Women's boxing is one of the
fastest growing sports in the world right now.
Although there are reports of women boxing dating all the way
back to the 18th century, it is only relatively recently that
the sport has become a viable option for a lot of people.
The 2012 Olympics is seen as a major turning point for women's
boxing, when British fighter Nicola Adams won the gold medal on
home soil, leading to an explosion in popularity. Adams won the
first ever women's boxing gold, with 2012 the first year the
sport was in the Olympics.
Research from Sport England showed the number of women
participating in boxing and boxing training
increased by around 50 per cent in the months after Adams'
glorious success. Since then, women's boxing has continued to
grow in popularity, both in the UK and across the globe.
Laila Ali, daughter of the great Muhammad Ali, was among the
first high-profile female boxers but she hung up her gloves a
decade ago. Jacqui Frazier-Lyde and Irichelle Duran - Joe
Frazier and Roberto Duran respectively - are among the other
offspring of famous male boxers who have fought to a decent
A gaping void at the top of the sport needed big new
personalities to come and fill, with the likes of Adams,
Ireland's Katie Taylor and the brilliant Claressa Shields coming
through. It all points to a bright future for women's boxing,
but how did it get to this position?
Personalities such as Claressa Shields are
taking womens boxing mainstream.
The history of women's boxing
In order to understand how women's boxing became as popular as
it is today, it is necessary to assess the history of the sport.
Women have boxed for just as long as men, but in terms of
competitive action it is only relatively recently that female
boxers have gone into the ring.
Boxing was seen as a sport for men only for far too long,
leaving women who could have been developed into great fighters
watching on from the sidelines.
But in the 1980s things finally started to change, with the
fitness movement spreading around the world. Boxing was suddenly
seen as one of the best ways for women to keep fit.
Participation figures have been on the rise ever since, although
it was only in the 1990s that boxing organisations began to
recognise the women's side of the sport.
A decision was then made to include women's boxing in the 2012
Olympics - a big turning point.
Why the 2012 Olympics mattered
The 2012 Olympics is regularly said to have been a massive
moment for women's boxing.
Women all over the world were able to watch fellow females
compete in the ring on just the same terms as their male
Although Olympic boxing is at amateur level, both in the men's
and women's game there are countless examples of fighters who
have subsequently turned professional.
This all meant women could see that boxing was a sport they
could try out, leading to an immediate rise in the number of
women competing, whether on a serious basis with the intent of
fighting, or merely as a way to keep fit.
Nicola Adams, as one of Great Britain's home gold medalists at
the 2012 Olympics - which were held in London - became one of
the icons of the sport and a figurehead for women's boxing.
"I am always being told by people that I meet or others that
contact me via Twitter that I have inspired them to be active
and take up the sport so it is brilliant to see that this is
translating into real results amongst so many different age
Adams said back in 2013.
"It is really important that we
get more women doing exercise and being active and those that
have taken up boxing or boxing training will definitely find
that it has a really positive impact on their health, fitness
Katie Taylor also won gold at the 2012 Olympics and although she
lost in the quarter-finals four years later that success was the
springboard for her career. Ireland's Taylor has recorded half a
dozen victories since turning professional and she has her first
world title bout later in October, when she will come up against
Argentine fighter Anahi Sanchez.
The hope for the women's boxing industry is that the likes of
Adams and Taylor can become global stars in the same way that
the likes of Ronda Rousey did in UFC.
What needs to change to grow women's boxing further?
According to Katie Taylor, one of the things that could be
holding women's boxing back is the length of the rounds fought
in the professional arena.
Whereas men box for three minutes at a time, with 12 rounds at
the top of the sport, this is cut to just two minutes when women
go into the ring.
Taylor believes this has an impact on how female fighters
approach their bout, with longer rounds having the potential to
be more exciting for fans.
"Definitely if you had three-minute rounds you would have a
better chance of stopping these girls, for sure,"
Taylor said earlier this year. "It does make for a different
fight as well.
"We spar three-minute rounds all the time. I'm happy to go
three-minute rounds. I think you would see a lot more knockouts
in the women's game then."
Whether or not Taylor gets her wish for longer rounds remains to
be seen, but there is no doubt women's boxing could benefit from
some tweaks to ensure its popularity continues to rise.
While it is a good thing that fighters like Taylor have had
their fights televised, bringing the sport to a large audience,
the profile of the women's boxing in the media remains
relatively low. And as a result, the money that is made by
female fighters is still dwarfed by their male counterparts.
Perhaps for that to change, what women's boxing needs is a big
breakout star in the vein of Rousey, who almost single-handedly
pushed UFC into becoming a household name sport.
Some fighters such as the Olympian Marlen Esparza have used
their image to get ahead, posing in sexy photoshoots and
attracting big-name sponsors, but this is less ideal and not a
path everyone can choose to go down, even if they wanted to.
Sponsorships traditionally drive a sport forward as is the case
with most sports in the UK and the USA. The biggest sponsors in
the UK tend to be betting companies, since its legal to wager in
the UK. You can
click over here for “bookmakers” that are prolific sponsors
of sports such as football, rugby, cricket and boxing in the UK.
Benefits and advantages of women's boxing
A lot of women who start boxing competitively first took up the
sport as a fitness regimen. Boxing is a full-body workout like
no other, while the competitive edge is attractive to a lot of
women. There are few other outlets as useful for working out
frustration than sparring too.
Fighting is a broad spectrum, however, and women's boxing makes
up just one strands. UFC has become phenomenally popular in the
last decade, prompted by the likes of breakout stars Ronda
Rousey and Taylor's Irish compatriot Conor McGregor.
But boxing remains the pinnacle of the fight game, as seen by
McGregor's determination to get into the ring with the great
Floyd Mayweather. McGregor lost, but made a fortune, and his
profile is now higher than ever.
But as for women's boxing itself - where can it go in the
future? The 2012 Olympics has helped women's boxing to establish
itself in the public consciousness, but there is a long way to
The future of women's boxing
Getting more female bouts on to the under cards of major men's
fights is one way forward for the sport, with talented United
States starlet Claressa Shields having already fought on the
undercard of Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward's pay-per-view fight
But while having women's fights on under cards can help to bring
the sport to a new audience, it is also important that it can
stand on its own two feet in the future.
Big name boxers are needed if that is going to happen, with the
likes of Taylor and Shields showing the way forward for the
sport. It is not impossible to imagine that those two fighters
could lead the way for women's boxing for the next decade or so.
"This is a new era, and that's no disrespect to Christy Martin
or Lucia Rijker or Laila [Ali]. But the women of this generation
are just different,"
says Shields, who goes by the nickname T-Rex. "And me? I'm
one-of-a-kind. You only get one of me every century."
Shields certainly does not lack
confidence - the future of women's boxing is in safe hands.