Kickboxing has always been publicized as a ring sport perfect for women. That’s why so many female boxers practiced it before switching to the noble art. Most of these girls just followed kickboxing classes, but others decided to make it a career and went as far as winning world titles. Some kickboxing champions made it big in boxing as well. Among these oustanding athletes capable of getting to the top in two ring sports are Bonnie Canino, Regina Halmich and Lucia Rijker. They made an impact in female boxing history for different reasons and everybody knows them in at least two continents (America and Europe). Of course, other athletes were as good as they were, but never became so wellknown. Kathy Collins, for example, became world champion in kickboxing and boxing. In New York she is still so popular that Gleason’s Gym owner Bruce Silvergrade put her photo next to those of Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. But how many people know Kathy Collins outside the United States? On the other hand, Bonnie Canino and Regina Halmich are very famous. But none of them is as famous as Lucia Rijker. “The Dutch Destroyer” was brave enough to fight a man, in a muay thai match held in Amsterdam! Lucia lost, but she had the guts to try and not many people thought she would have been knocked out. Even in Thailand and Japan, the ring sports fans know who Lucia Rijker is.

Bonnie Canino

I met her during the summer of 2001 in Florida, when an Italian who lived in Fort Lauderdale brought me to visit her gym located in Dania. She was very professional in answering to all my questions and in posing for some photos with her championship belts. In 2002, I was back in Florida and I interviewed her for a fitness magazine about her aeroboxing program and the diet she promoted for the average girl who went to her gym. During both meetings, I understood why she was more popular than other champions who had a much longer boxing career; Bonnie realized the importance of the media and learned how to use every form of communication. She had prepared a sheet with her record in both kickboxing and boxing, a list of her participations to various television and radio shows, and she put on her computer a video with images of her best fights. She was also good enough to answer to every question I asked and showed me her gym as might a consummate public relations executive. In kickboxing, Bonnie compiled a record of 33 wins (12 KOs) and 4 losses. She became world featherweight champion for WAKO and KICK. In boxing, she won 15 times (6 KOs) and lost 4. Bonnie’s biggest moment came on August 2, 1997 in Biloxi (Mississippi) when she beat Beverly Szymanski on points for the IFBA world featherweight belt. After ten spectacular rounds Bonnie got a decision an all scorecards (98-92, 98-93 and 97-92). That win turned Canino into an immediate star and she appeared on ABC, ESPN, Sports Channel and Sunshine Network. As she told me many times, kickboxing never provided so much publicity. On September 17, 1999 Bonnie KOed Natasha Abdul in Panama City (Panama) and then retired. Later, Canino became a respected trainer, turning one of her female students into a boxing champion. (I’m talking about Ada Velez.) Between 1999 and 2004, Ada Velez compiled a record of 14 wins (6 KOs), 2 losses and 2 draws. She won the IBA and WIBA bantamweight titles and the WIBA super bantamweight belt. On June 4, 2004 Bonnie got back in the ring and lost to IBA lightweight champion Chevelle Hallback by 4th round TKO. That was her final ring battle.

Regina Halmich

She is another example of how much kickboxing is ignored by the media and corporate sponsors. Regina became German and European kicboxing champion and nobody paid her any attention. On June 10, 1995 in her native Karlsruhe (Germany), she won a split decision against Kim Messer for the WIBF world flyweight belt and became a star. Since then, Regina won three more world championships: WIBF light flyweight, WIBF and IWBF super flyweight. She compiled a record of 49 wins (15 KOs), 1 loss and 1 draw. Her accomplishments turned her into the biggest star of German boxing. Yes, the biggest. Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, Dariusz Michalchewski, Nicolay Valuev were all born abroad. Regina is 100% German and has fought 41 world title bouts in ten years with a record of 39-1-1. In 1995, she lost by 4th round TKO at the hands of Yvonne Trevino. In 2004, Regina got a controversial draw against Elena Reid. Each judge scored it in a different way: one judge had ir 97-93 for “Baby Doll” Reid, another scored the bout 98-94 for Halmich, and the third judge saw it as a 97-97 draw. This situation led to a rematch on December 3, 2005 in Magdeburg (Germany). The second time, Halmich got an unanimous decision: 96-94, 97-93 and 96-94. Regina’s dominance of three divisions in ten years is due in part to the situation of female boxing, which is even more confusing than its male counterpart. The women who are real professionals are so scarce that in some divisions it is difficult to compile a top ten list. In fact, it’s possible to fight for the world title after less than ten matches. Many champions have a record full of KO wins because they face ladies who retire after a couple of bouts. In such a mess, it was easier for Regina Halmich to keep on top than it would have been for any male world champion. To Regina’s credit, it must be said that she improved the quality of her challengers in recent years. She fought experienced opponents like Viktoria Pataki, Delia Gonzalez, Alina Shaternikova, Nadja Loritz, Daisy Lang, Elena Reid, Hollie Dunaway and Maria Jesus Rosa. Anyway, what counts is that Regina Halmich remained at the top  and was rewarded with good purses and a lot of attention by the media and sponsors. She starred in commercials and was even hired to pose for the German edition of Playboy (you can see the photos on her website). They even organized a match for he ragainst a television anchorman that most people wanted to see beaten up by a woman. That’s what Regina did, becoming even more famous in the process. Of course, we don’t consider that exhibition something serious. In fact, it doesn’t appear in Regina’s official record. Anyway, it contributed to make Halmich an even more colorful character. 

Lucia Rijker

As a kickboxer, she compiled a record of 36-0 and won four world titles. In boxing, she built a record of 17-0 (14 KOs) and won three world championships. These few lines are enough to understand that Lucia Rijker is the greatest female fighter of all time. Her accomplishments were noticed by the entertainment industry. Director Katya Bankowski used Lucia’s story in the documentary “Shadow Boxers,” which won many awards in festivals across the world. Lucia also decided to pursue the acting career playing in “Rollerball” and in the Oscar winning movie “Million Dollar Baby.”

Kickboxing

She defeated top rated competitors in Europe, Asia and America earning the nicknames of “Dutch Destroyer” and “Most dangerous woman in the world.” Lucia stopped Danielle Rocard in 15 seconds, Lily Rodriguez and Ann Holmes in 30 seconds, Nancy Joseph in three rounds and Valerie Henin in four rounds. On October 6, 1985 in Amsterdam Lucia gave an impressive beating to Cheryl Wheeler, breaking her nose. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but after that points loss Wheeler choose to retire. Rijker also won on points against Bonnie Canino.

Boxing

Between 1996 and 1999, Lucia won 14 consecutive bouts against top competitors on major cards held throughout the United States and twice in Rotterdam (Holland). Then she retired for three years. When Rijker decided to come back, she fought one match a year (in 2002, 2003 and 2004) adding three wins to her record. The following are the most important moments in Lucia Rijker’s boxing career:

On November 20, 1997 in Los Angeles she defeated Jeanette Witte (3rd round TKO) for the WIBF super lightweight belt.

On September 26, 1998 at Mohegun Sun Casino “The Dutch Destroyer” added the WIBO super lightweight title to her collection stopping Marcela Eliana Acuna in five rounds.

On May 20, 2004 at Amsterdam Arena (Holland) Lucia beat on points Deborah Fettkether for the IFBA welterweight championship.

The fight versus a man

Lucia Rijker was the only female fighter brave enough to challenge a man. It happened on October 1994, at Sporthalle Zuid in Amsterdam (Holland): she was KOed in two rounds by muay thai artist Somchai Jaidee.

Million Dollar Lady

Lucia Rijker challenged Christy Martin many times. They had reached an agreement to fight in a million dollar match, with $250,000 guaranteed to both competitors and an extra $750,000 going to the winner. It was scheduled for July 30, 2005. An injury forced the Dutch superstar to withdraw. The battle wasn’t postponed, but canceled for good. Maybe the ticket sales were low; nobody knows for sure. What is certain is that every fan would have loved to see the best American female boxer ever (Martin) against the world’s best ever (Rijker). At this point, with Lucia focused on her acting career and other businesses like her book “Million Dollar Babe” (available only in Dutch language), it’s likely that that superfight will never take place.