Women's Boxing - A report from an ALL-FEMALE CARD in Hawthorne,
California in 1979. by Alastair Segerdal -
Reports from California
"One of the few magazines that would publish information about women's boxing in the late 70's.
I have contacted many of these fighters and people that were involved in
the women's scene in the late 70's" T.L.Fox
In this review of
the women's boxing scene in
California I would like to get one major fact over to readers from the word go - the -days
of a few brave girls in some out-of-the-way locality, attempting to emulate male boxers,
under some obscure and unofficial 'championship' card, are over. Today, in the United
States, women's boxing has reached the status of a proper and fully licensed sport,
complete with genuine championship ratings, State Licenses and all the trimmings and
sponsorship previously only enjoyed by men. There are few States today who do
not recognize and grant licenses to the girl fighters and the sport is especially big in
Southern California, where I was recently invited to witness the first all-female fight
card in history, on February 11th this year at Hawthorne, Los Angeles.
The sport is also very big in Las Vegas at the
time of going to press, women's boxing has suddenly hit the big time in the Eastern States
also. For instance, there are now eight female fight promoters in Washington DC alone,
and ladies' title bouts in Washington DC during May 18th to 23rd. I was
unable to cover these Washington bouts but the Los Angeles visit gave me a complete and
excellent insight into the American female fight game as it is right now.
At Hawthorne over a thousand fans were able to
witness an evening of women's boxing at the Hawthorne Memorial Center that would rival any
male championship card. The event was filmed for television and contained some of the top
names of girl boxers.
Names such as Lady Tyger
Trimiar, Cora Webber
and Shirley Tucker. In the ringside seats were other big names in the world of women's
boxing - like Karen Bennett, the top female fighter from Las
Vegas, Paul Kurlytis, the man who trained Sonny Liston, and Johnny
Dubliss, one of the
world's leading organizers and whiz kid of women's boxing in America today. Also at
the ringside was Eric Westlake, a top girl fight promoter from Las Vegas.
George Luckman, the LA correspondent for the British "Boxing News" and many,
many other leading promoters from all over the United States. It
included were sports
columnists from the newspapers; Today, women's fights are reported as straightforward
sports writing in the sports pages of the American press.
Zebra Girl Tucker
vs. Toni Lear Rodriguez
|Gone are the days when a female
fight was reported as some oddity in the features section. Women's boxing is now
moving into more and more sports columns in more and more newspapers throughout the US.The
bouts themselves were fast, action packed displays of courage, fitness and
And for your interest here's a rundown of them: Zebra Girl Tucker
at 119 lbs versus Toni Rodriguez at 121 lbs. This was a 6- round bout 'with Zebra Girl
Tucker winning by a majority decision in the 5th round.
|Dulcie Lucas at 147 lbs from
Puerto Rico fought Valarie Ganther 147 lbs and won by a KO in round two.
Cora Webber at 130 lbs fought a terrific battle with Lily
"Squeaky" Bayardo, 127 lbs, over 5 rounds, the fight ending in a draw.
noted for her exceptionally powerful punches, gave the crowd their money's worth with
really high speed footwork and body blows. The equally tough and fast Miss
Bayardo, the number 7 world contender, gave as good as she received, with both girls
piling up one point after another at an exhausting and thrilling pace.
Tyger Trimiar vs. Carlotta Lee
|The last bout was between: Lady Tyger Trimiar at
135 lbs and Carlotta Lee at 134 lbs. Lady Tyger gave and took terrific punishment and the
fight went the full 6 rounds with Lady Tyger decisioning Carlotta.
Said Sammy Sanders of Western Promotions
who ran the big evening's boxing - "I accomplished what I set out to do..... to prove
that ladies do not need the support of men on the same card. The so-called weaker
sex can stand on their own." Sammy knows what he's talking about - he has
had 30 years of experience in boxing and was a fighter himself in the early fifties. The
Hawthorne bouts were a world premiere of Elimination Matches for the Women Boxing Board
From this will emerge the fights and crowning of
the first true title-holders even in women's boxing. In the editorial of the
"WBB News", they proudly state that - "Above all, we feel that boxing fans
everywhere, in the United States, in Europe and the far corners of the world will find
that the sport of women boxing is, and will be, the sport of the future. Ratings by the
Women Boxing Board are as accurate and fair as possible. The board is proud to be a part
of this new look in boxing.
Women's boxing is and will be a major force in
the world's most popular sport, boxing. Women's boxing is the new look in boxing and the
WBB is proud to be there at the beginning."
Both the World Women's Boxing Association (The
WWBA) and the Women's Boxing Board (The WBB) now give actual World Wide Ratings for the
For an even further insight into the women's
fight game, there is no substitute for talking to the girls themselves and ,allowing them
to speak. Not just the girls who fought at the Hawthorne bout but others from the
ringside, due to fight in later bouts in other States.
To meet and interview some of
these women I had the fortune to be greatly assisted by Mr Auerbach, who was able to
locate and suggest the girls selected to interview. Mr. Auerbach, who lives in Los
Angeles, as well as being an expert on the female fight scene, is also the designer and
inventor of various sporting goods including his famous 'mobile' punchbag which can be
carried and assembled on the spot, wherever you happen to be and whenever you want to
practice your punches. Purchasing one of his punchbags after the bouts, Karen Bennett, the leading girl boxer, from Las Vegas spoke to me.
She was due to drive back to Nevada that night through thick Los Angeles fog but was far
too enthusiastic about her boxing views to let the fog hold up her conversation.
This attractive bantamweight told me:-
"The secret of not getting hurt in this game is training. And we train just as
hard and just as often as do the male fighters. This is a tough sport and if you're not in
top physical and mental condition, you won't survive. And that means you train, train,
train like mad."
She went on to say - "I'm the Women's World
Boxing Association Bantamweight Champion and I live and train in Las Vegas. I'm in the
hands of a good trainer who fought himself in the Fifties in the Bantamweight class. The
whole trick in this game is, as I've said, not to get hit remember, boxing is, after all,
the art of self-defense! To hit and not to get hit that's the art of it., I've had nine
knockouts with Bantamweights so far - all within the second round." Karen, by the
way, has the reputation of fast wins early in her bouts. Slim in build and moving at
lightning speed, you often do not see Karen's punches coming. Her footwork and body
movements are so fast that you just can't hit her.
When she says the art is not to get hit, she
must be one of the best defenders around. I pointed out to Karen that she had quite a
slight bone structure and asked her if this was any disadvantage? She laughed and said -
"Well - I've been decked a few times but no, that doesn't stop you boxing."
She also pointed out the obvious to me that you
only box someone in your own weight class. Karen went on to tell me that she has been
boxing for two years and that, unlike many of the other girls, she has no previous history
in Karate or kick-boxing. "That never appealed to me" she said. "They are
more what I'd call 'killer sports' and I'm more keen on the art - boxing is more of an art
to me. The trouble with the training sessions in Karate and kick-boxing is that they hit
you so hard in training that you get bruises.
I guess you can dress up when you're sparring
even though I don't wear headgear when I spar. But you know, I'm still studying the art.
After all, my trainer doesn't take the blows.....
I do! But so far, so good with my training. But
as more and more women come into this sport, the higher and higher the standards become.
So the more often and better you are forced to train - that is if you want to stay on top
or even in the sport at all." "Do you find it a tough sport?" I asked
her and she quipped back - "Tough? It's the toughest sport I've ever encountered! I
used to be a tennis player and was just about brainwashed with tennis - offered tennis
scholarships and all that. But it didn't excite me enough. This is exciting. I love it.
This is a grueling sport......... the last of the gladiators. You've got to be in terrific
shape - a perfect athlete. You gotta watch your diet - learn your art - just like studying
music or chess. Boxing is very like a chess game because all the time you're thinking fast
and maneuvering fast - trying to be that split second ahead of your opponent all the time.
You learn to master all that strategy and that's what makes you a champion. You have to
have all this just like the men. The males have it down to this degree of art and skill
and we're working towards it.
You know - we've got a lot to look up to."
It is just that sort of humility, willingness to learn and dedication that is allowing the
girls to succeed in their own right at long last. But it wasn't always that
way for Karen. "I used to look on it with disgust - I really did.
But now I enjoy it. I'm a nurse and the thought
of unnecessary treatment to the face and the body .... that disgusted me. But then you get
into that ring and I started to realize it was an art. Besides, if you want to do it, well
then that's your tough business!
You can take it or leave - it's entirely up to
you." She talked about injury risks and here again, Karen stressed the importance of
being fit and properly trained.
Karen said, "There's risks in any sport of course but a girl who
is well trained can look after herself. But if you're out of shape......... sure .....
then it gets very dangerous.
To go in that
ring out of shape is crazy. Although we are of
lighter frames than the men, we go entirely on weight so a girl's lighter build is no
problem at all. We wear the breast protectors but I remember once when a girl hit -me so
hard it broke my protector. So, you know what? I had an Indian friend of mine make me one
out of steel!"
"The girl who broke my protector in the
ring was a Japanese girl trained Karate. And I was wearing the one the martial art Karate
people use in
Tae Kwon Do
training. That it finally broke gives you some idea of the force
behind those punches - as I said, if you're not all fit and well prepared in this sport
you're in trouble. Yes, it IS a tough sport and just about the toughest thing a girl could
take up. Women need pelvic
protection. The males are protected from the belly button down
but you'll notice there's no protection like this for the women. You aren't supposed to
hit below the belt" but, she said laughing - "anything goes in that ring! I've
been hit there many a time. Especially by the kick-boxers.
They and the
Karate experts are used to it and
they switch from the martial arts over to the boxing . But that's a whole different game
as the strength there is in the legs. And quite a few of tonight's
ex-kick-boxers. And every time I come to these matches, I learn something. I should have
been out running today but you always learn something from watching the other girls
Although Karen Bennett was not on the card for
this particular evening, there was another girl who was billed to fight but whose opponent
had far too great a weight difference to allow the bout to proceed. Both the girls and the
ruling bodies are strict on this matter of weight. It's important for the men but it seems
to be of even greater significance for the women. Her name is Nancy 'Little Rock"
Thompson and she is from California. She only started training 10 months ago and I asked
her how she began".
Said Nancy - "Well - I had five or six
fights with guys - amateur bouts they were and then I had one 'pro' fight. I'm trying to
get back into the heat tonight." At this point her manager, Joe Lopez arrived and
said - "Well - she's supposed to fight tonight but there's a weight problem so now
we're not sure." Problems like that are big disappointments for a girl who has spent
weeks and weeks training hard and getting all geared up both mentally and physically for
the big event. Nancy said that the more women who get into her weight class, the more
fighting experience she can get. "Right now I weigh about I 10 lbs - so I'm a
Flyweight. But when I first started training I had to put on some pounds as I was only
101! Before I started boxing I was always a very physical type person. I'm small for my
size but I have a pretty good punch in my hands - mainly my left. And I can hit pretty
hard! I train six days a week and I run every morning. The same things a guy would do ...
spar, hit the bags. condition myself,"
Nancy's manager talked about the big future for
women's boxing and pointed out to me that now the girls have World Ratings.
"Great" said Nancy, "but right now I just hope that I get to fight tonight
I think I can beat her. As I've said - I hit pretty hard and I've my strategy well worked
out." Nancy is 21 years old and came to California from New Jersey.
Then she said that she was in the US Navy for a
while. "I used to train in the naval gyms - you know - just fooling around and I
guess that's how I really first got discovered. I was banging on the bags and
folks started to say that if I could hit that hard I should take up boxing. One day a
sports writer came in and wanted to do a story on me. We went down to the gym and Joe
Lopez was with me as a sort of trainer. He's been my trainer ever since."
As Nancy was talking to me I got to meet another
big name in the world of women's boxing. He in Vern Stevenson and he acts as the
co-ordinator for the World Women's Boxing Association.
It was Vern who told that the girl
boxer known as "Baby bear" had opened the world's first women's boxing academy
in Kansas City, Kansas. He smiled and said - "Please note it's in Kansas City, Kansas
and not over the way in Kansas City, Missouri In Missouri they don't yet give the girls
licenses to fight. But they'll come around to it! " Vern had further surprises for me
as he went on to say - "Baby Bear is the first woman referee in the world. And she is
also the first girl to ever fight ten full rounds, in a World Championship fight.
It was also the world's first officially
sanctioned Championship fight. It was officially sanctioned by the State - that is,
by a State Commission and also by a world boxing body. And, guess what? Baby Bear is also
a songwriter and has a couple of records out right now which she wrote!" There are
quite a few girl boxers who have had a nursing career behind them but this must surely be
the first girl who can not only knock up a pop song but knock the living daylights out of
you at the same time! Vern went on to say that Baby Bear was a good friend of the tennis
Champ, Virginia Wade who is also a keen supporter of women's boxing.
Said Vern - "Both Baby Bear and Virginia
are from England and they met at a tennis tournament in Kansas City. Baby Bear has had
eight fights and she's won five by KO, one draw and two decisions to the World Champion,
Toni Rodriguez - the only two she's lost. She fights a return bout with Rodriguez on May
26th and we hope she'll bring home the bacon!" (it was of course, Toni whom we saw
fight Zebra Girl Tucker that evening).
One of the toughest fights that evening, as
already mentioned, was the one between Cora Webber, sometimes
known as "Little Eagle", and Squeaky Bayardo, so I was
glad to later meet Cora herself and her manager, John Meyers. Cora is one of tomorrow's up
and coming boxing stars and she has no reasons why she couldn't make it. "I'm a
nature at it" said the determined Cora. "it's easy for me and I learn very
quickly. I've been athletic all my life - a bit of tennis, baseball, football and lots of
running. Now I run every day in my training schedule as well as all the other training a
What inspires Cora to fight for a living? She
smiled saying - "Money! Competition. Heck, I just love it! You can even get 'high'
boxing! And I just think it's neat for a chick to go out there and box. The men do it so
why not me? Girl's do just about everything else these days don't they?" However,
Cora, like so many of the girl fighters, started her career, not in Western -style
Queensbury Rules fisticuffs but in the brutal sport of kick-boxing." She
started kick boxing at the age of 16 and did it for four years in Florida.
But in those days if you made contact and drew
blood you were disqualified!" Her manager told me "Boxing for girls is getting
off the round now. You will see more and more of the caliber and quality that Cora has.
And as you saw with someone like Zebra girl, you can see that these girls can handle
themselves in an extremely co-ordinated sort of way.
Totally different to what one would think with a
woman fighting a woman. There's an art to it and it can be called a sport. It doesn't have
to be called a savage, undignified way of expressing yourself if you're a woman. You can
be involved in the sport in a technical and very artistic sort of way. And these are the
kind of girls that are showing that stuff.
You should see Cora's training regimen - she
runs miles every day, skip-ropes, kicks the heavy-bags, boxes, works out on the speed-bag,
jump-ropes. They can give the Woman Athlete-of-the-year award to a woman golfer but - I'd
like to know what her training schedule calls for - for tennis or any other sport for that
matter. Boxing calls for terrific fitness . . . when I see what these girls go through!
They go through a tremendous amount of training and teaching to get where they are and
it's no joke with them. Cora has told you that she is a 'natural' and that's what we have
to keep looking for. There are some girls you can just teach but we are always looking for
that NATURAL kind of ability. As the sport grows, there will be this
undercurrent of new girls coming up, and new and greater talent." Cora is
20 years old right now and she said this was a good age. But both she and her manager
pointed out that we probably still don't know the true 'peak' for a woman boxer.
As John said, "it has been shown that, in
Russia, for girl gymnasts for instance,
they pass their peak at a very early age of around 20. They can't compete at that age with
a 14 year old gymnast, so where does that leave something like boxing? We just don't know
the peak for a woman in this respect do we? For a man it might be 25 or older - look at
boxers like Ezzard Charles."
Women's boxing is becoming more and more
acceptable in America because more and more people are seeing just how well the girls can
perform in the ring. These girls are getting just as skilled and just as graceful as the
men. People see this. They get to see real boxing, not gimmicky girls in the ring. They
can get hurt just like the men but the referee doesn't stop the fight just because it's a
woman and only for that reason.
Just as with a man, the referee has to ask - can
this boxer carry on and defend herself? Today there is no discrimination once a girl is
licensed and the bouts recognized by the State authorities. Ten years ago, Cora would not
have been able to get a license but today the girls want to be on a par with men,
especially along with the present boom in sporting activities and interest in fitness,
health and competition throughout many, many sports. Likewise, the sport of women's boxing
does not intent to be left out.