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Dee Hamaguchi training
© Copyrighted photo provided by Dee Hamaguchi


5' 1½ straw-weight Dee Hamaguchi was born Diedre Yumi Hamaguchi on March 10 1965 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  She has been active in the martial arts for more than twenty years, displaying her dedication to the world of sports and fitness as a judo and a boxing competitor, and as a martial arts instructor, and a freelance writer.

Dee got a B.A. in architecture from Yale and intended to become an architect before her interest in competitive sports diverted her from this path. This began with judo, where she was a national collegiate champion and the 1990 Empire State Games champion.  As a Canadian citizen she was ineligible to compete in judo at the USA national or international levels in the USA, and the association in her native Canada wasn't happy with her living in the USA and competing as a Canadian. Dee became an American citizen in 1997 and won the 1998 US National judo title at 45 kg.

She also began to seek another outlet for her competitive instincts.  She first tried karate, telling WBAN's Roaming Reporter in 1998: "I tried karate, and enjoyed the workouts, but was double end bag, speed bag and shadow  boxing in the ring. I was the only woman in the gym, but the guys were supportive enough."

Her transition to boxing began in 1993 when a notice for the New York Daily News Golden Gloves appeared in the gym where Dee was training.  As she told WBAN, "The notice for the Gloves was taped to the wall, and most of the boxers in  the gym were gearing up for that tournament. I asked if women were allowed to enter and was told, "No." But I knew that USA Boxing had been recently forced to accept females as members, and that there could be no discrimination with regard to gender in amateur sport according to NY State law (I had taken a  fair housing seminar).   So I sent in an entry just using my first initial. Unfortunately, the Daily News sent me my notice for my physical exam too late. My appointment was for Jan 16th, 1994, and I received the notice on Jan 18th. I called the Daily News the next morning, but was told that the last physical was given the night before. So I was out of luck.  I decided to pursue it further, and wrote a letter to the News asking them to consider giving me another date for the physical, especially since they sent me my notice too late. They responded that I should have known to just show up on Jan 18th.  I suspected that the Daily News just wanted me to go away once they realized  I was a female. That just made me more determined to force them to let me enter, since I knew it was my right."

As the Daily News stated in an "Ladies night with a punch," on April 7, 1995, a year after she made history, "Dee Hamaguchi is the reason why women were here at the Daily News Golden Gloves in the first place. It had never happened in the 68 years of the country's oldest and largest amateur boxing competition. Last year as application was submitted with the name D. Hamaguchi. Nobody knew D. was Dee, and that Dee was a woman from Harlem. Even though she didn't end up competing last year, the seed was in the ground, and it started growing, so there we were last night looking at Jill Matthews' mascara and at the Golden Gloves dangling from Christine Bruno SanGallo's neck."

Dee lost her 1995 Golden Gloves final to southpaw Jill Matthews, who went on to become the IWBF and IFBA junior flyweight professional world champion.

Dee told WBAN: "It was probably the toughest loss I have ever endured because there was so much media hype before the match. I realized afterwards that I let it take away from where my focus should have been - on training (a more experienced boxer  would know how to use the attention to his/her benefit). Also, I felt terrible since it seemed that everyone and their dog knew I lost that fight.  The real cruel irony was that there were never any television cameras around  over the 20+ years I'd been doing judo, and now for my first boxing match ever, there were print and electronic media from around the globe! Where were  they when I won the Empire State Games??    The only good thing about losing is that you learn who's real and who only wants to associate with you when you win. I forced myself to go into the gym the next day - and I was surprised at how supportive the other boxers were. I also got a lot of support from my friends. So I felt a lot better after that."

But Dee wasn't satisfied with achieving that ice-breaking goal. She decided that she would turn pro, and aim to box as a straw-weight, with Matthews above her at junior flyweight.  She saw the potential of women's pro boxing after witnessing the media attention gathered by the first female contests at the Golden Gloves ... "In '95 when the Daily News decided to 'let' women enter the Gloves, they  milked it for all the media coverage it was worth. I'm sure promoters took note of the unprecedented amount of coverage and the increase in ticket sales.  Money talks, so it wasn't long before Don King was hyping Christy Martin.  Thanks to King's PR /business machine (not to Martin's boxing skills), it is  now a 'known' fact that women can box.   Once people have seen or heard about something, or it's touted as the latest trend, they tend to give you less grief about it. So their reaction when they find out that I box is "Oh, cool!" whereas before they would express  disbelief or try to convince me that it wasn't in my best interest to pursue  it or worse yet, try to make me feel like a human aberration for wanting to  box."

She entered the world of professional boxing competition on October, 11, 2000 in Yonkers, New York. She weighed in at 108 lbs and fought to a draw over four rounds with Gracie Joe Roca (108 lbs).

On March 14, 2001 at Yonkers Raceway in Yonkers, New York, Yolanda Gonzalez of Newark, New Jersey advanced to 3-0 (2 KO's) with a third-round TKO over Dee.

On February 16, 2002 at the Hilton in Las Vegas, Nevada, Las Vegas-based Vaia Zaganas (105 lbs) of Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada won a four-round unanimous (40-36,40-36,39-37) decision over Dee (103 lbs). Zaganas, the 2001 Canadian National 45-kg champion, improved to 3-1-0 (2 KO) while Hamaguchi fell to 0-2-1.

On May 15, 2002 at Treasure Chest Casino in Kenner, Louisiana, Vaia Zaganas, now based in Las Vegas, advanced to 4-1-0 (2 KO) with a hard-fought six-round unanimous (60-54,60-54,58-56) decision over Dee, who fell to 0-3-1 (0 KO). Zaganas had a clear edge on the scorecards in this rematch but ended the bout showing Hamaguchi's handiwork on her face.

On April 12, 2003 at Caesars in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, Dee (103 lbs) fought Stephanie Dobbs (102 lbs) of Moore, Oklahoma to an exciting four-round (39-37 Hamaguchi,38-38,38-38) majority draw in a  non-stop action-packed slugfest. Dobbs was now 5-7-2 (4 KO) while Hamaguchi was 0-3-2 (0 KO).

On May 17, 2003 at City Center Pavilion in Reno, Nevada, Tracey Stevens (105 lbs) of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada won a four-round unanimous decision over Dee (also 105 lbs) and improved her own record to 5-4-0 (1 KO) while dropping Hamaguchi to 0-4-2.

June 7, 2003 at the Flamingo in Laughlin, Nevada, USA, Dee (103¾ lbs) finally got her first win as a professional boxer, scoring a clear four-round unanimous (39-36,39-36,40-35) decision in a rematch with Stephanie Dobbs (103½ lbs).  Dobbs, who had been one of the busiest female boxers on the circuit in 2003, fell to 7-8-2 (5 KO) with this loss while Hamaguchi advanced to 1-4-2 (0 KO).

On November 4, 2003 at Martin's West in Woodlawn, Maryland, IFBA strawweight champion Vaia Zaganas (104½ lbs) won a six-round unanimous decision over Dee (106½ lbs). Zaganas improves to 13-2-0 (6 KO) while dropping Hamaguchi to 1-5-2 (0 KO).

Carina Moreno backs Dee into a corner
© Copyrighted photo taken by Jesus Sanchez

On July 3, 2004 at the Hyatt Regency in Monterey, California, Carina Moreno of Watsonville, California won a six-round unanimous (60-54,60-54,60-53) decision over Dee at 106 lbs. Carina dominated the tough but outgunned Hamaguchi, using her jab to set up her right hand. By the fourth round Hamaguchi’s nose was badly bloodied. Carina appeared to be going for a knockout with straight rights in the final round, but Deidre gamely hung on to force a decision. Hamaguchi took this fight at less than a week's notice. For more on this bout, see the fight report by Jesus Sanchez  and WBAN Photo Gallery #188 on the WBAN Records Member Site.

On July 31, 2004, at Saith Park Indoor Arena in Chaguanas, Trinidad, 1,500 fans saw Ria Ramnarine (105 lbs) of Carapichaima, Trinidad win an eight-round unanimous (79-75,79-73, 78-74) decision over Dee (105 lbs) for the WIBA Iberian-American Mini Flyweight title. There were no knockdowns but both traded hard punches throughout an exciting bout and left the arena with lacerations under their right eyes. Ramnarine went toe to toe with Hamaguchi, and told local reporters after the fight "I did not fight normally, I like to hit and move. I can't say why I did but I tried to adjust to her style and it worked out in the end."  Hamaguchi, who fought much of the bout with a grin on her face, said "I really wanted to win the title but Ria fought well. I would have been happy for a draw, but then you can't win them all. I was grinning because I was enjoying the fight, I love to fight." 

Ramnarine admitted that she was hurt in the fourth by a stinging combination from Hamaguchi, but she stayed on her feet and came back to win the bout, urged on by shouts of "Ria, Ria, Ria" from her supporters and scoring freely with combinations to Hamaguchi's head.  "I am trained to take hard punches because I train with guys and get hit pretty hard. I have conditioned myself to overcome the really tough shots", she said, adding. "Diedre is strong and really came to fight. I am happy to win this bout in front of my supporters."  Ramnarine improved to 7-4-0 (1 KO).

Dee lands one on Stephanie Dobbs, June 2006
© Copyrighted photo take by Stacy Goodson

On June 18 2006 at Remington Park, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma,  Stephanie Dobbs of Moore, Oklahoma and Dee Hamaguchi  fought to an eight round majority draw (78-74 Dobbs, 76-76,76-76) for the vacant WIBA Intercontinental Mini Flyweight title.  The fight took place in the afternoon, outdoors in  blistering heat and humidity but this did not hamper their non-stop action. Stacy Goodson who was at ringside told WBAN that the fight was very competitive with both boxers going back and forth, and that the fight could be a contender for "Fight of the Year."   Hamaguchi moved her record to 1-7-3 (0 KO), Dobbs was all even at 21-21-4 (13 KOs).

On September 21, 2006 at the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles, Missouri, Hollie Dunaway (101½ lbs) of Van Buren, Arkansas won by retirement at the end of the seventh round over Dee (102 lbs).  According to Dee, "I touched canvas twice in the first round, and Hollie won every round. I got a cut on the bridge of my nose and my nose was bleeding pretty steadily (first time for everything). I couldn't get off effectively, so my corner stopped it. All I can say is Hollie hits harder than anyone I fought; about the same as someone weighing in the 120's I would say."  Dunaway was defending her WIBA Minimumweight World title. Hollie Dunaway improved to 16-4-0 (10 KO's) while the veteran Hamaguchi fell to a deceptive 1-8-3.  

Asked for her advice to female boxers, Dee Hamaguchi says:

"Boxing is not for everyone. Man or woman. It is one of the most demanding  sports in terms of conditioning. And it is even tougher mentally because you  have to deal with someone hitting you. And no matter how good you are, you   will get hit.   There is only one way to know if boxing is for you, and that is to step in the ring. But first you have to:  

1) be in proper condition and acquire basic skills. Footwork and head movement are your defense, but often overlooked because everyone wants to learn offense, i.e. to hit, first. 

2) spar. This is a whole different ball game. Everything you do on the heavy bag or on mitts is much more difficult to do against a live opponent. You have to spar in different levels of intensity also. Sometimes, you have to spar with someone who is much better and agrees to pull their punches so you  can practice the skills your trainer has taught you. And sometimes, you have to spar with someone closer to your skill level where neither one of you is holding back.
Otherwise, you will be unpleasantly surprised when you step in the ring to fight - there's no nicey-nicey in there. You have to get used to bad intentions of your opponent and your own."  

"If you then want to take it to the next level," says Dee, "then make sure you have a  trainer who has experience in the corner. There's a lot more to it than wiping the sweat off your brow, giving you a sip of water, a quick pep talk, and a slap on the back . Preparing for a fight involves proper tapering of you training routine, proper dieting if you have to lose weight, warming up properly before you match and bring in the right mental state to kick some ass!"  

"The most important thing is to find a trainer you trust. You may have to hunt around for a trainer who 1) really knows their stuff and 2) works well with your personality in the corner. Just because a trainer has achieved success with other boxers does not mean they are the best trainer for YOU!"  

"Last but not least, if you are under the age of 34, then definitely start out  as an amateur, not as a pro. This will give you a chance to test your skills  for three two-minute rounds with headgear before you decide if this is for you.  The rules in amateur boxing are different than pro and designed to protect the boxer, not to please a blood-thirsty audience."

Asked where female boxing in going, she said "I think this time around, women's boxing is here to stay. Mainly because  now it is a bona fide amateur sport. This gives the sport depth. Females have  the opportunity to develop as athletes before they turn pro. And the USA is  to host the first womens' amateur boxing world championships, which is an  important step in getting it into the Olympic Games.   I think it is inevitable that women's boxing will become an Olympic sport.  Mainly because it is growing so quickly in terms of participation around the  globe (a sport must show that it is practiced all over the world in order to  be considered for inclusion in the Olympic Games) , and because it definitely draws an audience. And right or wrong, that is what the IOC is interested in   - sports which can draw a television audience.   Becoming an Olympic sport is key for the growth of womens' boxing. The sport  will gain credibility with sports fans, funding will become available around  the globe for development of female amateur boxing (its harder to find  funding for non-Olympic sports), and the gap between overall skill level of  female boxers and male counterparts will start to close."

"More importantly, from an athlete's perspective, inclusion of womens' boxing in the Olympics  will provide motivation, inspiration and a goal for female boxers to aim for!   There have been female pro boxers here and there over the years, but not organized groups of female boxers. The timing is right for women in sport  (WNBA, women's world cup soccer, etc). Plus with the internet, it makes it  easier for us to keep up with news about women's boxing all over the world.  So we are less isolated.   I think that as the number of female boxers increases, we will start to see progressive changes in the sport. (Can you say union?) When women have a "beef," we tend to bond and take collective action about it. Men don't seem to do this. Most male boxers see themselves as lone rangers, and don't think collectively.  So, yes, we are here to stay. And we will take the sport to another level!"

She founded and manages Hamaguchi Martial Arts, her own judo, self-defense, fitness, and nutrition school in Harlem, NY. She earned a first-degree black belt at Tokyo’s Kodokan Judo Institute, and teaches women and children in  Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Other Dee Hamaguchi links

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Page last updated: Friday November 06, 2015


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