Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Pushing Boundaries: People Ignore Women's Boxing Because It Makes Them Nervous, Writes Adrianne Blue

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Pushing Boundaries: People Ignore Women's Boxing Because It Makes Them Nervous, Writes Adrianne Blue

Article excerpt

At New York's Madison Square Garden recently, Muhammad Ali's daughter broke her opponent's nose in the fourth round with a carefully placed left-right combination. "I always break noses. I love breaking'em," the world super-middleweight champion Laila Ali explained.

Laila, who likes knocking 'em out even more than breaking their noses, has a lithe, light-on-her-feet, athletic boxing style that reminds you of The Greatest. Laila, who takes great care to be glam as well as strong, is the number-one female fighter in the world.

And yet, unless her father turns up ringside, there's not huge coverage of her bouts. Why? Because women's boxing makes people nervous.

No matter what you think of boxing, male or female--and even I who am greatly in awe of physical courage have my reservations--you will surely allow that female boxers, regardless of whether they want to be, are smack on the front line known as the gender boundary.

This is a frontier that all female champions must somehow negotiate on entering Sportworld. Gymnasts and beautiful tennis players get their passports stamped with the least hassle, but boxers? Well, theirs is still regarded as a "manly pursuit".

Bet you didn't know (I didn't until quite recently) that women's fights started in the 1720s in London. These were mauling, no-holds-barred events in which there were many injuries. The women would punch and use their feet and knees to kick their opponent's body anywhere, and the injuries were severe. A mere 270-odd years later, in 1998, women's professional boxing was licensed when Jane "the Fleetwood Assassin" Couch took the British boxing authorities to court and won.

As the advert says, we've come a long way, baby--and not just in boxing. …

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