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2005

Dee Hamaguchi training
Copyrighted photo provided by Dee Hamaguchi

 
   

Dee Hamaguchi spearheaded women's participation in the New York Golden Gloves in 1995 and has competed as a pro boxer since 2000. She won the 1998 US national judo title at 45 kg, and she founded and manages Hamaguchi Martial Arts, her own judo, self-defense, fitness, and nutrition school in Harlem, New York. Dee shared her thoughts about the state of women's boxing, and about her own boxing and judo career, with WBAN's Dee Williams as 2004 ended ... 

Dee Williams:

Dee, if you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about women's pro boxing today, what would it be, and why?

Dee Hamaguchi:

If I could change one thing about women's professional boxing, I would change amateur boxing! Let's include women's boxing in the Olympic games! I think that would cause immediate and profound changes for women's pro boxing as well.

Firstly, if women's boxing was an Olympic sport, then the whole world would have to accept us as serious athletes. There would be media from every country there to cover this historic event, so people all over the world would see women boxing. This would shift the general public's view of women's boxing from being an entertaining side-show to seeing it as a "real" sport. The television corporations would have to acknowledge viewers' interest and realize that women's boxing is marketable and profitable programming.

Secondly, inclusion of women's boxing in the Olympics would mean there would be funding for developmental programs on a global level. Regardless of their personal opinions or politics, the powers that run national boxing programs will see it is in their best interest to develop female amateur boxers because they represent 12 more opportunities to win medals, and the medal count is what gets a sport additional funding.

So we could expect to see higher quality amateur women boxers from around the world. Some of these women will want to graduate from the amateurs to the pros. Savvy managers and promoters will scout and sign these elite athletes, hopefully for enough money to cover their living expenses as well as training expenses.

If women have adequate funding to focus on their boxing training (as an amateur or a pro) and not have to hold down a day-job, as well as pay for other support staff (strength and conditioning coach, nutritionist, physical therapist, etc.) then we can expect to see a higher quality athlete. This would increase the popularity of the sport, money invested by networks, etc.

Dee W:

You've shown tremendous dedication to the sport, taking tough fights despite few of the rewards most women who get in the pro ring think they're looking for ... like winning records, becoming well known outside the sport, and so on. So just what is it that keeps Dee Hamaguchi climbing through those ropes now?

Dee H:

My sheer stubborn-ness!!

Seriously, I see Dee Hamaguchi as a world champion at 100 or 102 lbs. I won USA Judo Nationals (there's only one national championship for judo) at 45 kg (100 lbs) so that is an ideal fighting weight for me. I am still learning in the gym and the ring is the real testing ground for executing new moves. I would like to fight 10-rounders (or twelve if they would allow it!), because I think going that distance is the true measure of a fighter. My record is so far gone that I don't sweat it. Fortunately, some of the organizations take into account WHO we've fought, not just our records, so I do OK in the rankings. I'm just looking for the next fight.

Being well known outside the sport. . . well, I feel I have the respect of my peers and all of the decent sincere people involved in boxing. "Dee Hamaguchi" may never be a household name, but I've been around the New York boxing scene since 1993, and have worked out at a lot of gyms, some that no longer exist (the late Connie Bryant's gym on 125th Street, the Rosarios' gym on 112th Street, the Queen's PAL by Shea stadium, Marciano's gym in NJ, and Blue Velvet on 24th st.)

Any gym I step in, it's about the workout, not trying to attract attention, so I think the New York boxing community sees Dee Hamaguchi as a disciplined, serious boxer.

Dee W:

You had early success in judo, and you've fought as an amateur and a pro boxer. What level of which sport brought the best experiences for you personally, and why?

Dee H:

I started judo over 30 years ago, and it feels like I've lived several lifetimes through that martial art. Judo saw me through childhood, adolescence and young adulthood and gave me the opportunity to travel throughout Canada and the USA, and to train and compete in Europe and South America.

For several decades, judo was my passion and obsession. I believe it helped me get into Yale, because my personal essay was about judo.

My fondest memories are laughing at the jokes and antics of the same team-mates who'd lend a shoulder to cry on when times got tough. Working out at the national training center in France (INSEP) was awesome, eye-opening, and mind-blowing, not to mention balls-to-the-walls kick-ass tough. Judo is so popular in France, and they have terrific developmental and elite programs.

For years, my goal was to become Canadian national judo champion at 48 kg, but instead, I became a US citizen in 1997, and won US nationals at 45 kg in 1998. I was very happy with my performance that day and won three matches decisively (like a 'KO') to get to the top of the podium.

As far as boxing goes, I'm proud of getting women into the 1995 New York Golden Gloves. It was an idea who's time had come, and I was there to play a role.

My most rewarding experience as a pro boxer is yet to come ... stay tuned!

Dee W:

If it's not too aggravating, it's always good for experienced boxers like yourself to tell newcomers to the ring what to expect along their way ... so ... same question but the worst experiences?

Dee H:

I've been subjected to the personal politics and whims that runs amateur sport, and had been absolutely devastated several times as a competitive judo athlete. I had the rug pulled out from underneath me on more than one occasion by the governing bodies. "Keep training," were the simple words of advice from one of the best instructors I know, and in retrospect, that was true wisdom. I guess I'd been through such emotional lows in judo, that I don't get thrown off by the disappointments boxing has brought.

The toughest loss for me ever in any sport was losing to Jill Matthews at the Garden. Media from all over the world was there, so I felt like I embarrassed myself in front of everyone on the planet earth.

Ironically, that was my first sparring session ... imagine fighting at Madison Square Garden with zero rounds under your belt! I had a great trainer (Zab Judah's father), but no one really knew what to do with us at that point, and I certainly didn't know any better. There weren't enough women to spar with at that time, anyways! 

Now, everyone takes women sparring with other women or men for granted. But it took a while for us to start real sparring, not getting in the ring with a guy who will let you hit him at will.

I don't have any really horrible experiences as pro boxer (knock on wood!). I've had disappointments, like a fight falling apart in the change room at the eleventh hour for no apparent reason after I'd taken weeks off from work to go "to camp."

I've paid a few dues and done the "chittlin' circuit" ... I remember changing in the co-ed "locker" room along side empty beer bottles and jars of olives and maraschino cherries, fighting someone more than 10 lbs heavier than me with a corner who just met me, jumping out of the ring, doing the dry change, and then hopping on a bus for an overnight ride home ... by myself. So I try not to let the less-than-ideal faze me.

My worst experiences in training would be sparring with guys who need to save their ego by unloading on me. I want to yell at them "It's not wrong to do that cuz I'm female; it's wrong cuz I'm 20 to 40 pounds lighter than you!!"

Dee W:

Finally, who would you really like to fight next if you could just have the match made for you, like granting a wish ... and why?

Dee H:

I would like to fight for an eight-round WIBA Minimumweight (102 lbs) Intercontinental Title versus whoever. Then I would like to fight for a world title at 100 to 102 lbs. for ten rounds ( I specify because there is a six-round world title out there). So far, WIBA seems to be the only organization that has a weight class lower than 105 lbs.

I would like to see the other organizations consider adding two lower weight classes. Come on folks, the lightest men fight at 105 lbs, doesn't it make sense to create women's divisions lower than this at 102 and 99/100 lbs? To those who say there aren't enough women at those weights, I say, "Build it and they will come." Those of us who could make those weights have been fighting at 105 because we want to fight.

I would definitely like to fight Goodson, Dunaway, Shaffer, or Moss ... because we haven't fought yet ... or some of the women overseas.

I would love to fight in Japan, because I never got the chance to go as a judo athlete.

To be honest, though, I am not a prima donna and I just want to stay active, so I'd be happy to fight anyone at 102-105 lbs for four to ten rounds.


Dee Hamaguchi vs. Carina Moreno in July 2004
Copyrighted photo taken by Jesus Sanchez

Many thanks to Dee Hamaguchi for taking the time to answer my questions!  I hope her remarkable dedication to boxing will be rewarded by her wishes being granted in 2005!

Other Dee Hamaguchi links

Page last updated:
Sunday, January 2, 2005

 
     
     
     
     
 

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