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Women’s Boxing: 12 Things You Need to Know (Facts, Prejudices, …)

When people talk about boxing, they generally refer to men’s boxing as if that’s the only type of professional boxing. Women have boxed alongside men for centuries, yet (until recently) were not recognized as professional boxers until recently. Female boxers have just as much talent and skill as their male counterparts. Attitudes are changing, though, and women’s boxing is here to stay.

Women’s boxing has been in the shadows compared to men’s boxing, as their matches are shorter, and they get paid less per bout than men. Throughout history, women have been kept out of professional events based on shaky medical excuses. In 2012, for the first time, women’s boxing was officially part of the Olympic Games.

Do you want to know more about women’s boxing? Then keep reading to discover many fascinating things you never knew about women’s boxing.

These are 12 things you need to know about women’s boxing.

1. Women’s Matches Are Shorter.

Women’s matches last 20 minutes compared with men’s events, which last 36 minutes. Their matches are broken up into ten two-minute segments, while men’s matches have 12 three-minute segments. The reason is based on old viewpoints that women are more prone to concussions than men, and if they are in the ring longer than two minutes at a time, they would have more time to get hurt.

2. Female Boxers Get Paid Less Than Male Boxers.

Female boxers typically make less per match than male fighters, and the promoters are quick to tell women that the reason for this is that they fight fewer rounds and spend less time in the ring. On average, a woman might make $10,000 in a title match. But a man would make over six figures for that same title match.

The other reason women are paid less is that they don’t have access to the same sponsors, promoters, or televised events that men do. Women’s boxing is far less popular, so they aren’t paid the same.

3. Medical Reasons to Keep Women Out of the Ring Are Shaky.

The World Boxing Commission decided that women’s boxing rounds needed to be shorter because women are more at risk for concussions. While this may be true to a point, the reasoning to keep women’s matches shorter, or to keep them out of the ring, is shaky. The prominent thought was that women’s neck muscles are weaker and, therefore, would not protect against a severe bump as well as a man’s neck muscles would.

Also, women have often been kept out of the ring due to the fear of the sport, causing damage to their reproductive organs. 

4. Women Couldn’t Be Menstruating Before a Bout.

In the 1970s, women were required to certify before competing in a boxing match that they were not currently menstruating, based on pseudoscience. A doctor tried to tell the World Boxing Commission that women may place out of their weight class a week before her period due to water weight, but she can still fight during her period. The WBC misconstrued that to mean that women couldn’t fight during that time of the month. The restriction has since been lifted, but women are not allowed in the ring if they are pregnant.

5. The Oddest First Prize in Women’s Match Was a Silver Butter Dish.

1876 saw the first women’s boxing match in the United States between Nell Saunders and Rose Harland at the New York Hills theater. The winner received a silver butter dish for her efforts, rather than a monetary prize.

6. Women Finally Seriously Compete in the Olympics in 2012.

While women competed in Olympic boxing matches since 1904, they were never allowed to compete for any medals seriously. Women’s boxing was always treated as a display or exhibition for the entertainment of the crowds, but never as a sport to be taken seriously. 

That all changed in 2012 when women were finally granted the honor of seriously competing as an officially recognized sport. 

7. Italy Banned Women’s Boxing After the Death of a Male Fighter.

In October of 1997, the Italian boxing federation outlawed women’s boxing because a male fighter died. To enforce this ban, they even stopped an event that was to be televised in Milan. 

8. Foxy Boxing Era Started in 1989.

Foxy boxing” entails women boxing in bikinis for show. 1989 was the first year that started this trend, with scantily clad women hosting two-hour shows in nightclubs throughout the United States. They called themselves the “Foxy Fighting Knockouts.” The community response to this era was negative, and its popularity didn’t last very long. 

9. Showtime Didn’t Air Women’s Boxing for 15 Years.

Television networks often overlook women’s boxing, because they think that the same talent in men’s boxing isn’t there and that it is not very popular. Showtime aired a women’s boxing match in 2001, but then it took them 15 years to broadcast another match, but it was a free preview before the paid main event of a men’s boxing event. The match was between Claressa Shields and Franchon Crews.

10. Female Prize Fighting Started in 1722.

While the first women’s boxing match wasn’t held until 1876 in the US, female prizefighting started in London in 1722, with the first recorded match being between Elizabeth Wilkinson-Stokes and Hannah Hyfield. Elizabeth challenged Hannah to a fight, saying that each fighter would hold “half a crown” during the fight and that the first one to drop it would lose the match. Elizabeth won the match. 

11. Women Are Not Trained Equal to Men.

Women are paid less than men in the ring; according to several promoters, they have less talent and skill than men do. 

From the ancient days of war and men protecting the villages, men prepared for war and battle. Women were supposed to be at home, tending the fires and maintaining peaceful homes. So the path to professional boxing takes different turns, leaving the women out of several techniques needed for professional boxing. 

One difference is that while men learn more self-defense moves and how to deliver powerful punches, women learn the lighter boxing techniques designed for weight loss and fat burning. However, more women-owned and led gyms are now offering classes for women to train them in the same boxing styles men have enjoyed for centuries. 

12. Male-Female Matches Are for Display Only.

Male-female matches are only held for exhibition purposes, which do not allow for any cross-gender title competitions. In the first-ever crossover match in 1999, Margaret Macgregor beat out Loi Chow in only four rounds. 

But critics called this match a farce, due to the nature of the match. Loi Chow was a jockey by trade, and not very good in the boxing ring, while Margaret had an extensive boxing and kickboxing record and was 3-0 in professional matches. 

The original match was against Hector Morales, a more skilled fighter, but he dropped out at the last minute. Many people don’t want to watch a man and woman fight in the ring because they say it might lead to more domestic violence cases.

All things considered

While women’s boxing hasn’t been around as long as men’s boxing, one thing is sure: women’s boxing isn’t going away anytime soon. Since 2012 when Olympic officials opened up serious competitions for women’s boxing, it has been taken a lot more seriously now than ever before. 

Cable television now airs more women’s matches, creating more opportunities for women to earn serious money in professional boxing. Women-sponsored gyms are popping up sporadically to start training young women to become serious competitors, and promoters are beginning to take notice.

While it may take a while before it’s at the same level as men’s boxing, women’s boxing will soon get the accolades it deserves.