We asked noted boxing buffs to share their thoughts on the subject of women’s boxing. We posed this question: “Women’s boxing seems to be surging. How do you feel about this dimension of boxing and who is your favorite active or retired female boxer (if anyone)?” The results of the survey are appearing in two parts. Part One was published on July 7. Here’s Part Two (L-W).
ARNE LANG-TSS editor-in-chief: The only women’s sport that rivets me is Olympic figure skating, but if I were younger I might be more open-minded. I’m a fan of Hanna Gabriels because I’ve gotten to know her a little and have observed her in the gym. She’s legit; dedicated to the sport and a solid all-around athlete. Too bad Hanna was in her mid-30s when Claressa Shields (12 years younger) caught up with her. In my mind, the age gap was the major factor in determining how the match played out.
RON LIPTON-world class boxing referee, former fighter, boxing historian, retired police officer: I have been honored to have refereed some amazing female title and non-title bouts and my admiration for the female boxers is something I pass on to all my boxing students in college. I have refereed Alicia Napolean, Ronica Jeffrey, Jackie Trevilino, Lindsay Garbatt, Baby Nansen, Olivia Gerula, Sylvia Szabados, Mikaela Mayer, Natalie Gonzalez, Kimberly Tomes, Jennifer Woodward and Natalie Davila. The courage and fighting spirit they displayed outshined many men I have refereed. My favorite female fighter is Ann Wolfe (24-1) who had power in both hands, trained hard and came to fight and knock you cold. She had that killer instinct and her knockout of Vonda Ward says it all. She pounded a tire with a sledgehammer and had great arms and shoulders. Annie went at it hard with male fighters in sparring in the gym and she was feared and respected, no one wanted to fight her. She had that hard bark on her and I loved it; she was a force.
SCOOP MALINOWSKI-boxing writer, author, “Mr. Biofile”: Not a big fan of watching women’s boxing but respect all who do it. I just don’t like to see women beating each other up; something about it bothers me. I would prefer it if the fights were much shorter like three rounds and 1:30 per round. The most impressive female boxer to me was Lucia Rijker, not only a great fighter but also very intelligent and such an interesting interview. I still remember being awed by her perceptions about Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson in 2002 which are part of my book about the fight, Heavyweight Armageddon, and her insights before Lewis vs Vitali Klitschko. She could make an excellent TV analyst if given the opportunity. Respect to all women who love boxing and train hard. I just hope none ever get seriously hurt.
LARRY MERCHANT–journalist, HBO boxing commentator emeritus; 2009 IBHOF inductee: Lucia Rijker, the Dutch dynamo, a fierce combination puncher and competitor. I felt sorry for her opponents. If memory serves, Bob Arum tried to make a big event match between her and Laila Ali, the gifted daughter of Muhammed Ali, but it fell through. Women have put on crowd-pleasing fights, but it seems that there is a ceiling on interest in them. That said, now is not never. A film about a woman boxer, Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby,” won an Academy Award.
PAUL MAGNO-boxing writer and boxing official in Mexico: When Claressa Shields first turned pro, I said that she could make some waves and generate some money. I was laughed at. Depth has always been an issue. Even in the “golden” era of Christy Martin, Laila Ali, and Lucia Rijker, the growth of female boxing was limited, not only by the inherent sexism prevalent in the business, but also by the lack of quality, high-end fighters to challenge the stars. Right now, there’s more depth and a higher overall skill level than ever before. Plus, I’d like to think that maybe we’re more open minded these days. Down in the ultra-macho boxing environment of Mexico, women’s boxing has already won its battle for legitimacy and fans treat female fights with a similar level of interest and excitement as “regular” men’s boxing. When I first moved here, I was surprised to see men crowded around a TV in a cantina, screaming while watching the fights, like on most Saturday nights—And it was “La Barbie,” Mariana Juarez, fighting on the screen. There was no difference in the audience enthusiasm than if it was a Marquez or a Chavez fighting.
HAMILTON NOLAN-boxing writer: My favorite female boxer is Heather Hardy (who goes to my gym).
MARY ANN OWEN-photojournalist: Women’s boxing is not surging and does not have a deep pool of fighters. Also, the 2-minute round should be lengthened to 3 minutes. It will surge when women are included on all undercards. TV exposure is also great in building up a fan base. The heroes of women’s boxing are Katie Taylor and Clarissa Shields. Oh yes, my husband manages a female fighter.
JOE PASQUALE-elite judge and recent NJ Boxing Hall of Fame inductee: All success in sports depend on charismatic and dominating champions like Ann Wolfe
JACQUIE RICHARDSON-Executive Director of the Retired Boxers Foundation: Every effort was made early on to make women’s boxing more attractive. Pretty girls in pink comes to mind. That didn’t cut it. Then legendary boxers’ daughters, most of whom fought the proverbial tomato cans, some of whom had NO records, i.e., the corrections officer from Detroit who had only started boxing six weeks earlier. No amateur or professional fights. She fought Laila Ali on Showtime in China. I was there. Finally, things are changing. We have much better female boxers fighting much better opponents. All this time, I think Layla McCarter is the best female boxer. She has fought really good opponents. She is fast and versatile and is a real boxer. She is dedicated to professional boxing. While Pretty Girls and girls with famous fathers were given opportunities, Layla never had those superficial advantages. I think she is better than Claressa Shields because Layla has had more time in developing and improving her craft. Layla deserves a big opportunity before it’s too late. Alex Ramos, the founder of our organization, thinks she’s the best female boxer out there, based on her skills and her dedication to the sport of boxing and not just to women’s boxing.
FRED ROMANO-author, historian and former HBO researcher: Women’s boxing has benefitted in recent years by women’s MMA and fan favorites such as Gina Carano and Ronda Rousey. People are beginning to take notice of females in the boxing ring and it would be wise for promoters to develop this talent as it appears they are now looking to do. Many years ago I had some reservations about female boxing but I never thought it was right to deprive them of their opportunity to compete. I happen to enjoy women’s boxing with its offensive emphasis and look forward to its future development. As for my favorite, I still remember Cathy “Cat” Davis and her appearance on the cover of The Ring almost 40 years ago.
DANA ROSENBLATT-former world middleweight champion, inspirational speaker: My thoughts on women’s boxing are now not what they formerly were after doing the commentary for Kali Reis’ second to last fight against Tiffany Woodard. Of the nine fights on the card that night at Mohegan Sun, Tiffany Woodard and Kali Reis was by far the best fight of the night. The bout showed all of the skill, strength and athleticism of boxing as we know it for men only. I have two daughters 11 and 16 years of age. Although I would not condone either of them boxing at the professional level, I now do respect women in the ring.
LEE SAMUELS–Top Rank publicist: Mikaela Mayer of Top Rank is a USA Olympian from Los Angeles. She has a tremendous skillset and power. She is undefeated. Do not be surprised when she is a headliner on a major boxing event.
TED SARES-TSS writer: I have always liked women’s boxing and have written about it extensively. When the Christy Martin-Deirdre Gogarty fight stole the show from Mike Tyson on TV, I was hooked fish, line, and sinker. Laila Ali has remained my favorite because she did something few other female fighters do and that was knock out her opponents. Holly Holm and Layla McCarter are tied for a very close second and could jump ahead of Ali at some point.
ICE MAN JOHN SCULLY-former boxer, trainer, commentator; he’s done it all: I liked watching Lucia Rijker. She was a short and compact puncher with explosive power to the head and body. If Claressa Shields advances to the top of professional boxing she will single-handedly destroy it from within because nobody wants to see a woman act like she does. No one who is not a fan of female boxing will become one watching those types of verbal displays from a woman. It is what it is.
ALAN SWYER-documentary filmmaker, writer and producer of the acclaimed El Boxeo: While I’m pleased by the attention that Laila Ali brought to the sport, to me the woman who stands above all others is Lucia Rijker. A two-division titleholder who came to the sport after a successful reign as a kickboxer, I can only imagine what her record — and acclaim — would be had she switched to pugilism earlier.
CARYN TATE-boxing writer: For a sport that reaches a fraction of the audience it once did, it’s imperative to not only maintain the audience it currently has but to find ways to reach more people, to create new fans. Getting more eyes on women’s boxing helps open the doors to half the population that has largely been ignored by the sport. Inclusion will help bring in more money for boxing and increase its value and fan base, as shown by Ronda Rousey and the UFC.
GARY “DIGITAL” WILLIAMS-the voice of “Boxing On the Beltway”: I appreciate women’s boxing because it has improved greatly, I think because there has been a lot of improvement in the amateur ranks. Before, a lot of women were coming from other sports and trying to learn boxing at an advanced age. Now, more women are coming out of the amateurs than ever before and that has helped the sport.
My favorite female boxer of all-time is “The Raging Beauty” Isra Girgrah. I had the opportunity to follow her career and she fought some outstanding bouts. Many believe that she may have actually defeated Christy Martin in August of 1997 and she was victorious against the likes of Tracy Byrd, Melissa Del Valle and Laura Serrano. Girgrah was definitely a trendsetter in the women’s game.
PETER WOOD–1971 New York City Golden Gloves middleweight finalist, writer, and author: I have no problem with women’s boxing. Sonya Lamonakis, the former IBO world heavyweight champion, and four-time New York City Golden Gloves Champion, proved to me that women boxers, if given the chance, have just as much courage and grit as any guy.
Not surprisingly, Ann Wolfe, Lucia Rijker, Laila Ali, and Christy Martin got several mentions suggesting that many watched women’s boxing during the Golden Era of female boxing in the 90s. Claressa Shields and Layla McCarter are the current favorites, but Shields got her share of criticism for her demeanor and comportment.
One theme that emerged clearly is that women’s boxing lacks depth.
Bottom line: Things seem to be changing for the better, especially on a global basis.
Ted Sares is one of the oldest active full power lifters in the world. A member of Ring 10, and Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame, he was recently cited by Hannibal Boxing as one of three “Must-Read” boxing writers.
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