A Salute to Women Boxers – “I hate the term ‘Women’s Boxing.’ This isn’t a team sport. It’s not Basketball. It’s not Baseball. It’s not a Book Club. It’s comprised of freelancers—athletes, coaches, managers, cut men, officials—and gender should have nothing to do with it. So, as far as I’m concerned, there’s only good boxing and bad boxing. Personally, I like good boxing.” Jill Diamond, (NABF news.com 2012)
On June 6, 2013, in the absence of anything more definitive and because I have always been an avid follower of Women’s Boxing, I decided to create a Virtual Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame (see: http://www.boxing.com/a_womens_boxing_hall_of_fame.html ). To my knowledge at the time, there was no such place exclusively reserved for women – virtual or otherwise, although undefeated Lucia “The Dutch Destroyer” Rijker (who was 54-0 as both a professional kick boxer and boxer) became the first female to be inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in October 2009.
My effort was quickly eclipsed by the real thing when the Woman Boxing Archive Network (WBAN), under the inspiring leadership of Sue “Tiger Lilly” Fox, proposed a Women’s International Boxing Hall of Fame in late 2013 and then legendary boxer Barbara “The Mighty Atom of the Ring” Buttrick inaugurated it in 2014.
A board of eight people involved in various aspects of the sport voted in the first-ever class which was announced on April 14 as follows:
Christy Martin Salter
In 2015, the following were inducted:
In 2016, the following were inducted:
Giselle Salandy (posthumous)
Lady Tyger Trimiar
Other female fighters that might get a call from the IWBHF one of these days include Giselle “Magic” Salandy (2000-2008-posthoumous), Jessica “ Raging” Rakoczy (2000-2013), Mary Jo Sanders (2003-2008), Natascha “Sledgehammer” Ragosina (2004- 2009), Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm (2002-2013), Ina Menzer (2004-2013), Jenifer Alcorn (1999)-2013), and Mia “The Knockout” St. John (1997-current),
While there were several top notch female boxers in the 1970s and ‘80s including Cathy “Cat” Davis, Lady Tyger Trimiar and Jackie Tonawanda, female boxing really didn’t get traction until the 1990s when Christy “The Coal Miner’s Daughter” Martin broke the walls down. This boxing pioneer was already a multi-world champ (and 34-2-2 coming in) when she met “Dangerous” Deirdre Gogarty from County Louth, Ireland on the undercard of Tyson-Bruno II at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in 1996.
A Salute to Women Boxers The Explosion: Gogarty vs. Martin
“Not only was the bout between…Martin and…Gogarty…more competitive than the typical prelim, but it had more action and better boxing than the main event…and there was gore to boot, all of it Martin’s. After Gogarty rocked her in the second round Martin bled wildly from the nose; it was a harmless injury, but eye opening for the fans who were expecting Foxy Boxing.”—Richard Hoffer (Sports Illustrated)
“She [Christy Martin] was an athlete who was technically very good, had learned the craft and fought with a lot of spirit and toughness, so her fights were very exciting.…And unlike many or most of the women who she apparently inspired, she was O.K. with getting hit in the face.”—Larry Merchant
The Martin-Gogarty fight, staged on March 16, 1996, was televised by Showtime. It was a gory and brutal fight that would provide an indelible memory for the millions who watched it and it would steal the show.
Christy Martin’s signature color was pink: pink shorts, pink robe, and even pink boots at times but not on this night. By the second round, blood gushed from Martin’s nose onto her pink trunks and became a target for Gogarty’s accurate jab and by the fourth, both fighters were going after each other like carpenters pounding on nails. While the courageous Deirdre had problems with Christy‘s fierce body attack that featured perfectly leveraged shots and incoming bobbing and weaving pressure ala Mike Tyson, she responded brilliantly and was still on her feet at the end of a rousing and fierce war that supercharged female boxing more than any other single event.
The fight made the cover of many magazines including Sports Illustrated. Fans of women’s boxing called it the female version of the “Thrilla in Manilla.” Women’s Sports and Fitness magazine said the fight “ripped down the cutesy veil that had relegated women to the foxy-boxing fringes of the sport.’” The perceived “cutesy” had been replaced by no-nonsense, blood-spattering fury. Oh yes, Martin won by a six-round decision moving her record to 29-1-2. Enjoy the highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFrd2oIZcjE
Reportedly, Tyson was guaranteed $30 million for his rematch with Bruno. Christy Martin was paid $15,000. Her next purse reportedly was $ 75,000 and there would be bigger ones down the line. “It was the most profitable bloody nose in boxing history,” she said. Later, her profitable contract with promoter Don King provided a showcase for her considerable skills often on the undercards of promotions featuring Tyson.
After that landmark fight, Deirdre — who many called “The Girl on the Undercard”– lived up to her longstanding nickname of “Dangerous” by winning her next six, five by first round KO. She then challenged future Hall of Famer Bonnie Canino for the Women’s International Boxing Federation featherweight championship and became a champion by winning the fight on a ten round decision. She defended her title twice before losing it to Beverly Szymanski in a 1998 ten round decision. A shoulder injury contributed to this loss and to the end of her short but brilliant career.
“Her legacy is that she is the best technical, scientific fighter in women’s boxing history,” says her long-time coach Beau Williford. “She gave it all that she had every second of every round she ever fought.” Ireland’s Olympic gold medalist Katie Taylor added “You need heroes growing up and she was definitely one of mine…It’s boxers like her that have paved the way for the likes of us. I don’t think women’s boxing would be where it is today without the likes of Deirdre Gogarty.”
As for Martin, a victim and survivor of unimaginable domestic violence, she was one of the most exciting and compelling female boxers of all time. Her record was an old school 49-7-3 and 31 of her 49 wins came as a result of knockouts. Martin is also known for her two rousing fights against Mia St John (49-14-2). While she never did have the highly anticipated showdown with fellow force Lucia Rijker, she did lose badly to Laila Ali in 2003, but then pretty much everybody lost to Ali..
Significantly, the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame will have its first woman inductee when Christy highlights the 11-person class at the July 30 ceremony in Las Vegas.
There are many current boxers who, by their active status, fall outside those awaiting the call and those already in. These include but are not limited to Cecilia “First Lady” Braekhus, Hanna “La Amazona” Gabriels, Layla “Amazing” McCarter, Jessica “Kika Chavez, Anabel Ortiz, Delfine Persoon, Ibeth Zamora Silva, Eileen “The Hawaiian Mongoose” Olszewski, Amanda “The Real Deal” Serrano, Cindy “Checkmate” Serrano, Melissa “The Shark “Hernandez, Melissa “Mighty” McMorrow, Jelena Mrdjenovich, Christina Hammer, Diana Prazak, Anne-Sophie Mathis, Ji-Hyun Park, Yesica “Tuti” Bopp, Yesica “La Leona” Marcos, Mariana Juarez, Zulina Munoz, Jackie Nava, Anne Sophie Mathis, Susianna Kentikian, Soledad Matthysse, Marcela Eliana Acuna and many, many more. Skillful fighters like these have raised the bar considerably.
The significance of McCarter vs. Hernandez
As barriers are breached, additional participants will be inducted into more Halls like the one in Nevada. Others will include the Amateur Athletic World Hall of Fame Museum, the World Boxing Hall of Fame, various state boxing Halls of Fame, and Halls in other countries. In this connection, Holly Holm was inducted into the New Mexico Boxing Hall of Fame in June 2013 long with Bob Foster, Johnny Tapia, Danny Romero, and Austin Trout. Carley Batey, the first Women’s All-Armed Forces champion and current professional boxer, was inducted into the All Marine Boxing Hall of Fame in 2016.
Hopefully, this will end any notion that women’s boxing is about two fighters flailing away at each other in an amateurish manner. Since the late ‘90’s, that notion has been replaced by the spectacle of well-trained technical stylists who have a firm grasp of the fundamentals and who know precisely what they are doing at all times while in the ring.
In the future, it will be up to the promoters to restore this exciting dimension of boxing to its rightful place and include female bouts on prime venues as was once the case. In this connection, adding the Layla “Amazing” McCarter (37-13-5) vs. Melissa “Huracan” Hernandez (22-6-3) as an undercard attraction, albeit an untelevised one, to the Deontay Wilder vs. Chris Arreola face-off in Birmingham, Alabama on July 16 was the right path to take. McCarter, a veteran of 55 fights is as good as it gets and is now 3-1 against the rugged Huracan.
On another note, Sugar Shane Mosley’s Gobox Promotions brought women’s boxing back to US PPV for the first time in over a decade by featuring IFBA champion Maureen Shea and IBF champion Yulihan Alejandra Luna Avila in a unification fight.
The women deserve these showcases and so do the fans.
Ted Sares is one of the world’s oldest active power lifters and holds several records. He enjoys writing about boxing.