Women’s Boxing


WOMENS BOXING: One Males Perspective



by Kevin Hilditch

Oct. 1, 1999

On September 18, 1999, I had my first opportunity to view a professional womens boxing match. It was for the Featherweight title. The competitors were Mia St. John (the champ) and Kelley Downey. This was all part of the lineup at an HBO boxing event in Las Vegas featuring Oscar De La Hoya vs. Felix Trinidad. I was very interested in seeing this match because I had heard that womens boxing was much more aggressive than mens boxing. I was very disappointed. Not by the boxing, although it appeared that the women may have lacked in training (perhaps from a lack of sponsors?), but by a number of other elements that I had not bargained for.Firstly, the commentators, in their pre-fight and round-by-round commentary, focused more on the fighters physical appearance, and generally treated the fight as if it were no more than a catfight. Except for George Foreman, who treated the event as a boxing match and not just two women fighting, the commentators were completely unprofessional and disrespectful to the fighters and their abilities. Comments such as “She doesnt want to mess up that pretty face of hers” does not seem to me to be professional round-by-round commentary. What if a commentator in the De La Hoya fight had said “With a great ass like that he cant possibly lose this match!” I think you get my meaning.

Secondly, the match was only four rounds. The only other match that was that length was the purely entertainment showcase featuring the “Super Heavyweight” Butterbean. Im not sure of the reasons for this, but my impression was that the coordinators of the match did not feel that the two women had the endurance or perhaps strength to last the full 12-round fight.

Finally, a match of this calibre, in a pay-per-view event with the highest amount of viewers outside of heavyweight bouts, failed to support the fighters, and instead chose to belittle the womens event. This must be more than frustrating to the boxers, trainers, sponsors, etc., who are all trying to promote a sport that they take very seriously.

Unfortunately, Mia St. John also chose to pose for Playboy Magazine. In my opinion, this is not a way to gain respect for herself as a professional boxer, and not the most intelligent move for her career. This just furthers a perception of women in sport as objects rather than athletes.

My motivation for writing this article? In the Toronto Star newspapers Sept. 30th edition, there is an article about Muhammed Alis daughter Laila going into boxing. What was the headline? – “Alis daughter a knockout.”. For a legend like Ali, having his daughter entering the fray is an incredible event and an opportunity for the legacy to continue… but not with the papers touting it as simply, and in every sense of the word, a spectacle.

This is just another example of the media choosing to condescend rather than to support women entering the male-dominated sport of boxing. It seems to me that the male boxers, commentators, promoters, etc., are either threatened by the possibilty of women being equal to the task of boxing in strength, endurance and ability, or they feel that the only way to sell women in the sport is to portray them in a sexual manner. Or both. This makes me believe and understand that it must be very difficult for women in any sport to be recognized and respected. This is unfortunate and unnecessary.

So heres to George Foreman and anyone who supports these women in their fight to gain the proper recognition they deserve –in this sport and any other. To all others, it is time to overcome your egos and ignorance, and to allow these women their due right to participate.

Kevin Hilditch is a Shiatsu massage therapist in Toronto. He lost $10 on the De La Hoya fight.