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.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
film
News
people
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
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

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Analyst / Helpdesk Support Analyst

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is the UK's leading ...

The Jenrick Group: Finance Manager/Management Accountant

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: The Jenrick Group: Finance Manager/Manag...

Recruitment Genius: Manufacturing Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a rare opportunity for ...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'