(top photo of Segerdal in 1995)
In my research of women’s boxing, which began in September of 1996, I
came across a gentleman by the name of Alastair Segerdal. Of what I
read about Alastair, he was one of the contributors of women’s boxing in
the late 1970’s and 1980’s. From reading about his adventures of
traveling across the continent to cover women’s boxing, I became
intrigued by this man and, I wanted to find and talk with him about his
involvement in the sport.
Three years later I got the opportunity….
Alastair Segerdal, had come across WBAN on the Internet, and was
surprised to see that I had already paid homage to his contributions and
had a featured story that he had published in 1979 when he covered the
first all-women’s boxing card in the world, where he took photos
of that event.
After we began talking with each other, Alastair sent some
original photos of that "History First" of the all-women’s
boxing card and other photos, that featured many of the top women boxers of the past.
In my Q&A interview, Segerdal told me the following:
TL Fox: When did you first get interested in women’s boxing?
Alastair: In the late 1960s, but maybe even before then when I first
heard about the efforts of Barbara Buttrick.
TL Fox: Which women boxers did you get to know in the past?
Alastair: I knew Cora Webber to the degree that I interviewed both her
and her manager. Same with interviewing Karen Bennett. But the one I
really got to know was Tyger Trimiar and her friend Johnny Dubliss. Tyger
was a great conversationalist and terrific spokeswoman for women's boxing.
She was charismatic and exceptionally articulate in promoting the cause of
women in the ring. I met with her and Johnny on my visits from Britain to
the U.S. and also when I moved to live in America in 1983 with my former
wife (who also supported women's right to box). My last meeting with Tyger
and Johnny was in the mid-eighties in Los Angeles when the editor of
Amazons in Action magazine came over from the U.K. with Sue Atkins to
visit Johnny and Tyger.
Sue and Tyger really hit it off and tried out
friendly sparring and ring techniques (but I wasn't present for this). The
editor may have taken pictures of them both but I'm not sure. Tyger was
terrific fun to be with and extremely sociable. The other boxer I knew
both as a boxer and a good friend was, of course, Sue Atkins. My wife and
I were good friends with Sue and her boyfriend and the editor of the
magazine. From the very start, Sue was a natural in the ring and there was
no other woman in Britain with her skill as a boxer.
TL Fox: How did you meet Sue Atkins, a past woman boxer from London?
Alastair: I met Sue at a women's self-defence club in London. Not
really a gym and only open once a week! It was run by a guy named John
Brochie, and I went there as a sports writer for a story on this guy who
taught women's wrestling. I mentioned boxing to him and several girls at
the club said they'd like to learn boxing--there was no other way or place
they could do so. So he agreed to open his club to boxing as well as
wrestling and I was able to have a friend of mine, Bob Munden, act as
trainer. Munden was an army boxing champ and a terrific coach. One day,
Sue Atkins arrived with her boy friend, having heard about the boxing side
of the club which Brochie now promoted on fliers he distributed.
TL Fox: What was the name of the gym, and can you give me some
background about it?
Alastair: This was in the Earls Court district of London, and Brochie
hired the "gym" once a week. It was in a run down building known
as Philbeach Hall and was build way back in Victorian times, in about 1888
when Jack the Ripper was doing his thing! Please note though—The Ripper
was in London's East End, whereas Philbeach Hall was in west London.
TL Fox: What was your first impression of Sue Atkins when she
began to box?
Alastair: Munden and myself saw at once that Sue was a natural at
boxing and Munden took her on under his wing. She just got better and
better and spared with various girls at the club, none of whom lasted due
to a complete lack of facilities and opportunities for women boxers. But
Sue persisted and I promoted her in articles such as the one in Glove
TL Fox: When was the first time Sue Atkins fought other women in
Alastair: About a year later she boxed a girl in a series of private
bouts (public women's boxing was banned) that took place in a hotel in
Watford, just north of London. It was organized by a German group called
the LGIS and still exists to this day, I believe. It was proper boxing but
unfortunately the German girls boxed topless! However, this was not a
display of "Girlie" or "Foxy" boxing. Sue, of course,
refused to box topless. She fought a girl named Karen Heck and easily won.
In fact, Munden (acting as ref) had to stop the bout because Sue was
knocking the hell out of Karen!
TL Fox: Were you able to take photos of the fight between Sue and
Alastair: I took many Black/white and in-color photos with the help of
my wife for the Amazons in Action magazine (also known as Aggressive Women
TL Fox: What were the reactions by the public about the topless portion
of these events?
Alastair: Being topless, the bouts got awful publicity in one of the
Sunday tabloids, but they at least praised Sue! LGIS is sort of part of
the history of women's boxing, albeit the oddball side.
TL Fox: Do you know the history of why Sue first boxed as Sue Catkins
and then changed it to Sue Atkins?
Alastair: At the time, Munden and I thought we'd try out a boxing name
for Sue and I came up with the name Sue "Cat" Catkins, later cut
back to just Sue Catkins. About a year later (more or less) all three of
us--me, Munden and Sue--decided to scrap Catkins and use her real name of
Atkins. However, for some time the "Catkins" name stuck.
TL Fox: What made you decide to cover the sport in the past?
Alastair: I decided to cover women's boxing in the past because I was
furious with the attitude that women shouldn't be in the ring. I was
especially angry with the ban imposed on women boxers by the London County
Council (LCC) and during the mid-seventies I looked into this with the LCC.
As a writer and reporter I was able to promote the right of women to box,
but at the time attitudes were against it. It seemed like a lost cause. It wasn't
helped by the private club bouts of topless and "girlie" boxing
which the media used as excuse to smear real attempts to get the genuine
sport recognized. I attended one of these events and took pictures for the
Amazon in Action magazine because Sue Atkins took on a girl at the event.
All of the topless ladies were from Germany. Sue, of course, flatly
refused to fight topless. It was then that I decided that the media
attacks were doing for women's boxing what Count Dracula had done for
moonlight walks in Transylvania.
TL Fox: Did you travel very much to cover the sport?
Alastair: Most of my travel to cover the sport was part of travelling
for other work I was covering as a feature writer for U.K. magazines. I
did make one trip from London to California solely for the purpose of
covering the women's boxing in Santa Rosa during April 1980. I came over
with a friend who was trying to raise money to help Johnny Dubliss in his
work as a promoter. After moving to live permanently in the U.S. in 1983,
I made about ten trips to Los Angeles from where I lived in the Okanogan
Valley in Washington state. These visits were also to cover stories for UK
publications. On one of the trips around 1988, I met up again with Tyger
Trimiar and Johnny Dubliss in Los Angeles and nearby Glendale. This trip
was made to greet Sue Atkins who came over from the UK with the editor of
Amazons in Action magazine. Sue and Tyger really made good friends and did
a spot of sparring and other ring work over a two-week period. I did not
cover any of these workouts but saw some of the photos of them both which,
I think, were taken by the editor. Of course, I was already a good friend
of the editor and Sue from the earlier years.
TL Fox: Who was in your opinion the most significant woman boxer from
Alastair: Lady Tyger Trimiar without a doubt.
TL Fox: What was the best women’s boxing match you witnessed in the
Alastair: The best female bout I witnessed was a six-round bout between
Karen Bennett and Shirley "Zebra Girl" Tucker in Santa Rosa,
April 18 1980. The bout was set for twelve 3-minute rounds, but ended in
the sixth with Shirley Tucker the winner. This was for the Women's Boxing
Board (WBB) Bantamweight title. It was held at the Veterans' Memorial
Center in Santa Rosa and promoted by Johnny Dubliss. I was hoping my
favorite boxer, Karen, would win but it was not to be. I did a story on
this with photos under the title of "This was women's boxing at its
very best" for the UK editor's magazine and also for a UK martial
arts magazine, Combat, but they were more keen on kick boxing. I thought
this was the best fight because of the incredible determination shown by
Karen to fight on. It was also a fight with a really good display of ring
craft and boxing skill. The other goods fight I liked was that between
Cora Webber and Squeaky Bayardo on February 11 1979 in Hawthorne, Calif.
Also on the same night, a bout between Tyger Trimiar and and girl whose
name I don't have.
TL Fox: What made you decide to stop covering the sport, and why?
Alastair: I stopped covering the sport live around 1985 due to the high
cost of travel from Washington, but I still covered the sport in terms of
promoting it to papers and magazines. For example, I did a story on Dallas
Malloy but was not at the actual fight itself in Bellingham, Seattle.
TL Fox: What do you think was the most frustrating events that occurred
in the sport in the past?
Alastair: Complete non-recognition of women's boxing, at least in Britain,
almost up to the present day as far as I know. I can only speak of the
1970s period for the U.S. when Tyger Trimiar and Karen Bennett told me
that the main hold back was non-approval of fights by the various state
Athletic Commissions. If they approved of a bout or bouts (as they did in
California for the Hawthorne bouts in Feb 1979), then it went ahead with
no problem. I recall meeting up with Tyger at a L.A. Council meeting where
she was representing women's right to box. I can't recall details of this
meeting however or the result.
The main problem in Britain was the complete lack of recognition of any
sort. However, much of the problem was a lack of women boxers. This was
due to no hope for bouts, so why take up the sport, even as amateurs?
Girls could see no hope so why bother? There was also a great shortage of
gym facilities and a ring was a luxury, the few rings available only to be
found at men's gyms where women were not welcome. Not for
"macho" reasons so much as worry about the status of their gym
if the girls were allowed in to box. You must understand that, right up
recent years in Britain, the whole concept of women in the ring was not
just negative--it could not, and would not be taken seriously by anyone,
that is with the public at large. The reaction was "Women boxers? You
must be joking!" With this sort of attitude prevailing, how could any
girl be expected to take up boxing seriously or even as a
"freak" thing for fun. In other words, the door was shut both
officially and unofficially.
About 1978, I heard about a women's self-defense club in Earls Court,
London, and went to cover it as a story for the local newspaper and a
sports magazine. At the club I mentioned kickboxing and some of the girls said they'd like to try it because martial arts
were all the rage and kick boxing was not banned or looked down upon
because it was regarded as a martial art. Instead, I got the guy who ran
the club to let girls try their hand at conventional boxing and one or two
tried it out as a result. I had a friend of mine, Bob Munden, a former
middleweight champ in the U.K. armed forces, stand in as a trainer. He did
a terrific job, but the only girl to emerge as a viable boxer was Sue
Atkins (ring name Catkins). The problem was, however, that Sue became so
dedicated and good that there was no real challenger, although this
changed after 1979 when one or two other girls took her on.
reason the bouts took place was due to them being staged privately. Public
fights were banned in London and most of Britain. I used this club as a
focus for my writing articles for newspapers and magazine, all designed to
promote the cause of women's boxing. One result of this was that BBC
Television decided to do a program on Sue and the club. Sue and I were the
chief spokespersons on the program which showed the pathetic building the
club had to use. It was hired out to us just one day a week.
was the BBC's "Pebble Mill" TV show and had nationwide showing
at prime time. The secretary of the British Amateur Boxing Association
(THE ABA) appeared on the show and made a complete fool of himself by
saying that there was no place for women in the ring but they were welcome
outside the ring selling peanuts and programs!! He said that women were
involved with boxing in a way because "Let's not forget that every
male boxer has a mum!" This remark cause viewers to crack up in
laughter. It did more to demonstrate the absurdity of banning women's
boxing than any previous remarks! The ABA secretary's words were so silly
he was doing women's boxing a favor without knowing it!