(DEC 15) When WBAN first
came into existence on the net in May of 1998, I said, " each
and every female boxer who played a part in the sport, whether
they had one fight or 50 fights, is the very reason why the
sport is where it is today."
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of meeting Gillian Binns,
a past female boxer from the UK who fought on the first-ever
historical all female card that took place on February 18, 1994,
in the UK.
WBAN was not aware of this
history-first card that Pauline Dixon, along with Irish promoter
Jimmy Finn organized to take place in 1994. The Bethnal Green
promotion at the time was being advertised as the first British
foothold of the American-based Women's International Boxing
Federation (WIBF), whose president Barbara Buttrick, and one of
the most prominent past female boxers, was part of this
Binns told WBAN, "At the time
when I fought on that card, I was ranked #5 in Europe with the
WIBF. There was not that much recognition back in those days.
Jane Couch was also on this card."
Binns began her life on her own at the age of 16, when she was
thrown out of her home, by a family that she said was a
"nightmare that included abuse". Her childhood days were not
much better at school, when she was "bullied" for various
Binns said after being kicked out of her home at the age of 16,
"I was homeless, frightened with no confidence whatsoever. I
didnít know what to do."
At the time, she had two jobs, working as a waitress on
weekends, and then working all week in a mill.
Binns said, "A friend from the restaurant offered me a bed at
her house. I remember feeling relieved as I had somewhere to
live, even if it was on a camp bed under the stairs, yes just
like harry potter. I guess my life really started from here."
Then one day while she was at work, a couple of guys came in and
asked her to join them at their jujitsu club.
"I went along and my whole world turned upside down, and I loved
it. I earned a brown belt in jujitsu and a black belt in full
contact karate. The coach who taught the classes also ran
kickboxing sessions and asked me to join. I guess he saw some
talent in what I was doing. I went along and enjoyed it so much
I became obsessed by it. I found myself road running in the
morning and training every night, fitting my training in and
around my working days," said Binns.
Binns said that she had many kickboxing fights and her stage
name was ďAnimalĒ, as she was considered "unstoppable."
Binns earned her first British lightweight title belt at the age
of 18. She said, "And I have never looked back since."
After a few years in kickboxing, Binns developed further skills
and entered the world of Thai boxing where she had a few fights.
Binns stated, "In my Thai boxing years there was a possibility
of a fight with Lucia Rijker. I would have loved a fight with
Lucia but this never happened. I was never told why the fight
was never matched."
Binns said, "During my kickboxing and Thai boxing training days
I always knew I was a boxer. I was fortunate enough to have a
few male boxing friends who would take me along to their
sparring sessions at various gyms. I was able to spar with the
lads and loved it. I was encouraged to develop my boxing skills
further and ended up training at Bob Shannonís gym in
Manchester. Bob has coached many pro fighters like Ricky Hatton
to name but a few. I gained so much under Bobís coaching and
developed better boxing skills."
At the time Binns added, "I was ranked 5th in Europe on the IBF
system although they did spell my name wrong. One of my line up
fights was with the daughter of a Brazilian government official.
I remember the Guardian newspaper (A national UK newspaper) had
written an article on me. Unfortunately I found the write up
rather derogatory highlighting I was a single mum. Female boxers
never really got the much-deserved publicity from the press back
then----unless it was your hometown reporter and even then it
was a stretch."
But after being matched on that card, Binns said that the fight
never happened and she did not know the reason for it.
"I guess back in those days female boxers just went along with
what they were told. We never had much control in the matching
of fights. Thatís how I felt and certainly most of the female
boxers I knew at the time experienced this too," added Binns.
Binns also told WBAN about her underground fights that occurred
in London and other various places in the UK, where she
participated in---with 58 of them in total.
Binns said, "these underground shows consisted of a load of
tables with guys who sat in tuxedo suits smoking cigars and
drinking alcohol with a ring in the middle. I basically felt
like I was an animal being thrown in the ring to satisfy the
hungry eyes of men. I guess someone somewhere was making lots of
money on the back of the female boxers in these shows."
As to the history-first All-Female card in February of
1994, that Binns fought on---she said the following:
"One of the most important shows that I boxed on was in 1994 at
the York Hall in London (many top male profile shows are often
filmed here). It was the first televised womenís international
boxing tournament by the WIBF."
" I thought at last we were
becoming recognised as boxers. I remember it well ----York Hall
was glorious and the architecture was of the Victorian era. I
remember smiling and feeling excited. We even had our own
private changing rooms which was brilliant."
"The ring was full of press and other cameramen/women. It was an
exciting time for Britain to hold such an historical event. Jane
Couch was on the same bill, who incidentally went on to win the
equalities rights for female boxers to gain a pro license."
In a past historical article, dated February 17, 1994 on the
Independent.co.uk website, they wrote the following: "When Jimmy
Finn admits that the promotion would likely not have happened at
all were it not for the filming of a Channel 4 documentary about
women's boxing, and when most of the women in Casey's say that
they took up boxing training for the benefits of a
'box-aerobics' class, one wonders if there may be a certain
exploitable navety among the cheerful Streatham enthusiasts.
They will be matched against a range of opponents that includes
experienced women kick-boxers."
After that card had taken place Binns told WBAN the following:
"My last fight was in the London. I had arrange for a friend to
babysit my son as any female boxer who was a mother would know
it wasnít easy leaving your child to go off for a fight. Once I
had arrived at the venue I was told that there was an American
promoter who had come along to check out the boxers."
"The thought of someone recognising me and possibly being my
promoter was very exciting for me. In pre-warm up prior to my
fight, I remember the guy came into our dressing room and seemed
really keen on me. I felt on top of the world. I was
well-prepared as I had put the hours of training and sparring in
with the guys at the gym."
"I was ready to walk out to the ring when my trainer said you
have an urgent call from home. He passed me the phone and my
cousin was on the other end. She told me that my grandfather had
just passed away. I stood in shock and didnít know what to do.
My heart was already thumbing so fast with pre-fight nerves, and
when those words hit my ears my whole body went numb."
"I remember my trainer talking to me but I couldnít understand
what he was saying, I was in shock. Then his words came louder
and louder, it felt like I was in an auditory fog. He said we
can call the fight off, itís your call. I guess I was still in
shock. I just went along with the motions. The next thing I knew
I was in the ring I could hear the bell and the fight began."
During the fight I remember thinking it was so surreal. I
couldnít feel the punches. It was like a white noise that had
overcome me. I was still in shock. I lost the fight by
points------I guess I learned a valuable lesson that day. That
was the end of my boxing career and it changed my life as I knew
"That was my last fight and it was at this point during my life
that I knew I had to do something other than boxing as I knew I
couldnít survive of the pittance purses we used to receive for
Binns did not want to work in the Mills, and so she decided to
go back to school to get an education.
"It was really hard for us boxers back in the days when we had
to financially support ourselves. Sponsorships were virtually
non-existent in the UK back then. Female boxers even to this
day, are still underpaid compared to men and I think this needs
to change and hopefully in the future it will."
Binns went back to college to study genetics and psychology and
she achieved various other diplomas, and then went onto
university were she studied psychology and gained both my BSc
and my MSc in Forensic Psychology.
"I worked for a few years in various governmental departments
and the police force here in the UK. I decided that I wanted to
move out of the criminal justice system and go into lecturing. I
had to go back to university to gain my teaching qualification."
"I never really settled as a lecturer as I found the education
system too restrictive in terms of work pressure and
expectations (working for free and having no social life). I was
never really truly happy in myself unless I was either in a gym
near a bag or coaching the amateur boxers," added Binns.
Today Binns said that she
is doing the following:
"I am currently trying to develop female boxing in the North
West by doing small projects that I hope one day will turn into
something bigger and inspiring for womenís boxing."
"I am hoping to gain my pro training licence in the New Year and
hopefully coach female boxers for pro title belts. I am
currently the female boxing coach at Amir Khanís pro and amateur
gym here in the UK. Amirís gym is amazing and has great
"We get a lot of pro boxers that train here and I gain
invaluable tips from the pro coaches who are outstanding. So the
future is looking good for me now and more importantly I feel
more content within myself and very happy to be back in my
Reflecting back to her boxing days, Binns said...."I loved my
days as a boxer and I would never change any of it other than
the exploitation of female boxers. I have gained so much from my
boxing experience and this has helped me to be a stronger person
and face the many life challenges I have had to endure."
"For me, it is knowing that I was one of the women who was part
of the beginning of the recognition of womenís boxing here in
the UK and I am proud to be part of history in the making for
future female boxing generations."