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Helga "Snowcat" Risoy-One of the pioneers...
by Larry Wright

Helga Risoy, born and raised by her grandparents along with five uncles on an island in northern Norway. Her home was on a small island and her school on another island, requiring Helga to row to and from school every day.

When she was nine she became interested in kickboxing by watching it on television. She was not able to start training before 1977 when she moved to Oslo, Norway.


In 1985, she achieved black belt in karate and in 1989, she became the Norwegian national champion in kickboxing. And ultimately, she became the World Champion in kickboxing in Berlin, 1991. During this time, she also competed as an amateur boxer winning the "Norway Box Cup" in 1988; and as a team captain, represented Norway in the first international competition held for women in Sweden in 1989.

Along with her boxing career, Helga was running her own advertising agency. From 1987-92 she was a board member in The Norwegian Amateur Boxing Association fighting for women's boxing. She was the only woman in the world to be a board member in an amateur boxing association.

Leaving Norway

The International Amateur Boxing Federation banned women from competing in boxing internationally in 1991, and since professional boxing is not legal in Norway, the only way she could continue boxing was to leave the country.

After moving to the U.S., Helga wound up in Los Angeles and started to train at her hero Benny The Jet's gym. A boxing trainer, Herchel Jacobs "adopted" her and she started to train professionally.

There were no women's boxing at all at the time in the U.S. For one year she had to network across the U.S. to find women boxers and promoters that were willing to put a bout together. Boxing promoters laughed at her, and people did not take her seriously.

Meeting Don King

Don King had a press conference in Los Angeles, and Helga went. She introduced herself as a professional boxer, and King smiled. He invited her to come to Las Vegas to meet him the following weekend. Helga rented a car, drove through the Mojave desert and went to the fights at the Mirage hotel where Chavez was the headliner. Don King and Helga were sitting privately, talking for two hours. She finally asked him, "Are you willing to put two of the best women's boxers on your card?". He sat quietly, thinking for a long time before he answered "Yes, I will do that, send me some tapes of your fights".

Fighting for Top Rank

She never sent Don King the tapes, because right after that she got her first fight with Top Rank on March 4, 1993. This fight was held at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas. Most people had never seen women boxing before so they were stunned and surprised. Helga moved to Las Vegas and continued to box.

Her third fight was showed on national television, and other promoters began to put women boxers on their cards. Don King kept his word and signed up Christy Martin, who is an exciting fighter to watch. Women boxing started to take off seriously.

Historic fights

Since Helga Risoy was one of the first women boxers in the new generation of women boxers she always had to prove to everyone that women should be in the sport of boxing. The commissioner Marc Ratner in Nevada said, "Helga Risoy was the first woman to fight in Las Vegas in almost twenty years, she is one of the true pioneers, she started it all".

She participated in the first professional boxing match for women in Mexico, December 12. 1994. Also she went back to her Scandinavian roots, and fought the first professional women bout in Denmark, October 21. 1995.

Hard road to go…

It was not easy to get fights. After fighting for Top Rank, Helga began to fight for other promoters as well. She was at the gym every day, but no fights. About 90 % of the fights she was promised were cancelled. 

She waited and trained and trained and waited, and it was frustrating and hopeless. Time was running out for Helga, who now had been training and fighting for 20 years. She said in an interview following her last fight, "Both my hands and my right elbow have been bothering me for the last two years. I am now losing to girls that I probably would have easily beaten as an amateur, so it is time for me to " hang them up", for good".

Helga Risoy retired as a boxer in 1997,  but is still living in Las Vegas. She is currently working as an international matchmaker/media coordinator for Emanuel Steward, her former trainer.

Helga Risoy visiting her former training companion Lennox Lewis, and her former trainer Emanuel Steward.  Helga is now working for for Emanuel Steward. To visit Emanuel's website, go to, www.Kronkgym.com 





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