her mouth at one point, exposing her ears to
attack from a different angle, they seemed to be attempting an escape
through the slits at the side.
Only towards the end, when both fighters were tiring and began to brawl, did
this look much like a fight. Yes, Bianchini (it’s pronounced ‘..keeny’)
scored more often, and once, in the last round when she weaved to her left
to avoid an innocuous-looking jab and was able to roll her body with the
answering left hook, she managed to spin Krempf’s head to the side — the
origin perhaps of the mark on her right cheekbone that was noticeable during
the announcements — but for the most part, her attacks lacked venom and
there was never any question but that Krempf would survive.
Although she seemed a little disappointed when the scorecards were read out
(98-92, 98-92, 99-93), it’s unlikely that Krempf ever expected to win. A
sweet-looking 27-year-old, with the face of someone a tenth that age, she
listened to the applause greeting her anthem with a look of wide-eyed
wonder, like a toddler laying eyes for the first time on a clown. Her arms
are smooth but muscular; she ought really to hit harder than she does, but
in physical terms, the longer-limbed Italian held all the trumps.
With that strange headgear that makes her look like one of Vermeer’s maids,
and her studious, demure demeanour during the round breaks, Bianchini seems
an anachronism; but when you see her interviewed, she bubbles with laughter
and self-confidence, seeming every inch a woman of today. Here, again, there
was a two-phase transformation once the pressure was off: smiling and more
relaxed prior to the announcement, then suddenly exultant once the result
was known. She walked towards one of her cornermen who put a hand on each of
her hips and lifted her clean into the air as though she were a ballerina,
hiking up her shorts in the process. Unsurprisingly in view of her record as
a kick-boxer, she has killer legs. As he lifted her higher, she reached
forwards and upwards with her hands like a diver, and arched her back — one
of the prettiest gestures of triumph I’ve seen, but a little over-stated, in
view of the uneventful nature of the fight.
It would be nice to see Bianchini fighting outside Italy. Her punching’s
accurate but her arms at the moment seem to lack power. If she must fight in
Italy, her appeal as a kick-boxer has to be greater. No unsightly headguard,
for one thing, and for another, she could use those legs…