Bunce on boxing: How female fight game got serious

This year the women's game will change again when the sport debuts at the Olympics

There was a time when the only women in boxing rings were covered in mud, fighting each other for a few dollars in Thai sex clubs. Then the sport went downhill and famous daughters started trading punches.

I sat through too many insulting nights in Las Vegas in the 1990s, watching women with absolutely no ability receive criminal beatings from one or other of the selected female fighters. Some had famous dads, others had been centrefolds and all were matched far too easily.

It started to change, thankfully, by about 1999, when amateur boxing associations all over the world held their domestic championships. The gory days of mismatches and carnage were over and with it went the coverage; the sport of professional women's boxing has vanished from the back pages since the Ali and the Frazier girl had their big bust-up in 2001.

The showdown of the famous daughters was the end of the hype, but the sport was evolving away from the dreadful mismatches involving clueless glamour models and former NFL cheerleaders, who threw punches like clueless glamour models and former NFL cheerleaders.

It is a very different boxing world now and last weekend in Mexico City, Mariana Juarez retained her WBC flyweight title in four rounds when she was the main attraction in front of nearly 7,000 people. La Barbie, as she is known, is a relentless little scrapper and conquering the Mexican fight public is an achievement. Many of the men are booed for not fighting hard enough!

In Denmark next month, Cecilia Braekhus defends her three welterweight world titles against French fighter Anne Sophie Mathis in Frederikshavn; the women are the main attraction and it is easy to see why.

Braekhus is unbeaten in 19 fights, has a lucrative deal with Adidas and is an 80-fight veteran of the European and World Amateur Championships. Mathis has lost just once in 26 fights and has stopped or knocked out 22 of her victims, including a massive win last December against the American Holly Holm, who was considered the world's best female fighter. It was a real knockout, at the end of a great fight in Holm's hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

"I looked at female boxing for a few years and I wanted to make sure there were enough real fights to be made before I started to promote it," said Kalle Sauerland, of Sauerland Promotions, who have been working with Braekhus since 2008. "Cecilia is a terrific fighter and a great attraction and there are a lot of proper fights. It's not a joke any more."

Later this year the women's game will change once again when the sport debuts at the Olympics, when, in theory, many of the stars will then have to deal with offers from promoters to turn professional. There is a buzz in America over a couple of their hopefuls and in Britain, where there is a chance of a medal in all three weights, there will be no shortage of offers.

"I'm a bit old-school in my ways," said promoter Frank Warren, who now works closely with his sons. "I know that Francis and George are watching and keeping an eye on the women's sport and they would, if it all made sense, promote the top British women from the Olympics." Sauerland has about a dozen women from 10 countries on his radar.

It is, then, a great time for Britain's Nicola Adams to hit form and she returned from a tournament in Bulgaria on Sunday where she finally beat her nemesis, Ran Cancan, the double world champion from China, to take the gold medal.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor