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Women's Boxing: The Next Step
by Bernie McCoy
July 28, 2014


(JULY 28) Thus far this year, the sport of professional Women's boxing, in the United States, where the vast majority of female fighters reside and train, has progressed, (if that term can be stretched far enough to apply), along much the same lines as the past five, quite possibly ten years have unfolded in the sport. To use what we used to call a twenty-five cent word, the sport, for far too long, has existed in a state of stasis; a sense of almost literal motionlessness.

There remains the occasional bout between two skilled, top ranked female fighters, which, today, inevitably lacks the exposure that television can and once brought to a "hot" fight in the sport. Then there is the almost total neglect of major boxing promoters in making female fighters a regular part of their cards. And even when promoters deign to include a female bout, the matchmaking criteria seems to center on a fighter's notoriety rather than her ring skill. There are simply far too many female "championship" bouts that do not deserve even a hint of that label, mismatches posing as a crowning achievements.

This situation comes not as some grand revelation, it is rather a blinding flash of the obvious imbued within the entirety of the boxing community. It is bemoaned, criticized and castigated by anyone and everyone who advocates for the sport of Women's boxing and who cares about there being a viable future for female boxing. More important, it is also discouragingly obvious to those athletes who continue, with astounding perseverance, to pound the pavement in early morning hours, to pound a heavy bag in a stifling gym in July, working towards a goal of simply getting a chance, a chance to climb through the ropes of a professional boxing ring.

To those advocates, to those athletes, a small, but noticeable source of hope burst forward on the horizon of Women's boxing on July 10. For the first time, on a national platform, it was loudly and clearly proclaimed that Women's boxing showed signs that, given it's roots, it has the potential to remain a viable, compelling sport and that, provided an opportunity, can showcase boxing competition among some of the finest female athletes in the world. That July occasion was the induction of seven women into the initial class of the International Women's Boxing Hall of Fame (IWBHF). Much has been written and said of the seven and their pioneering contributions to the sport. The inductees range from former world champions to PHDs to current world class boxing trainers. They range from early middle age to octogenarian, have all achieved success in and for the sport, in and out of the ring and, as with any Hall of Fame, this initial class of the IWBHF set the bar high for future inductees, while at the same time providing immutable proof that the sport of Women's boxing stands on a solid foundation.

But that was not what came across most strongly as I watched an Internet stream of the July 10 event from Florida. What struck me was the spirit that exuded at the event, as each inductee and each back story resonated emphatically thru the presentations. It was readily apparent that this history, this storied past of the sport, was a tale of how these seven women and, by direct and indirect mention, many other future IWBHF honorees had forced their way thru innumerable obstacles and outright attempts at banishment of their sport to forge a path that had, after years of struggle, positioned the sport of Women's boxing at a point where it was able to afford athletic opportunity to a group of boxers who, for years, had considered such a possibility a fable.

And now, as Women's boxing struggles to maintain a position in the overall sports spectrum in the United States, when the sport is in real danger of losing a relevant position in the share of mind of the sports public, it seems to be an the ideal time to harness the spirit, the proactive drive that epitomized the IWBHF ceremony and permeated throughout that Florida hotel room, energizing each and every attendee gathered to honor the inductees and the sport. It is the ideal time for that spirit to be adopted and utilized as a force to restore Women's boxing to a relevant position once more. Because make no mistake about it: if Women's boxing, as a sport, continues to fail to take the initiative to sell itself to the boxing promoters, to the sporting public, to the media, the stagnant situation that the sport currently finds itself mired in will continue for the foreseeable future. And be assured, if the sport of Women's boxing does not take a proactive strategy of selling itself to those who, frankly, control the sport's destiny, the promoters, the media and, yes, the boxing public, the sport may essentially be dooming itself to a future of irrelevance.

The logical question is: Who? Who leads such a campaign to recapture the hearts and minds of those who are key to a turnaround for the sport of Women's boxing? The answer is the easy part: Women ! The history of leadership in women's sports has forever been a history of a woman in front of the charge: Billy Jean King, tennis; Patty Berg, Dinah Shore, golf; Nancy Liebermann, basketball. Women's boxing does not lack women, strong, outspoken women. That was never better showcased than on July 10 in Florida. Would any or all or the IWBHF inductees be a logical inclusion in any field force charged with the task of attempting a resuscitation of the sport of female boxing? Of course. And so would a Sumya Anani, a Lalia Ali, filmmaker Jill Morley, author Mischa Merz, former boxer, now driving force behind a successful corporate boxing program in Atlanta, Terri Moss, boxing photographer Mary Ann Owen, and, of course, the single female force behind the creation of the IWBHF and the unshakable advocate for the sport and it's athletes, for over a decade and a half, Sue Fox. This is but a partial list of the available, divergent candidates who would fit well and comfortably into a position of selling the sport of boxing. The problem is not a shortage of overly qualified saleswomen for the sport, the problem is the willingness to take on an overwhelmingly daunting task of reviving a sport that, for far too long, has been willing to linger in the desert of "going along to get along."

It's time for the sport to take a proactive step forward, to sell the compelling qualities that has and can again make Women's boxing an integral part of the sports spectrum in the United States. It's time to reeducate the now mostly clueless promoters, media and sports fans about the sport of Women's boxing. It's time to borrow that excitement, that spirit, that pride that cascaded through a hotel ballroom in Florida over two weeks ago during an event that generated more notice than anything in the sport in recent memory. It was a deserving occasion that honored the past of Women's boxing. A case can be made that selling the sport forward is just as, maybe more, important. It's about the future. It's about the next step.

Bernie McCoy


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