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Exclusive Interview with Segerdal
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Editorial on the first all-women's event 


The Acceptable Face of 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.

allfem1Tucker Rod XX.jpg (7867 bytes)
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 championship-class skills.

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. 

allfem5BayardoWebber XX.jpg (7369 bytes)
Bayardo vs Cora

Cora, 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 World Championships. 

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 girls.

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 girls are 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 fight".

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 boxer needs."

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.

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