THE boxing match, several months ago at Madison Square Garden (MSG) between two legends, as we all know now, was a thing of beauty and will be mentioned among the greatest events/fights in history.
To a casual boxing fan, the opening line of this article, most likely would have conjured up images of male pugilists. Without taking another step into this composition, they may ponder, “Who is this writer talking about, Fury, Haney, Usyk, Inoue..?”
Most serious folks following the game, would correctly think Katie Taylor 21-0 (6) v. Amanda Serrano 42-2-1 (30), due to the MSG reference; however, there are no guarantees.
Taylor v. Serrano was more than a highly anticipated women’s bout that did not disappoint. The first female fighters to headline a card at New York’s famous venue, unexpectedly brought boxing slugging its way back into the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), landscape.
It’s not as if boxing hasn’t drifted into this landscape in the past, the game, historically, just can’t seem to get it right.
If you want a look back at how we got here, please take a quick read of two articles I wrote on the subject matter (links in highlight). The first, I penned back in 2017… Million Dollar Ladies- The Resurgence Of Women’s Boxing. The second, a sequel in 2019, Million Dollar Ladies-The Resurgence Of Women’s Boxing…Round 2…Breaking Glass Ceilings.
For those who choose not to hit the link….I’ll provide a brief bit of context here-
In the 2017 article, I quoted Marian “Lady Tiger” Trimiar, who back in 1987, while enduring a month-long hunger strike aimed at bringing better conditions, pay and recognition to women’s boxing, stated, “Unless women get more recognition, we will be fighting just as a novelty for the rest of our lives. There will be no future.”
Sadly, 35 years later, the first all female card only now arrives.
Additionally, it was only TEN years ago in 2012, that women first could earn Olympic gold.
In the 2019 piece, I spoke about a potential Taylor- Serrano match, advising readers to buckle up if the match ever happens, that a “Rock cracks the glass ceiling”
So, what happened? Why is there still a struggle with regards to EDI when it comes to women pugilists? I could take the easy road and blame the root of all evil… lack of interest generating money, and along with it, greed. Or maybe, the minuscule fan interest with regards to supply and demand, and lastly, not enough marketable female boxers, but that would do a disservice to all of these fighters. In fact, lesser known and talented male boxers and YouTube stars turned fighter get more pub than the top females in the game.
One would only have to look at boxing’s sister combat sport of the UFC, and see that they have supremely marketed their female fighters for many, many years. Something is amiss in the sweet science.
Although I have a deep and unwavering love for the sport of boxing, and have followed it a few years shy of 5 decades, I’m going to challenge it herein and make it uncomfortable. Elephant in the room…beware.
Look no further than unconscious bias when trying to identify why boxing cannot get this right. Ah yes, the activation of the amygdala, causing one’s brain to make quick judgments based on past experiences. The sport of women’s boxing has no doubt suffered from unconscious bias, more specifically, gender bias. Quite frankly, most of it has been “conscious bias”. There has not been a lack of negativity from many purists of the sweet science when it comes to women.
Earlier this year, legendary promoter Bob Arum stated that “fans don’t particularly pay attention to the women’s fights” and that it was “like comparing the Premier League to women’s football.”. Once again, a judgement based on past experiences. We need these types of legends supporting women’s boxing with positive statements, not negative ones. Naysayers need to continue to learn, grow and challenge their own perceptions and biases.
As a result of unconscious biases, certain people benefit and others are penalized. Historically, in the case of boxing, men benefit, women are penalized.
Say what you want about Jake Paul, but, as far as EDI goes, he’s been an unlikely champion of the cause. A vocal voice for women fighters, and equality in pay. Paul’s first client under his promotional company, Most Valuable Promotions, was Serrano. Paul believes correctly that women fighters are “being mistreated”.
Said Paul, “I think it’s a bigger question of boxing needing a ton of change and women’s boxing being one of those verticals,” Paul said. “Bringing in a new, younger audience was one vertical I identified.”
A new generation of fight fans open to EDI, and self aware of unconscious bias, could absolutely sustain the effort.
The increase in EDI efforts across all employment sectors has picked up steam over the past year. It appears that this time, boxing is primed to be in alignment, and not behind, which has always been the case.
Flash forward to this Saturday night in London from the O2 Arena. The first major all female fight card, ever, headlined by two must see TV match ups…
Claressa Shields vs. Savannah Marshall, 10 rounds, WBC/IBF/WBA/WBO women’s middleweight unification, & Mikaela Mayer vs. Alycia Baumgardner, 10 rounds, WBO/IBF/WBC women’s junior lightweight unification.
These two fights will no doubt pick up where Serrano v. Taylor left off, and keep the momentum moving.
The rest of the card rounds out nicely, Lauren Price vs. Timea Belik, 6 rounds, female middleweights, Karriss Artingstall vs. Marina Sakharov, 6 rounds, female featherweights, Caroline Dubois vs. Milena Koleva, 6 rounds, female lightweights, Ebonie Jones vs. Vanesa Caballero, 6 rounds, female featherweights, and Ginny Fuchs vs. Gemma Ruegg, 6 rounds, female flyweights.
These are the types of cards that will go a long way in strengthening the standing of women in the game. Quality matchups will need to be sustained. This will require quality fighters, and personalities to sell the fights, thus gaining fan interest. Further, a great marketing campaign to make some of the fighters household names, and we’re on our way. Once that happens, here come the promoters, advertisers, and networks, all of whom will never look back.
The future is bright with names like Mccaskill, Estrada, Crews-Dazurn, Kozin, Fundora, Jones, Mercado, Netisri, Daniels, and Lujan. (First names have intentionally been left off. Do some research, that’s how change begins.)
Shields is not shy on the subject saying, “My fans are going to show up for me, for sure, when you put me against a very tough opponent,” ….”The Taylor-Serrano fight proved what I’ve always said — when you give women equal pay, equal promotion, equal TV time, women’s boxing can sell.”
Shields continued, “They always try to say women can’t do this and can’t do that,” “You don’t know where women’s boxing has gotten to if you don’t give them an opportunity.” Shields criticizing all “these men who are in charge.”
Boxing must sustain this momentum. From April’s instant classic of Serrano v. Taylor, to the highly anticipated Shields v. Marshall & Mayer v. Baumgardner this Saturday, 2022 may prove to be the year that changed the path of the women, bringing EDI to the forefront.
It’s a crisp morning this Sunday the 16th. Be it on the tube in London, the Metro in D.C., or the subway in NYC, a conversation is overheard….
“What great fights last night from the O2 Arena!” states a seasoned boxing fan.
“No doubt” states a casual fan, “Claressa, Savannah, Mikaela, and Alycia, are some of the best in the game”.
All of these talented women in the game haven’t just arrived, they’ve been here all along. We just need you to notice🥊🥊🥊🥊
“It’s the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you”
-Million Dollar Baby