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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 and 1980s.

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 present.

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 of Commerce.

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 career.
 

 
 

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 - by Bill Sinclair-Excerpt:  "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 -Excerpt: "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 knockout."     

 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 

 
     
     
     
     

 

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