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What Is The Past History And Future of Women’s Boxing?

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I recently caught wind of a new push to propel women’s back into the limelight where it..how to put this delicately…it hasn’t been for a bunch of years.

Me, I’m not one of those guys who applauds that. I say to each his own, if your eyes are wide open, be it man or woman, you should feel free to enter that ring and test yourself. I know that warrior hearts, unlike my own “regular” one, are placed into the bodies of people of both genders…

I thought this time frame before the renewed push to make the female pugilists a more marketable group would be a good time to check in with author Malissa Smith. She just released a book called “A History of Women’s Boxing,” and I wanted to pick her brain about the past, present and future for the females who dare to enter this male dominated realm.

Q) You just did an event for the book at the famed Gleason’s Gym, in Brooklyn. Can you tell me how it went at Gleasons?

It was a wonderful event. It lasted for approximately two hours and included an exhibition of women’s boxing and a reading from A HISTORY OF WOMEN’S BOXING.

Q) How was the turnout? What were the highlights?
A) Forty to fifty people attended in all including the WBC’s Jill Diamond, Harold Lederman and his wife Eileen, and Julie Lederman. I was truly honored that they came to show their support for women’s boxing. The biggest highlights for me was having two champions, Alicia “Slick” Ashley and Keisher “Fire” McLeod-Wells give a two-round exhibition. They wowed the audience, many of whom had never actually seen a female bout. Boxer Sonya “The Scholar” Lamonakis acted as MC and gave the audience background on the sport — and of course having the opportunity to address the crowd of assembled guests was an amazing feeling for me. I not only read a passage, but talked about the pride women boxers should take in knowing that women have been boxing for hundreds of years.

Q) Can you tell me how you started liking boxing, and a bit more about you…where did you grow up?

A) I grew up in Manhattan on the Lower East Side — East 12th Street to be exact — in the early 1960s. I was first exposed to boxing there and I grew to love the sport watching Muhammad Ali fights. Another of my favorites was Ken Norton, who had that devastating overhand right. When I was 12 my uncle taught my brother and I the old “one-two” and I was hooked, though it never occurred to me that I could actually box myself until the late 1980s/early 1990s when I began to hear that women were boxing. I finally “crossed the divide” myself into Gleason’s Gym in late 1996 and have been training there off and on ever since.

Q) What were your top takeaways from researching for the book?

A) The main one was to learn how entrenched in the culture female participation in the sport truly was whether as fighters, practitioners for exercise, spectators, or behind the scene as managers, refs and even trainers. When I started the project I really didn’t know what I would find, just that I’d read that women had boxed in the early 1720’s alongside James Figg, who was a big proponent of female prize fighters, and the story about the female bout for a silver butter dish at Henry Hill’s in 1876. What I discovered was a rich, well-documented story of women of the ring pieced together through press clippings from the eras I researched. The other thing was understanding how entrenched female boxing was in popular culture — whether negative or positive, and even to the point of having a female boxer named Hatttie Stewart (The Female John L. Sullivan) on a playing card in the mid-1880s as one of the best athletes in the world. I was able to come to the conclusion based on the amount of ink on the subject in the press, and not only the big city dailies, but reprinted from the wire sources in newspapers across the world. It was truly startling revelation.

Q) Is the public ready for the females in boxing to once again step to the fore? We had Christy Martin, and Laila Ali…but there has been a lack of coverage and interest for a spell.

A) Certainly if one attends fight cards with female bouts, the crowds are wildly enthusiastic about the fighters — however, it is hard to know the interest level when fights are broadcast–as there have been so, very, very few over the last few years. From the perspective of media promotion–we LOVE a heroine of the stature of Christy Martin, Lucia Rijker or Laila Ali, and right now there are MANY talented female fighters, frankly with greater skills, or certainly the equivalent of Lucia Rijker, who from a pure skill-level was the best of her generation. The problem is, since there is no TV coverage, they are only known by the fans who follow them and the select few boxing writers who report on the sport. Two factors which may help propel the sport into the limelight again are: 1) the rise of female MMA bouts which have wowed audiences with their remarkable skill levels and athleticism and 2) the fact that the sport is now contested at the Olympics. I’ll tell you, Michael, I’ve just been at the Women’s National Golden Gloves and was blown away not only by the skills of current USA Boxing members such as Christina Cruz, Virginia Fuchs and Marlen Esparza (incidentally a bronze medal winner in 2012), but the young girls who boxed, some as young as eight, were truly gifted boxers. What we all saw there were the future of the sport: those who will contest and win medals in 2016 and 2020, and those who will make the transition to professional boxing every bit as skilled as true boxer’s boxers as their male counterparts.

Q) Has there been a correlation between the women’s rights movements, and how females are treated as a whole in the US, and how popular and accepted female boxing is?

A) That is a particularly perceptive question and very apt when it comes to the acceptance of women in the sport. If one looks at the long arc of participation, say going back to the 1880s on through contemporary boxing, women who box and frankly who participate in any way in the sport, including as spectators, skirt the edges of presumed female interests and behavior. Boxing has, after all, been associated with a kind of hyper-masculinity all the way back to Greco-Roman times–and it is, I believe, hard to break through the association of boxing and maleness for many people. And, even though we talk about acceptance of strong women, there is a reluctance to do so. There are two periods were the women’s movement had it’s greatest effect: with the rise of the suffragist (EDITOR NOTE: A suffragist is one who works to get voting rights for people who don’t have them.) movement, which paralleled the concept of the “New Woman” roughly from the period of the 1880s – World War I, and the late 1960s-early 70s, when women’s militancy led them to take to the courts to garner equal rights, including the right to box. Interestingly, and counter-intuitively, women of the ring are *very* accepted in places we would think of as having particularly “macho” cultures — such as Mexico and Argentina. I truly have not been successful in really accounting for why Americans are uncomfortable with seeing women in the ring boxing, but have no issue with MMA, judo, and other martial sports. What I fall keep falling back on is the deep-seated association of boxing with manliness, something, quite frankly, women never really consider, but still seems to be a pervasive meme in popular culture. Where that goes from here is anyone’s guess.

Q) What do you want the average reader to take away from the book?

A) My hope is that readers not only gain an appreciation for the history of the women in the ring, but also for the place of women in general in the eras I researched. We do not often gain insights into the work-a-day world of women from earlier eras, and it is my hope that readers will be wowed by all that women were able to accomplish.

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Terence Crawford Has Conquered the World, and Now He’s Won Over Nebraska

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It was a day of even more anguish for Nebraskans, making for a night of even more exultation in a state where boxing – or, at least a particular boxer – is emerging as a hero and much-needed source of pride for citizens left wondering about the sorry state of the once-mighty Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Hours after those Cornhuskers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, blowing a 10-point lead in the final 5 minutes, 21 seconds to fall 34-31 in overtime at Northwestern and begin a college football season 0-6 for the first time in program history, WBO welterweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford defended his title with panache and power, stopping previously undefeated challenger Jose Benavidez, Jr. in the 12th round to buttress his argument that he is the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. There are still pockets of resistance to his claim to that designation, of course, but none coming from the ESPN broadcast crew of Joe Tessitore, Timothy Bradley Jr. and Mark Kriegel, all of whom intermittently offered their opinion that the switch-hitting Omaha resident has now firmly established himself as best of the best.

The 31-year-old Crawford’s latest bravura performance was met with shouted hosannas of approval from the sellout crowd of 13,323 in Omaha’s CHI Health Center, a record for a boxing event in Nebraska, and a stark contrast to the burgeoning sense of panic among Cornhusker partisans, who have to be wondering who these impostors in the red-and-white uniforms are.

Crawford grew up in a poor section of Omaha as an avid Nebraska fan, and after his latest demonstration of nimble footwork, fast, accurate hands and surprising power you could hardly blame his fellow home-state citizens from wondering if he might be persuaded to enroll at NU and play quarterback for his floundering favorite team. The ability to finish strong, taking the fight even harder to Benavidez in the final round when the more prudent move might have been to simply run out the clock, stamps Crawford as the pugilistic equivalent of Tommie Frazier, the option master who led the Huskers to back-to-back national championships in 1994 and ’95. But even the legendary Frazier wasn’t perfect; he was 43-3 as a starter during his four-year college career. Crawford, now 34-0 with 25 wins inside the distance, has a vision of someday retiring undefeated, a goal that at this stage seems entirely reasonable.

Top Rank founder and CEO Bob Arum, Crawford’s promoter, cited the fighter’s 12th-round mugging of Benavidez, the key blow being a ripping right uppercut that he had hidden up his figurative sleeve like a card sharp’s ace, as proof that the three-division world champion is indeed separate and above the madding crowd.

“Most fighters today, in that position, having clearly won the fight, would back off in the 12th round, not take any chances and run out the clock,” Arum said. “Not him. He’s a performer. He wanted to close the show, and that’s what he did. That’s what makes him special. That is not the mindset most (other fighters) have. But Terence is a showman. He wants to make a statement.”

He especially wanted to make it, and as loudly as possible, against the mouthy Benavidez (27-1, 18 KOs), who has been talking smack about Crawford for months and gave him a hard shove at Friday’s weigh-in, which precipitated a retaliatory right hook from the champion. It missed, thankfully, but no matter. Crawford landed plenty of shots that did when it mattered, smoothly alternating, as always, from an orthodox stance to southpaw and back again.

“We just took our time today,” Crawford said, referring to himself in the plural rather than the singular, a nod toward his support team, most notably manager-trainer Brian McIntyre. “Everything that went on this week, he was trying to get in my head, wanting me to have a firefight with him. I knew if we got in a rhythm we could do whatever we wanted, and that’s what we did.

“He made me work in the early rounds. He was trying to counter me, working on my distance. I couldn’t figure it out at first. But once I got my distance, it was a rout from there.”

Maybe the rout evolved methodically and in a controlled fashion because that’s what Crawford, who had vowed to “punish” Benavidez for his impertinence, had in mind all along. He is a man of his word, and, also as he had vowed, he declined to touch gloves with Benavidez or to offer even a halfhearted hug after the final bell. No surprise there; like fellow Omaha native Bob Gibson, the St. Louis Cardinals’ Hall of Fame pitcher, he regards all opponents as the enemy and thus off-limits to fraternization of any kind.

What about that kept-in-reserve uppercut, which sent Benavidez tumbling awkwardly to the canvas and in obvious distress?

“I’d been seeing it rounds and rounds ahead of time,” said Crawford, who is now 5-0 in Omaha and 6-0 in  Nebraska, counting a sole appearance in Lincoln. “I seen him pulling back,but then he stopped pulling back so I started leaning more and more because I was touching him to the body. Then I threw the shot, and it landed.”

For those with a need to crunch numbers, official scorecards through 11 completed rounds all had the overwhelming wagering choice – Crawford went off at minus-3,000, or a 1-to-30 favorite – winning big on the scorecards tallied by judges Levi Martinez (110-99), Robert Hecko (108-101) and Glenn Feldman (107-102). Punch statistics furnished by CompuBox also were conclusive if not necessarily off-the-charts, with Crawford landing 186 of 579, a decent but not overly so 32.1 percent, to 92 of 501 (18.4 percent) for the outclassed but game Benavidez. But boxing is basically  an art form, not math, and like all artists Crawford is more about aesthetic impression than raw data.

For his part, Benavidez, who had promised to “shock the world” by “exposing” Crawford, figured he had done as well, if not better, than most of Bud’s previous victims.

“I gave him a hell of a fight,” Benavidez reasoned. “But I got tired. Boxing, you know. I was pretty impressive. I wanted to give the fans a fight that they paid to come watch. I know he didn’t think I would be that good.

“I take nothing from him. He’s the best of the best for a reason. He’s a good fighter, you know? But I’m a good fighter, too. I had that fight close.”

In the co-featured bout, 21-year-old featherweight Shakur Stevenson (9-0, 5 KOs), a silver medalist at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, was much more dynamic than he had been in scoring a relatively pedestrian eight-round unanimous decision over Carlos Ruiz on Aug. 18 in Atlantic City, blasting out Romanian veteran Viorel Simion (21-3, 9 KOs) in one round. The southpaw Stevenson’s weapon of choice was the right hook, which he used to telling effect to floor Simion three times, prompting referee Curtis Thrasher to wave the bout off after an elapsed time of three minutes.

Simion, a 36-year-old Romanian whose previous losses were to former world champions Lee Selby and Scott Quigg, was penciled last in as a replacement for the injured Duarn Vuc, had never been stopped in his 12-year pro career and he looked askance at Thrasher, as if disbelieving that he would not be given the opportunity to fight his way out of trouble in the scheduled  10-rounder.  But, his legs still wobbly, he was not pleading a winnable case.

“My power was here tonight, and my speed,” said Stevenson, who claimed the vacant WBC Continental Americas 126-pound title. “Ain’t too much more that I can work on, but I’m going to keep staying sharp and get right back in the gym.”

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Close Early, Then All Crawford

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Terence “Bud” Crawford stopped Jose Benavidez, Jr at 2:42 of the 12th round. Benavidez came in with an unblemished record of 27-0. That run of success came to a screeching halt tonight. For the first half of the bout, Benavidez didn’t fight like the 20/1 underdog that the odds reflected in gaming shops across the globe. He made a good accounting for himself during the first six rounds, however the same can’t be said for the remainder of the fight, as Crawford dominated from the midway point on. It was the beginning of the end with Crawford landing a picture perfect uppercut that found it’s mark late in the final stanza. While Benavidez deserves credit for getting back to his feet, he only managed to prolong the inevitable for a handful of seconds more. Crawford goes to 34-0, with 25 by KO.

Story to follow.

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Kerobyan and Hovannisyan Score KO Wins in L.A.

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LOS ANGELES-Super welterweight prospect Ferdinand Kerobyan didn’t waste time and drilled Mexico’s Rolando Mendivil in less than a minute to win by knockout on Friday.

Kerobyan doesn’t get paid by the minute.

The North Hollywood fighter Kerobyan (11-0, 6 KOs) brought a large crowd to the Belasco Theater and didn’t give them much time to cheer as he blasted out Mendivil (10-6, 3 KOs) with an all-out attack.

Mendival never had a chance.

Kerobyan immediately connected with a three-punch combination capped with a left hook that dropped Mendivil in the first 15 seconds of the opening frame. The Mexican fighter got up and when the fight resumed Kerobyan clobbered Mendivil with a right cross and down he went on a knee. Referee Lou Moret had seen enough and stopped the fight at 49 seconds of the first round.

“I felt great. I never like to say that a fight is easy. I just make it look easy,” said Kerobyan. “I’m proud of my performance. I showed that I’m a warrior. I’m looking for bigger and better names. I want eight and 10 round fights only.”

In the co-main event, Azat Hovannisyan (15-3, 12 KOs) blitzed Colombia’s Jesus Martinez from the opening bell with an offensive attack void of any defense. He didn’t need any for the Colombian who was in full retreat until the fight was stopped. Hovannisyan unloaded a three-punch combination that included a left hook chaser and down went Martinez at 30 seconds into the fourth round of their super bantamweight clash.

“I feel stronger than ever before,” said Hovhannisyan. “Whatever has happened in the past is past. I’m ready for a world title fight. I know I still have a lot left in the tank.”

Other bouts

Richard “The Kansas Kid” Acevedo (4-0, 4 KOs) battered Mexico’s Javier Olvera (2-2, 1 KO) and ended the fight with three straight rights to the gut and head. Olvera flailed a few punches but other than that, it was all Acevedo as the fight ended at 2:30 of the first round of the super welterweight match.

Rudy “El Tiburon” Garcia (9-0, 1 KO) couldn’t miss with the left hook through all six rounds against Houston’s David Perez (10-5, 5 KOs) in their super bantamweight clash. Garcia fights out of L.A. but there was no hometown bias in this fight. He simply connected more with flush shots in every round. Perez showed a good chin and was never stunned or hurt. One judge scored it 59-56, the other two 60-54 all for Garcia.

David Mijares (6-0,3 KOs) won a hard fought split decision over Michael Meyers (2-1, 2 KOs) after four rounds in a super lightweight match. It had been over a year since Mijares had last fought, but the Pasadena fighter survived a last round knockdown and found a way past the strong Myers in winning the split decision 37-38, 38-37 twice.

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