The ladies and their uphill battle
By Rob Scott (October 1, 2004) 
Christy Martin
Respect, it is a word that escapes many. It is a word that many fight for everyday of their lives. It’s something that some have a craving for that is never-ending. In boxing, there is that one-on-one battle for respect. For women’s boxing the battle is all uphill.

Boxing is a sport that finds it a task in giving the lower weights in the men’s section a great deal of deserved credit; The quest for women fighters as a whole seems to be the equivalent to pulling teeth. Theirs is a fight that seems to have an endless amount of obstacles. Exposure, money and out-right acknowledgement has been the supplements that this section of boxing has been deficient in for quite sometime. Without these supplements, the sport of women’s boxing remains incredibly weak.

Just how much respect does the world of women’s boxing deserve? That all depends on who you choose to address that question to. Society has many different views on women being pugilists. The opinions that express opposition vary from “Woman aren’t exciting enough”; to “Women just can’t fight”; straight to “Women aren’t meant to fight”. I know that there is even a section of readers that are wondering why I’m even writing this article. Well I like to consider myself an equal opportunity writer who isn’t one-track minded.

The aforementioned views tend to have a contradictory overtone to them. “Women aren’t exciting enough” isn’t any truer than saying that the current male heavyweight scene is bursting with stars. While there are many female fighters with punching styles that give you the impression that they are showing you their best impersonation of a windmill, competitors such as Ann Wolfe, Lucia Rijker, Isra Girgrah and others, takes away the strength of the words “Women just can’t fight”. And for those who say that “Women aren’t meant to fight”, I can point you in the direction of activists and politician who have been trying to abolish the sport as a whole for years.

Just as a fighter can land a hard blow, what will be the shot in the arm that will give women’s boxing the overhaul necessary to make viewers and consumers take notice? Christie Martin, 45-3-2 (30), opened a few eyes when she appeared on some of Don King’s show, but the act wore thin when a constant array of those famous wind millers were being chosen as her opponents. When Laila Ali, 19-0 (16), made her 1999 pro-debut, there were cries that she was just trying to capitalize on the fact that she was the daughter of ‘The Greatest’ Muhammad Ali. While initially that may have been the publicity ploy, her talents have been evident and just as a child leaves home, Laila has been making it on her own prowess. Unfortunately, as with Martin, Ali’s resume is also being filled with questionable foes.

There are marquee fights that can be made to uplift the name of women’s boxing, but even on the men’s circuit, contract haggling and breakdowns in communications have stopped these fights from coming into fruition. It is something that hurts men and women’s boxing, but the reality is that the male fight game is established already. Women’s boxing doesn’t have the luxury of over-haggling at the negotiation table. A big fight pairing Christie Martin and Lucia Rijker, 17-0 (14), was one that would have been pleasing, but it fell to the way-side over the same old – same old, haggling.

On June 8, 2001 Laila Ali squared off with Jacqui Frazier-Lyde, 13-1 (9), in a fight that did capitalize off of the participants famous fathers legacy. Going into the fight many thought that the only real comparison was just in name. When the smoke cleared many were impressed at the performance that the two put on and expressed interest in seeing more.

When Frazier-Lyde first came on the scene her skills could be described as amateurish. Her size, questionable competition and a healthy usage of the Frazier name has kept her as a fixture on the women’s scene, but her toughness can’t be denied. She also is the anti-Joe Frazier in the sense that she has a healthy gift of gab. She can promote fights, as she did with her clash with Ali. Having attended her last fight in Atlantic City, she has shown improved skills that, coupled with her size and strength, can make her a dangerous adversary.

The usage of a family name to get ahead has been done for generations, but a fighter such as Ann Wolfe aims to prove that after a while one has to produce in order to maintain that family name. Wolfe who is willing and very able to fight Ali or Frazier-Lyde has made the challenge to both as well as any other name that will put her on the map.

A Wolfe/Ali match-up would give a spark to women’s boxing. Even at this point, a Martin/Rijker bout would be a case of ‘better late than never’. Also a reported Ali/Frazier-Lyde rematch would add some much needed interest.

Even though there are a fair share of female fights that have been eye sores, competitive and yes, even entertaining fights can be made. If efforts are made, maybe, just maybe, the female fight game can be taken off the virtual respirator that has sustained them for this long. It’ll be an up-hill battle, but not an impossible one.
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