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Photograph courtesy of Margaret Sidoroff


5'1" Canadian junior bantamweight "Mean" Margaret Sidoroff  turned pro after posting a 13-0 record as an amateur boxer in Canada and Australia.

Born on May 17, 1973 in London, Ontario, Margaret was the 1997 Novice Ontario champion. She defeated the Ontario Open Class champion by an 11-0 tally that year ... but could not compete in the Canadian National championships ... as she had not been in enough bouts!

She won the 1998 Ontario Open Class Championship and went on take the 1998 Canadian National 51-kg Championship in style on January 17, 1998 by defeating Nova Scotia champion Katherine Lewis by a 14-3 tally. The day before she had earned her place in the final by defeating Quebec champion Janique Veronneau 12-5.

Canadian amateur boxer Misty Shearer sent me this ringside description of Margaret's national title win: 'In the first round both fighters were a little hesitant. Margaret was the stronger of the two but Katherine was not afraid to step in and throw some good combinations. Margaret has a really nice style. I just think she was really nervous, she was pretty tense all three rounds. Katherine had a really good defense and never backed down but Margaret was just too strong."

This win earned Margaret the right to represent Canada at the Acropolis Cup Women's World Championships in Greece, but the tourney was canceled when two few boxers registered for the male division!

Margaret settled for her amateur "Dream Match" ... against the 1998 54-kg Canadian Champion, Quebecer Patricia Picotin, in front of 12,000 fans at Montreal's Molson Centre. Disappointing her rival's hometown fans, Margaret was victorious in this, her final amateur bout.

Margaret overwhelmed Heidi O'Burke
in her pro debut in June 1998!

On June 30, 1998 at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Margaret (117 lbs) burst onto the pro boxing scene, winning her debut by TKO at 0:52 in the second round over Heidi O'Burke (123 lbs) of Syracuse, New York, who fell to 1-2.

Margaret moved her pro record to 2-0 with 2 KO's on September 11, 1998 at the Tropicana in Atlantic City when Silver Spring, Maryland's previously unbeaten (2-0-2) Rose Johnson did not answer the bell for the third round. Sidoroff had knocked Johnson down in the first round and dominated the second in another strong performance that showed she would be a handful for anyone in her weight class.

On December 12, 1998 in Detroit, Michigan, Margaret's body attack proved too much for debut fighter Donyale Williams of Ashtabula, Ohio, who retired midway through the first round.  The Ashtabula gym is famous for producing "opponents" who make early exits, and this would be the only time in her career that Sidoroff took an "easy" fight just to stay busy. 

Margaret had showed impressive speed, balance and power in recording three straight KO victories as a pro boxer, but she now needed to face more formidable opponents to make her real mark on the sport!

vs. Eva Jones-Youngwith IWBF belt
Margaret battles Eva-Jones-Young and takes home the IWBF belt!

Unlike boxers who look for a string of "sure things" close to home to build their early career records, Margaret seized a big opportunity on February 26, 1999, when she stepped into the ring in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands to take on then 11-1-1 Eva Jones-Young for the IWBF bantamweight title. Rated as a 3-1 underdog against Jones-Young by a pre-fight poll of Women's Boxing Page readers, Margaret was fighting one weight class above her usual weight (and 10 lbs lighter at fight time than a strong, seasoned opponent). Margaret piled on the pressure in the late going to earn a hard-fought split decision over a grueling ten rounds.

On March 1, 1999 Margaret wrote to my web site's Forum: "If only you all could have seen the fight! I also want to thank Eva again for the opportunity, and hope that we can do it again really soon (title for title maybe?)  I really underestimated Eva's strength and savvy. She out-weighed me by at least ten pounds the day of the fight and for the first time I found myself being tossed around in the clinches. And the head butts! That was one thing my amateur career could not prepare me for. Josh put me into the ring a little cold, just in case I had trouble with the ten rounds and Eva capitalized on that. She cracked me in the second, and by the time I was warmed up at the end of the third, I had a huge deficit to make up. Things went well for me the second part of the fight, and the climax came at the end of the 10th round when I trapped Eva in a corner and landed some beauty punches (my hands still hurt!) But Eva is a great champion, and as she came flying out of the corner we once again butted heads - you should see my lump! It went to the cards, and the judge that gave Eva the bout also awarded us five even rounds. And it really was that close. Eva is certainly the greatest competitor I've ever faced. Not only do I look forward to a rematch with her, but hope to fight one of the excellent champions at my natural weight of 112 lbs, or challenge one of the top contenders at 115 lbs for a title in that division. If I got a shot at Bridgett (Riley) that would be fun too."  

Margaret's giant-killing win came as no surprise to those who know her well. IWBF featherweight champion Beverly Szymanski, who had sparred with Margaret, wrote about her in the same Forum the day after the title fight: "I know how tough she is, and how hard she pushes herself...I knew she would give a good fight. There aren't too many girls who will outwork Margaret."

Margaret now held a major federation world title belt after just her fourth professional appearance ... but one division above her preferred weight! A few months later, having made a huge impression on the women's boxing world with her "underdog" victory, she relinquished this IWBF belt to return to competing in her natural junior bantamweight division.

Brenda Burnside and Margaret Sidoroff in New Orleans
Photo courtesy Margaret Sidoroff

On June 16, 1999 in New Orleans, Louisiana, Margaret (111 lbs) won the WIBF Intercontinental Junior Bantamweight title with a ten-round unanimous (98-91, 98-90, 100-89) decision over Brenda Burnside of Albuquerque, New Mexico who fell to 5-7-2. In an email after the bout, Margaret said "I thought I'd write to let you know that the fight was awesome! Brenda is a wonderful person and a very good fighter. She was a great sport! I've been a pro boxer for almost a year now ... and Brenda had the most heart out of all my opponents. When we got in there the first round and I felt her power I knew it was going to be a hell of a fight! The response for the fight was very good too. As far as what's next, I don't care ... I'll fight anyone under 115 lbs. (I weighed in at 111 lbs again). I have no problem making 108, but it's tough getting fights down there... World Titles are great, and they will come, but for now I want to fight the best." 

On July 20, 1999 at Casino Windsor in Windsor, Ontario, Margaret again weighed in at 111 lbs and won a six-round unanimous decision over Leona Brown (4'11', 116 lbs) of Pawling, New York. Leona took the fight to Margaret at first, leading off and winning the inside exchanges in the opener. Sidoroff found a home for a sharp right uppercut in the second but Brown roared back in the third and applied pressure with Sidoroff winging wide right counters to the body. Brown was wobbled by a Sidoroff right and they went toe to toe with Sidoroff busier. Sidoroff kept the pressure on the rest of the way with Brown beginning to fade. This win moved Margaret's pro record to 6-0 and dropped Brown to 7-2. 

Margaret wrote to me after this fight: "Leona has some unorthodox methods of fighting on the inside, but other than that we had a lot of fun ... I feel I probably gave up two rounds to Leona ... the reason I lost those two rounds was my own stupidity! I decided to test the waters and go head to head with Leona. She weighed in at 116 and I was at 111, but it's amazing the strength difference the weight can make! Josh says that was the reason I was unable to knock Leona down even though I was landing cleanly. She's been in there with heavier hitters than me ... Eva [Jones-Young] and Katie [Burton] ... and wasn't rocked by them either. So I switched gears and used speed to off-set her power. The crowd loved it and I just can't wait to get back in there!"  (Leona Brown called for a rematch on her home turf!)

Winning the IFBA Flyweight title vs. Jolene Blackshear
Copyrighted photo by Sue TL Fox

On February 11, 2000 in Kenner, Louisiana, Margaret (108 lbs) won a hard-fought ten-round unanimous (98-92,98-92,97-93) decision to take the IFBA Flyweight title from Jolene Blackshear (111 lbs) of Rohnert Park, California. Blackshear had been out of the ring for over a year but she showed no ring rust as she won the first two rounds and tagged Sidoroff repeatedly with her hard-charging aggressive style. Margaret improved the timing of her counter lefts in the third and the fight turned around in the middle rounds. Sidoroff showed great head movement and superb reflexes to slip Blackshear's punches while landing her own busy and effective combinations. As Blackshear fell behind on points, she escalated the pressure and the final round was a war with both fighters taking and dishing out significant punishment. Sidoroff rose to the challenge and was backing Blackshear up as they went toe to toe to end an exciting, skilled and heart-filled bout in a unanimous decision for Margaret. The real winner may have been women's boxing in the USA as the bout was carried live on ESPN2 and drew non-stop praise from the Friday Night Fights commentators. Sidoroff was now 7-0 with 3 KO's, while Blackshear fell to 4-2 with 2 KO's.

Check out Margaret's post-fight interview in which she commented on her strategy for the fight with Jolene Blackshear and her thoughts about fighting in Germany.

On April 6, 2000 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada, Margaret won the IWBF World Flyweight title by unanimous (99-91, 99-91, 96-95) decision after a toe to toe ten-round battle with Spokane, Washington's Para Draine, a former holder of the IWBF belt. Draine and Sidoroff traded punishing shots all night in a battle that had the fans on their feet several times. Sidoroff was cut on top of her head by an accidental bump of heads in the seventh, a round that produced some of the fight's best action. Sidoroff finished strongly as usual, working the taller Draine relentlessly with head-body combinations in the ninth after Draine had shown signs of turning the fight her way in the eighth.

"I got hit a little bit but when you're in there the adrenaline is flowing, you don't really feel it much," said Sidoroff. "Tomorrow I'm sure I'll feel the cut on my head but right now I feel too good to feel anything." The new two-belt champion came to the Women's Boxing Forum and also wrote to me after she got home to Windsor (read her full post-fight comments here).

Women's boxing was also the winner as this fight was the high point of a four-fight card before 3,500 fans. Sidoroff was now 8-0 and appeared to be running out of opponents who could test her and were willing to step into the ring with her. Draine, who fell to 10-4 with this loss, continued to impress with her willingness to take on tough opponents, going on to defeat Marilyn Salcido and Bridgett Riley in 2002.

Margaret fought to a draw with Wendy Rodriguez
Copyrighted photo taken by Sandy Goldberg

On October 28, 2000 at Miccosukee Indian Gaming in Miami, Florida, the IBA Junior Flyweight title went unclaimed when Margaret, weighing in at 108 lbs and Wendy Rodriguez (also 108 lbs) from Los Angeles, California fought to a 10-round draw. The scorecards were 95-95, 96-94 Rodriguez, and 96-94 Sidoroff. USA, The smaller Rodriguez countered Sidoroff's size and experience edge by tying her up and back-pedaling in the early rounds, then finished strongly in the last three rounds to keep it close. Sidoroff said in a post-fight interview that she felt she had done enough for the win, but that she also realized that she should have done more to ensure the win against the crafty Rodriguez. Sidoroff moved her pro record to 8-0-1, while Rodriguez was 3-1-2.

On the evening after the fight, Margaret wrote a letter to my web site explaining that she had decided to retire from competition before this fight, and would now become a boxing coach.

Margaret's pro career was all too short for her fans, but it will be hard to surpass as an example of sportsmanship and excellence.  Five of her nine pro bouts were 10-round title fights, and she took home three world titles. She is "Mean" only by nickname, was quick to praise and respect her opponents, and was gracious in victory in a sport that sometimes lacks that quality. She got to the top quickly, but by dint of hard work and a willingness to take on the best early in her pro career, after thoroughly mastering boxing technique as an amateur.  In a sport that has more than its share of protected pretenders, Sidoroff was the "real deal", unafraid to take on the best to prove that she was the best.

In a November 1999 interview with Canada's Standing Eight boxing website, Margaret spoke out against male-female boxing and the infamous Loi Chow vs. Margaret McGregor fight that took place that month in a blaze of worldwide publicity of the sort that few female pro boxing bouts have ever attracted. She told Standing Eight's Angelo Mangiacasale: "I don't think it is proving anything, except that a skilled female fighter can beat a male bum. I don't think the outcome would have been the same if she (McGregor) was fighting a male fighter of equal caliber. I mean if I go in the ring with Eric Morales, I may last 30 seconds. Biologically women cannot compete with men of the same caliber."

Margaret lives in Windsor, Ontario and her club is the Border City Boxing Club.  She is now married to her former trainer Josh Canty.

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Page last updated: Friday, 06 November 2015


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