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In the first part of a two-part interview originally published on the Women's Boxing Page on September 19, 1999, WIBF world Welterweight champion Jane Couch, Britain's "Fleetwood Assassin", talks to Dee Williams about why she switched to fighting as a lightweight, about women fighting men, about her "missed date" with Lucia Rijker, and about her battles with the British boxing establishment.

Dee: Jane, you've been a world champion as a welterweight, but now you're looking to fight as a lightweight. What's the story?

Jane: The story behind me moving from Welterweight to Lightweight is the WIBF Welterweight title I won in May 1996 was 140 lbs. The WIBF called that weight Welterweight where in reality it was Junior Welter. Then about a year ago they moved the weight up to 143 lbs and told me I could still defend at 140 lbs which to me didn't seem right. I won the title at 140 lbs and defended it three times at 140 lbs. But all the times I defended it I never weighed more than 138 lbs and when I fought Mellinger and Webber I was only 137 lbs. So after they changed the weight to 143 lbs I thought it would be sensible to box at my natural weight ... and for the last few months I've been 135 lbs, hence the move to Lightweight. I still hold the WBF Light Welter title and the WIBF Welterweight title ... unless they want to strip me, although I don't see how they can as every time I have been asked to defend I have done so. If the right fight comes at 140 lbs I'd be happy to take it. In the meantime I will box at Lightweight.

Dee: There's a male-female bout getting a lot of attention here in the USA now. What's your opinion of women fighting men professionally? Should it be allowed? Will it harm the sport?

Jane: I heard about the male-female fight that is about to happen and my opinion on this is men should compete against men and women against women. I think it could definitely harm the sport. Should a female have far greater skills, experience and fitness, even with lesser strength she would prove superior to an incompetent male, as I have many times against male sparring partners. However all things being equal ...skills, experience, and size ... a male would be expected to beat a female at any sport simply because of the male's greater power, achieved mainly through greater muscle mass. Women's boxing needs to be able to stand on its own and male vs. female (fights) would be a great harm to our sport.

Dee: One woman who's talked about fighting a man (again) is Lucia Rijker. Do you think she should fight a man when there are still top women in her weight class like Sumya Anani, Fredia Gibbs ... and Jane Couch ... who she hasn't fought yet?

Jane: I don't think Lucia of all people will ever fight a man. As she of all people knows what can happen. I think if she did ever fight a male it would be an incompetent male boxer then that would prove nothing. There are plenty of women out there that could fight Lucia, although her manager disagrees and says they are demanding too much money! Although there might be some truth in this, that's not the case when I challenged her ... my manager told her manager I would fight for what was available. I think it was in the region of $3500 but they still didn't call back, so in that case it wasn't money. Lucia's manager is shrewd. He always was with the male boxers he managed. He's just looking out for her and if he can get her the big paydays without any danger that's what he will do. I like Stan and remember him visiting England a few years ago. He wasn't involved with Lucia then, or women's boxing. He hated it, he hated the idea of it, and I think I helped him change his mind. He's a good guy and has an investment in Lucia, so I can understand him wanting to make himself and her as much as they can. But he did promise me the fight and ... who knows? ... maybe one day he'll be as good as his word.

Lucia RijkerJane Couch
Lucia and Jane ... will they meet in the ring?

Dee: Although Lucia hasn't fought all the top women yet, she's beaten every woman who's ever been put in front of her ... including Dora Webber, who put the two losses on your record. What makes you think you can beat her?

Jane: I don't know if I can beat Lucia ... but I would like the chance to find out! I'm an improved fighter since last boxing in America. I haven't boxed there since 1997 and in that time I have improved 100%. I'm lucky enough to be in full-time training. I don't need to work, I treat boxing as my job.

Dee: You made a huge breakthrough for professional women boxers in Britain by taking the British Boxing Board of Control to an industrial tribunal for gender discrimination. You won that battle, but how's the war going? Are people in the British boxing establishment still trying to keep women out of the ring, or is that struggle over now?

Jane: The battle with BIBB of C to get me licensed was hard. I wasn't even thinking of boxing in England. I just thought it would never be accepted and I would never get the opportunity. But people around me were very supportive and a lot of people used to ask me "why can't you box in England?". So I applied for a licence ... it was turned down on the grounds I was a woman and the story made a lot of publicity. There was a lawyer who saw the story and contacted me and said she would work on the case for me, which she did. We all worked hard and as you know the case was won. While I was going through the case I wasn't thinking about breaking down barriers and making things easier for up and coming women boxers ... I just had a passion for what I was doing and wanted to be accepted in England. It is now accepted and things are a little easier but it's still very new to England and we don't have the base of boxers here like you do in the USA. So people here are still finding it difficult to take on board. It still has a long way to go and until we get a bigger base of quality boxers here I will just have to be the flag bearer for now

Dee: I heard that some British officials have refused to work women's matches and Lennox Lewis's manager said "the only reason for women to be in the ring is as ring card girls." Barry McGuigan said he thinks fans don't want to see women boxers taking heavy punishment and that women's boxing "will attract unsavory elements and appeal to voyeurs". Do comments like this from the men mean that women's boxing still has an uphill battle in Britain?

Jane: Yes, some officials have refused to work a women's fight. But as I have said, it's change. And a lot of older officials in England don't like change. Also the ones that refused to do it had only seen women kickboxing and the standard was very low. Since my last two fights in England they have changed their minds and realized that I'm as technically good as a lot of the men and in both cases of my last two fights they were the best fight of the night. But you can't change people's opinion, you just have to get on with it. They will come round one day.

Dee: There was a big flap over some young teens boxing as amateurs in the U.K. when the women's amateur programs became official over there. Is the flap over now? Do you think the British public is more ready for the women's sport now?

Jane: There has been a lot of flapping over amateur boxing in England it doesn't have a great base like in the USA. But I really think that is where the future lies for women's boxing to grow in England. I don't like to see girls licensed as professionals until they have gained some valuable amateur experience. The BBBC have given some girls in England licenses that just come from a kickboxing background and have no boxing experience or no amateur fights. I will be working with the board soon and try and make it a safe sport and get them to license the right people. Professional boxing is a hard sport and for it to move on the girls have to get their experience in the amateurs first. That's difficult for the girls at the present time as there's not much competition. But I'm working with a couple of girls in my gym right now and although I'm sure they could beat a lot of the pro's that are around right now.I will not push them into professional boxing without the right experience. I give them all the help and support they need and get them to learn to trade hopefully they will get some amateur fights this year then we can take it from there.

Dee: Are the fans turning out to see female fights? Are the TV networks showing interest?

Jane: I've had two fights on TV and my next is scheduled for live TV as well. I think that TV are only interested in world titles. If I was boxing at a lower level the fights wouldn't make TV which is a shame. But people like Barry Mcguigan are shallow. They say one thing yet when I work with all these people they tell me how great I am and how they respect what I've done. I'm lucky enough to be on good terms with a lot of TV companies. I do a lot of TV work and I think that's why the TV networks are interested ... because to be a successful fighter you have to have a personality as well ... make people interested in you. I'm in the process of presenting my own chat show in England and hopefully that will go ok, then more TV will be interested in my sport and what I do. If the viewing figures are high for my next fight on the Bravo channel in England I will work with them on a three fight deal.

Dee: Your first fight after getting your pro license got a lot of media attention. But your opponent, Simona Lukic, didn't look ready to box at your level. Barbara Buttrick said she was surprised that Simona Lukic was allowed to fight you. How do you feel about that match, looking back on it now?

Jane and Simona Lukic Jane: The media circus after I was licensed to box in England was crazy. It was hard to deal with at first, and took a lot of time getting used to. The matchmaker for the first fight in London was well known throughout the male boxing world and was the one who made the match between me and Lukic. But Lukic isn't a bad fighter ... it's just that I was a lot better! Her record was 8-2 and she is trained by Silke Wieckenmeier who recently fought Para Draine. I was pissed about the result as I have never been in a easy fight.

I achieved what I did the hard way .I went abroad to win the title and defended it successfully in the USA in some pretty hard fights. I didn't make excuses like I had to travel or fight a girl in her hometown. I fought Americans in America and still won. Lukic would beat a lot of the girls around but that night she didn't beat me.

Dee: Would a real barn burner have been better for the image of women's boxing in Britain, or would it have scared some people off?

Jane: A hard fight in England that night would have had the critics going mad. Nobody wanted a women's fight in the first place and no matter what would have happened the press were there for a story not to praise women in boxing. But if you look on the records of most girls there are always fights on there that were easy. Lucia has had a lot of girls out of there early. But no one says it's a mismatch, just how great a fighter Lucia is! If she was boxing in England they wouldn't say that ... they would say it's a mismatch. But since the Lukic fight I have had two great TV fights in England and have the respect of even the worst critics. It's just a case of breaking down barriers. I can honestly say, hand on my heart, I've fought some great fighters. I've never ducked anyone and never will, and in my whole career I had one easy fight and that was Lukic. I bet there's not many boxers around that can say that.

Many thanks to Jane for sharing her unique perspective on women's boxing with us!

Jane welcomes hearing from fans by email!

In Part 2 ... Jane talks about her toughest fight, what it takes to be a true world champion, and the fighters she admires most.

Other Jane Couch links

Page last updated: Saturday, April 24, 2004


Boxer Interview by Dee Williams



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