Jackie Tonawanda, dubbed "the Female Ali" Born Jackie Garrett in New York on
Sept. 4, 1933, was a pioneer female heavyweight boxer from the 1970s
Tonawanda was a well-known figure in the sport and was featured in many
newspaper articles and magazines.
Ms. Tonawanda, along with Lady Tyger Trimiar, and Cathy "Cat" Davis were
issued boxing licenses in New York, after Davis went a legal battle with
pursuing being licensed in that State.
Tonawanda, although she only had one professional female bout against Diane
Clark in a six-round fight in 1979, and losing that fight---she is
definitely one of the pioneers that paved the way for female boxers of the
The fights that she proclaimed to have won which her record changed from
news article to news article she said were "underground" unsanctioned
fights. There are no opponents named in any of the fights claimed in
the record that she told the media in regards to her undefeated [reported by
her solely] ranged from 36-0 to 23-0.
But regardless of her lack of pro fights in the sport she did demonstrated
her strenght and power in the gym.
It has been reported on one news website that she trained with the likes of
Freddy Brown, Charley Golman and Rollie Hackmer. Tonawanda also
had an opportunity to meet up with Muhammad Ali at his camp, and there were
photos of her in the news with her being the "female Ali". She also
got a chance to spar with Ali in the ring.
On June 8, 1975, Jackie made history in the
Aaron Bank’s Oriental World of Self Defense show held in Madison Square
Garden, when she knocked out in the second round, Larry Rodania. She was the
first female to box in Madison Square Garden.
Tonawanda was a positive role model for others. Her life time
had been spent guiding others in the sport of boxing as identified in the
following: coach for the military boxing team, co- trainer/adviser for
Israel Carlos Garcia – a heavyweight contender; adviser to Jackie Frasier,
WIBF and WIBA Light Heavyweight Title holder, as well as other upcoming
fighters such as, Veronica Simmons and Keisha Snow. She continued to mentor
numerous other people.
She was also the first female boxer to become
a member of Ring 8, the Veterans Boxing Association, and inducted into their
Hall of Fame, as well as, Madison Square Garden’s Hall of Fame.
When Tonawanda was not in the ring, outside the ring she gave motivational
talks to youngsters, and lent her voice to state campaigns, charitable
causes such as Athletes Against Drunk Driving, of New York. She was also
well known for her assistance with Lloyd Williams at Harlem’s Uptown Chamber
On June 8, 2001, at the Turning Stone Casino for the Laila Ali vs. Jacqui
Frazier bout, Tonawanda made a brief televised appearance to speak with one
of the commentator of the pay-per-view event.
The commentator introduced Tonawanda as "The" pioneer of women's
boxing. The commentator also said of Tonawanda that her
boxing record was 36-1 (36KO). Tonawanda nodded in
agreement. Tonawanda on a later date clarified that her record
was unsanctioned underground fighting. Her pro record stands at 0-1-0.
On June 12, 2001, sports writer Carol Ann Weber
reported to WBAN the following: "I met Jackie
Tonawanda at the Women's Sports Foundation press conference held the morning before the Awards Banquet last year, Oct. 16. She waited until after the press conference and then began proclaiming who she was. So, I walked over and offered to interview her and provide some publicity for her. After she told me she was the first woman boxer, the pioneer, the female Ali, etc. I asked her questions about her life and her career. She immediately said she couldn't offer me any information because she had a book deal on her life and couldn't tell me any details. At that point, I got up and walked away, as I didn't want to waste any more of my
time," said Weber.
On June 9, 2009, Tonawanda lost her one last
battle when she died of Colon Cancer at Harlem's Mount Sinai Hospital.
# # # #
DOCUMENTATION: On August 31, 2002, WBAN
was told by one of our correspondents that Tonawanda told persons at the Harlem Exhibition that
took place on August 10, 2002 that her 31 boxing record was from
"Underground" fighting. This in essence is how we were able
to finally set the record straight in regards to her professional boxing
September 26, 1976- New York Times
Title: "The Female Muhammad Ali Meets Idol
by Margaret Roach -Excerpt:
Miss Tonawanda, who has won 31 bouts, 13 by knockouts, has
received substantial publicity since she filed a suit against the New York
State Athletic Commission seeking a license to box in New York. Miss
Tonawanda, managed by Alex Karras, says she has been offered the chance to
fight Mike Quarry "in the Astrodome in Texas, four months from now,
in a 10-round bout. After that, I'll really be in demand," she
said. Like Ali, Miss Tonawanda makes predictions about the
outcome of her bouts. About the proposed Quarry matchup: "He
won't be able to touch me. I have a lot of confidence in myself.
But there will be no knockouts, either. He's a good
fighter." "I want to settle down soon and have
children." she said. "I am 28, and I have to think about
starting a family soon." And her fiancée's plans seem to be right
in line with Miss Tonawanda's "After the Quarry fight," he said,
"I want her to retire."
May, 1976 - For the Cause of Women's Boxing - Boxing Illustrated
"The only fights she (Tonawanda) has been
able to get to date have been mostly exhibition matches
in other states, plus a few pro fights where the licensing of
fighters is not as strict as it is in New York."
Dec. 25, 1974 - Woman Boxer (23-0) is Suing for a
License, Won't Fight Men, New York Times
"I've been fighting for 12 years, only against
women," said the 5-foot-9-inch, 175-pounder, "I've had 23
fights and won them all-three by
Variations of Tonawanda's record from News report to report:
Variation: 36-1 (36KO) ;
Variation: 23-0 (3KO);
Variation: 31-0 (13 KO);
Variation: Few Pro Fights