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Meet Gillian Binns:  One of the Past Boxers One of many who Paved the Road For women boxers today....
by Sue TL Fox
December 15, 2016

(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 history-making affair.

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 reasons.

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 it then."

"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 each fight."

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 facilities."

"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 gloves again."

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."

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