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It is Monday, January 23, 1978, and in the Minneapolis Auditorium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, history is being made.  Minnesota's first professional women's boxing match is being featured as a preliminary event on an otherwise all male fight card. The purse for each of the women is $125.00. "Ladies and gentlemen, in this corner, fighting in the junior welter-weight class of the World Women's Boxing Association, Sue "KO" Carlson of Minneapolis, Minnesota." The ring announcer drones on. "and in this corner, Bonnie Prestwood of Muncie Indiana, defending her 4-0 record."

It is Saturday, March 31, 1979 in San Antonio, Texas. This time the fight card features Sue "KO" Carlson, now the World Women's Boxing Association's Lightweight Champion and Lady Tyger Trimiar, New York. 

By this time "The Champ" has an overall 8-3 record including 3 knockouts. The purse for this match has now reached the sum of $1,000.00 for each participant, according to information obtained in an interview with Sue by Jim Hutton of "The News," a San Antonio newspaper.

However, Texans took to the sport of women's boxing almost immediately and Sue was to return there on several other occasions during her nearly ten year ring career.

Susan Carlson was born in Brainerd, Minnesota on October 23, 1957.  She grew up and attended schools in Brainerd, graduating with honors from Brainerd High School in 1976, the year of our country's bi-centennial. Sue is the fourth child in a family of eight children.

She has two older brothers, whom she jokingly suggests she could have gotten along without, and an older sister, Ginni, whom she describes as her anchor. The rest of her siblings are younger than she and when her parents divorced during Sue's junior high school years, these younger brothers and sisters went to live with their mother, while Sue and the older children lived with their father.

Sue's father had his first heart attack at the age of thirty-eight, and another at the age of forty. These were extremely difficult times for Sue. She was not able to see her father while he was in the hospital because she was "too young", and living apart from her mother and the younger children left some empty spaces in her life.  Her father died in February of 1976, just three and a half months before Sue graduated-- with honors.

After graduation Sue left the Brainerd area and moved to Mankato, MInnesota while she was deciding what she wanted to do. She had always enjoyed writing during her school years and ultimately decided that she wanted to continue her education at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. She enrolled as a freshman majoring in English in the fall of 1976 to study journalism.

It was while she was at the University, and working in an area restaurant, that she first met Bill Paul. Bill was a former Air Force Heavyweight Champion who was in the process of establishing a women's boxing group at the University. He came into the restaurant where Sue was working one evening and asked her if she would like to become a fighter. Knowing of no boxing program for women in the state, she was mildly amused and wondered if such a thing really existed, or whether he was just talking. However, when he returned the next day and repeated his offer, she said, "I decided to take the bull by the horns." "I just did it, and I was having fun." Bill Paul became her coach and trainer and in the spring of 1977 they and others formed the World Women's Boxing Association.  FULL STORY ON THIS HISTORICAL EVENT.

This brings us back to "square one" and the history making event of January 23, 1978. From here the chronology of Sue's boxing career covers a period of approximately nine years in locations such as Pensacola, Florida; Nassau, The Bahamas; Winnepeg, Canada; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Topeka, Kansas; Seattle, Washington; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Nevada and several appearances in Texas and Oklahoma.

Larry Holmes and Don King. Sue has also met Sylvester Stallone when he was working on his first "Rocky" film. She has had a victory celebration in Frank Sinatra's Players' Club and stayed there while she was in Florida for a fight.

A significant spin off from Sue's career involved a photograph taken of her in the traditional victory pose, with gloved hands raised over her head. This photo was entered in a national competition and won first place for composition, not only because of Sue's pose, but also because the ringside spectators, all men, are showing facial expressions of genuine enjoyment and approval as they are observing a woman who has achieved success in a traditionally male sporting event.

With all this in mind the decision to retire was not an easy one. Her decision was based largely on the fact that there were virtually no controls on the game. When she announced her retirement just prior to her final bout in Florida, her then manager who was actually in Texas at the time, became angered and cancelled her hotel room and return flight reservations, leaving her stranded, to spend the night in the home of one of the fight promoters. She has never been paid for that fight up to the time of this writing, and her understanding of the situation is that the FBI is still looking for that person in connection with his dealings in the boxing world.

Since retiring from boxing Sue is now managing a  restaurant and living near Monticello, Minnesota. 

 When Sue began her boxing career her mother made for her the robe that she wore into the ring. That robe, as well as her boxing uniform and shoes, her boxing license, and several photographs, now belongs to the Minnesota Historical Society, which is in the process of preparing an exhibit of these items.

Sue is currently active in child welfare programs. Her restaurant began a special program two years ago that provides toys for disadvantaged children at Christmas. They sell a stocking for $5.00 and then fill it with toys to be delivered to children in time for Christmas. This past season they collected enough money to buy three bicycles along with the many smaller items that were provided. She has been asked to serve on the Advisory Board of Toys for Tots in the Monticello area.

Sue lives an alternative life style with her friend of six years, and her friend's two sons. She is contented and doing what she wants to do. So you see this quiet, confident young woman has achieved some important goals in her life. Perhaps that is why she is quiet and unassuming. Few of her current acquaintances know of her glory days in the ring. She doesn't have to "toot her own horn." Her record speaks for itself.

(This was an excerpt from a  bio that was submitted by Sue Carlson's Aunt who had written this March 31, 1997 for a school project- Jan Goehtz Introduction to Women's Studies-WMST 201- Vicky Blakesly)


1/25/78 - Minneapolis, MN
Bonnie Prestwood, IN, Win4, Unanimous Decision, Prestwood 124 1/2  Carlson 127

3/27/78 - St. Paul, MN, 
Mary Kudla, MN, Loss4, Kudla 134,Carlson 129

5/12/78 - Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Belinda Buckley, IL, Win10
(Ladies Southern Featherweight Title), Buckley 125  Carlson 127

5/27/78 - Bloomington, MN, Anita Howard, MN, Win 3 (exhibition), Howard 120 Carlson 127

10/2/78 - Grand Forks, ND, 
Toni Harris, IL, Won by a KO 7 (scheduled 10) Harris 130  Carlson 131

3/31/79 - San Antonio, TX (World Title bout)
Lady Tyger Trimiar, NY, Loss10 (title defense)  Trimiar 135   Carlson 135

8/31/79 - Freeport/Lucaya, Grand Bahamas  
Sylvia Ruiz, TX   Win6 Ruiz 134   Carlson 137

11/2/79 - Houston, TX, 
Yvonne Barkley
, NY, Loss (KO'ed in 5 of scheduled 10) Barkley 134  Carlson 135 1/2

9/1981 - Seattle, WA
in the first women’s scheduled 15-round professional fight against #2 ranked Tammy Jensen,  Sue Won by a  KO 3 in a scheduled 15 round fight. 

Documented Record from "The WBB Glove" as of June 1981

SUE "K.O." CARLSON, was a 5-foot-9, muscular 134-pounder started her boxing career in 1978 at the age of 20.   CARLSON who was the world lightweight champion in 1978, lost her bid for a second straight lightweight crown in 1979 to Lady Tyger Trimiar.

CARLSON was working in a restaurant to supplement her income as a boxer. CARLSON's fight record according to news sources was 9-3, including three knockouts. One of her losses was to Yvonne Barkley, who knocked her out in a 10-round fight in Houston early in 1980. CARLSON had stopped boxing after that fight. After about a year off, she again started boxing.  

CARLSON defended her super-lightweight world title in September of 1981 in the first women’s scheduled 15-round professional fight against #2 ranked Tammy Jensen, (photo is of Tammy Jensen in the Blue pants, and Sue) of Seattle. The fight was  sponsored by the Women’s World Boxing Association (WWBA), that was at that time on the verge of collapse. The prize money was more that $1,000.   CARLSON knocked Jensen out in the third round.


She worked out in the Olympia gym in South Minneapolis.   She trained six days a week, jumping rope daily, doing 200 pushups, 200 situps, and running several miles. She also started a body building program using weights to increase her strength and speed. She was one of a few south paw fighters at the time.  CARLSON has had her nose broken twice. 





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