MARCH is traditionally women’s month and so let’s train the spotlight on the best fighters to come from the distaff side.
PRO BOXING. At present, women’s pro boxing is on a downslide due to the dearth of popular fighters to represent the sport.
It has a long way to go in matching its glory days in the 1990s when it had a flagship fighter in Christy Martin aka “The Coal Miner’s daughter” who would fight in the undercards of main even fighters like Mike Tyson.
Then came Laila Ali, the daughter of “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali, who naturally became the face of the sport during her brief but eventful career from 1999-2007.
Her seminal match-up with Jacqui Frazier Lyde, daughter of “Smokin” Joe Frazier in 2001, attracted mainstream attention to women’s boxing.
Some of the more well-known fighters Laila Ali defeated were Valerie Mahfood, Shelley Burton and Christy Martin.
The sport also generated mainstream media interest when the Hollywood film “Million Dollar Baby” starring Hillary Swank was released in 2004. The movie was directed by Clint Eastwood and received critical acclaim.
Other fighters of note who made an impact in the sport were Holly Holm and Anne Wolf.
Holm is a southpaw blonde blessed with movie-star good looks that earned her the nickname “Hottie”. But don’t let her appearance fool you. She could snap you like a twig. She was a world champion in three separate weight divisions and has since transitioned into Mixed martial Arts.
Wolf is regarded as the hardest puncher in the history of women’s boxing. She held the light middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight titles.
The last title was garnered in spectacular fashion as she knocked out the highly regarded Vonda Ward in one round. That stoppage was also hailed as the greatest knockout in the history of women’s boxing.
Her only loss came against Valerie Mafood via third round KO but she avenged the defeat with a ten round decision 2 years later.
Today, we have the likes of Cecilia Braekhus (24-0, 7 KOs) of Norway, Anne-Sophie Mathis (27-3, 23KOs) and even our Ana Julaton (13-4, 2 KOs) to carry the torch.
But the biggest obstacle is the unprecedented rise of a rival sport in women’s MMA.
MMA. My readers are probably aware that I am partial to women participating in MMA rather than in boxing. My reasoning is quite simple: I believe that they are better suited to compete in MMA where the combat involves a more dynamic and functional approach as opposed to boxing where the combatants are limited to throwing punches on their feet.
And I would like to believe that the surging popularity of women’s MMA today validates my hypothesis as the sport has grown by leaps and bounds.
Leading the charge are flagship fighters like Ronda Rousey-currently the UFC’s bantamweight champion who holds an immaculate record of 9-0 with all of her wins via the short route, 8 of those via armbar in the first round.
Cristiane Justino nicknamed “The Cyborg”, who is no 1 at the featherweight division and top 3 on most pound-for-pound lists is another exciting fighter.
Rousey’s most recent victims Meisha Tate and Sara McMann are also top- tier fighters who both possess the skills to become champions should Rousey have an off night.
So you see, the fight game isn’t all about men anymore. And in MMA, the women fighters are shaming the men by showing up in tip-top shape, night in and night out.
LAST ROUNDS. Are on my childhood buddy, Dr. Oliver Baclig who recently celebrated his birthday and on Marit Stinus whose natal day falls on March 8, the International Women’s Day. Cheers!
(Follow me on Twitter@thelastround)