has been growing since as early as the 1720’s, when prize
fighting took place in fairgrounds across Europe. In this modern
day, many women opt into boxing as a form of self-defense, soon
realizing that they have a passion for the competitive sport.
Many gyms in the UK now offer women-only sessions to encourage
women to get involved in the sport and unleash some inner anger.
We’ve looked into the history of women’s boxing and realize now
that it has a rich heritage with key players that have helped
bring the sport to life.
women’s boxing match
women’s US boxing match took place at Hills Theatre, New York in
the 1800s. Supposedly, Nell Saunders and Rose Harland fought for
a silver butter dish in 1876. Shortly after this match, boxing
was banned in Europe and many US states. But that didn’t stop
budding female boxers such as the Bennett Sisters, who toured
the country in the early 1900s with a Vuadeville boxing
showcase. By 1904, women’s boxing exhibitions took place at the
Olympic games in St Louis.
Soon came the
time of the suffragettes, fighting for women’s rights anyway
they knew how. Many of these were attacked in the streets and
abused for trying to campaign for equal rights, causing them to
take up women’s boxing to protect themselves. At the time men
hated that women were fighting back, and by the 1930s the media
represented female boxers in a sexualized way, trying to make
the profession into a joke. The media tried to portray female
boxers with scantily training gear or catch them in compromising
positions, but the dedicated fighters didn’t care and continued
In 1948 at 15
years old and just 4 foot 11 inches tall, “Battling” Barbara
Buttick taught herself how to box, and soon became a women’s
boxing legend. Barbara started her boxing career by touring
Europe with carnivals, but soon found that boxing in England was
a very male dominated sport, and decided to make her way to the
United States. By 1954 one of Barbara’s fights was chosen to be
televised, and was the first women’s boxing match to ever appear
on television. By this time, Barbara had earnt the nickname “The
Mighty Atom” and had paved the way for women’s boxing going
forward. During Battling Barbara Buttick’s astonishing boxing
career, she won 30 battles, drew once and lost once to Joann
Hagen. Barbara finally retired in 1960, fighting her last battle
whilst 4 months pregnant.
of women’s boxing
By 1975 two
more aspiring and soon to be famous female boxers started
appearing on the US boxing circuit. “The female Muhammed Ali” –
Jackie Tonawanda was the first women to fight in Madison Square
Garden. Shortly after this match, Cat Davis won her case to
legally box in the state of New York. She was also the first
female boxer to ever appear on the front cover of Ring Magazine.
By the early 1990s boxing was accepted as a professional sport
and the number of matches rose hugely.
In 1999 the
International Boxing Association approved the first European Cup
for women, and by 2001 the first World Championship for women
took place. By this time most US states and the UK had accepted
female boxing and we’re even encouraging the sport. By 2006 the
first professional UK female-boxing title was awarded to Cathy
Brown, leading to a huge rise of female boxers between 2006 –
As recent as
2010 steps have still been being taken to support women’s
boxing, such as the BBC broadcasting women’s boxing live on
television for the first time, or the 40% rise in women-only
martial arts clubs. By the London Olympic games in 2012 women
we’re finally allowed to compete in the boxing category and
since then fights have even been hosted a Wembley.
The rise of
women’s boxing has been a long road, but we always encourage
women to give it a go… you may find that you love it! If you’re
not convinced then why not try a free
taster session in your local area from
Get Into Martial Arts?
Simply type in your postcode and you can get a free class at any
of your local clubs that have signed up to the directory, it’s
really that easy.