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Women’s Boxing: Sport or Joke?
By Eldon Frost
Women's boxing, long-regarded with macho disdain, has recently experienced an enormous surge in popularity. This surge is partly due to women's ever increasing movement into male-dominated sports, partly due to the efforts of promoters like Don King and Bob Arum, and partly due to the inherent star-power of names like Freeda Foreman, Laila Ali, Christy Martin, Mia St. John, Jackie Frasier-Lyde, and others. With such big names, it is realistic to expect the competition to be fierce, and the resulting fights to be brilliant.
Last fall I got my first opportunity to watch a big name women's boxing match -- a TV match between Freeda Foreman and Aicheria Bell. My expectations were high. Freeda Foreman is, after all, not just any girl – she is the daughter of Big George! After approximately thirty seconds through round one, however, I realized that I was not actually watching a boxing match, but rather a rare encounter between endangered species.
Freeda "the sloth" Foreman threw her hooks as if in slow motion. I literally (I'm not joking!) checked my VCR to see if it was broken. Foreman's bride-of-Frankenstein-like speed and agility, however, did not prevent her from winning. Her opponent, an 0-2 fighter named Aicheria Bell, fought like a swamp wallaby trapped in a body bag. This unique approach involved holding her head back as far as possible and making desperate "pawing motions" with her gloves, similar to a dog trying to shake hands but missing. Whenever Foreman would throw one of her lugubrious punches, Bell would watch it like a deer watching headlights until it finally smooshed into her face. Foreman's technique for avoiding punches, far superior in contrast, was to turn her head to the side and close her eyes. Upon viewing the action unfold, Ringside commentator Barry Tompkins's stupefied remark was, "Uh, a lot of slapping going on." Put THAT to the tune of Jerry Lee Lewis.
In past months, we have been blessed by such fine match-ups as Mia St. John (11-0) versus Kris Vado (0-4), Belinda Laracuente (8-4-1) versus Tawayna Broxton (1-6), and Melissa Salamone (14-0) versus Lakeya Williams (0-2). Even Christy Martin, regarded as one of the world's greatest female boxers, has padded (accidentally or otherwise) her 39-2-2 record by beating such opponents as Jovette Jackson (0-1) and stripper Bethany Payne. Although Payne was introduced at ringside as having a record of 15-1, the former prostitute's actual record was 0-2. Payne later became perhaps the only boxer in history whose professional record of 1-7 allowed her to fight for a world title -- the IFBA lightweight title.
Having said all this, I should explain that the actual fight statistics I list in this article might be slightly off. After all, it's hard to keep track when fighters use multiple aliases, when fighters take fights on a seemingly weekly basis, and when the boxing commissions have no records of their supposed fights. Such is the world of female boxing.
In recognition of her own shortcomings, Freeda Foreman said in her post-fight interview that she has a "lot lot lot lot LOT lot lot more to learn..." It was a supreme statement of the obvious, but the only statement that she knew could justify her performance. However, there is yet another thing that disturbed me about the fight...
I was entertained. That's right -- damned entertained. Almost against my will, I found myself rewinding the VCR and watching the match over and over. It was such a contrast to the usual matches of good, skilled fighters, I couldn't help but appreciate the differences. Later, I even loaned the tape to a friend, saying, "Hey man, watch this match. It's amazing to see the contrast between Shane Mosley and this."
In conclusion, I can give only this advice to both promoters and female boxers. If you want women's boxing to be four rounds of entertainment and diversion on an undercard, you are doing a brilliant job. Keep it up! If you really want women's boxing to be taken seriously, you must first learn to take it seriously yourself. Set up real fights with legitimate and equally-matched contenders. As for me --I don't really care. I get my money's worth either way.