Knight (left) is the whole package. There are others similarly gifted. When will the suits embrace women's boxing?
Since we’re all friends here, I’ll be honest you. I don’t get it. Women’s boxing has been around longer than MMA has been for either men or women, and our ladies still get the shaft for U.S. television dates? Am I missing something? I can’t go more than a month watching the tube without hearing about some lady named Ronda Rousey or one of her cohorts, but I can’t get even get one female boxing match on the tube every now and then? What gives?
As with anything, the first thing I do when I encounter something I don’t understand is turn to my wife, Rachel. While she’s not a boxer herself, she certainly would be considered someone who knows the sport. She spends just as much time traveling around the state to cover fights as I do, and as a photojournalist, her job is infinitely more difficult than mine. Plus, it has been proven on numerous occasions among several key eye witnesses of fine character that she is a lot smarter than me.
“I think it is two things,” she says. “One thing is that female boxers have less opportunity to get matched up well because there are fewer women boxers to choose from. The other thing, though, is that maybe there are people who are uncomfortable seeing women fight. Boxing is violent, and part of me really thinks there are men in the boxing world, men who control things, that I don’t think they really respect women. It is shown over and over again by ring card girls, etc. You see how they’re treated as objects. It’s a difficult transition. As an example, I recently read a boxing article at another website (not TSS) and it was about two women fighters who were weighing in before their fight. They happened to be attractive. The comments below the article, from both the readers and the writers, were all about how attractive they were – crude comments—none of them were about the actual fight.”
Given my marching orders, I wanted to research it a little more. A few Google searches later, I found a wonderful article written by Mitch Abramson of the NY Daily News where he pondered similar sentiments. Refusing to be disheartened by the astoundingly small number of comments under his piece written for such a widely circulated rag, I pressed on to read HBO programming guru Kery Davis offer the following on the topic.
“HBO doesn’t have a set policy or position on women’s boxing,” Davis says. “We continue to look at it, evaluate it and monitor it. When some stars emerge and then you have people that we can actually put those stars in with to develop story lines — once that happens we’ll take a look at it then. But we don’t think we’re at that point yet.”
“I don’t’ even know what that means even…waiting on good storylines? I can’t imagine there aren’t women boxers out there with interesting stories,” she says.
“Besides, I think women’s boxing would be a good opportunity for them to work on just putting on good matches. We don’t need a storyline in boxing. Just focus on the sport and what it is. It would bring more depth to the telecast and to the sport. It would be more authentic. It’d be like what the Duvas do over at Main Events: have a good matchmaker and make good fights. They’ve been really successful doing that.”
I can’t say I disagree with her. It’s because there aren’t any storylines? Really? It’s as if Davis believes he and his team are spinning yarns. Note to Davis: everyone has a story to tell. Everyone. You just need better storytellers.
Still, maybe Rachel and I are both wrong. It has happened on occasion, so I reached out to some other folks, too. First up, was flyweight titlist Ava Knight whose ten round decision win over Mariana Juarez last year was one of the more entertaining fights I saw last year. As usual, the bout was not broadcast in the United States. What does she think of the comment from Davis?
“With a comment like that, it shows that he really doesn't know what is going on with American women boxers. There could be plenty of stars in the sport and many women now are doing very well in other countries. Their definition of a star in the sport could mean anything. With their past featuring Laila Ali and Mia St. John, I can only think they are looking for another playboy bunny or a former stars daughter. I really don't know what they are looking for, because if it is talent, beauty, brains, and flat out guts and heart for the sport, we women already have it.”
Still, it’s not as if it’s the one network that is refusing to broadcast women’s boxing. Why does she think it’s so difficult for highly skilled women fighters to find air time? I mean, a new channel pops up in my channel guide almost every week.
“It is hard, because nobody wants to give us a chance. Promoters don't want to put us on a card or promote us which doesn't make it seem appealing to big TV networks. Not one big promoter in the US has a woman, and that hurts us. Many promoters want to throw us a bone and put a female on their card every now and then, and we have to thank them for it like it was so hard for them to put us on, when in reality, they paid us less than half of a male fight would be for a four round fight and we put on the best fight of the night.”
Honestly, I wonder at this point why she even continues her career. She’s at the pinnacle of her sport, and she seems to have no place to go. Is this what they call the glass ceiling? In any event, I ask her why she fights.
“I box because I love it. I love the feeling I get in the ring and the feeling you get when you win. Nothing in the world beats that. Also, taking part in such a brutal sport, I find that I box for all the girls that are starting to box. I want to be a great role model and become pioneer woman that helps young girls have a chance in the male dominated sport.”
There has to be a way to convince those bigwig TV execs women fighters deserve some air time. I have my own ideas, but I want to know what Ava thinks. How would she convince someone like Davis to give women a chance?
“I would show [HBO] clips of women who fight, women knock outs, women who train and women who advocate for the sport. I would show them for every great male with a talent, there is a female counterpart doing the same thing. We have flashy fighters, fast fighters, fighters with big mouths, and fighters that love to smile…we are just as talented and maybe even more entertaining.”
I can’t say I disagree with Ava either, but I wonder what another world class female fighter might have to say on the matter. Find out next week in part two.