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Women In Professional Boxing: Since 1904

Professional boxing is a sport dominated by men, but a few women have earned the right to be in the profession as well. Women boxers have been around since the 1700’s but they really haven’t gotten the recognition they deserve. The first real identification with female boxing as an actual event took place in 1904 when it became an event in the Olympics. Yet the concept of a female boxing match being aired on television didn’t occur until 1954.

From 1975 to 1978 many women applied for a boxing license in various states throughout the United States. By 1977 many states were allowing women to get such licenses and have official professional boxing matches. The length of time for each round was shorter than for men and there were fewer rounds as well. They were limited to no more than four rounds. In 1979 Shirley Tucker and other female boxers contested the ruling and won with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Yet the boxing regulations for women still were unfair when compared to those for men. After years of not making very much headway a female professional boxer decided to get media attention focused on the issue. In 1987 Marian Trimiar went on a hunger strike to advocate for female boxers to get recognized, earn better money for their matches, and have good conditions for training and their matches.

Still, USA Boxing didn’t officially recognize female boxers as anything more than a novelty until 1993. This was done as the result of a lawsuit against them where the judge ruled it unconstitutional to prevent women from boxing professionally because of their gender. As a result of the ruling though USA Boxing implements rules and regulations for female amateur boxing.

It wasn’t until 1996 that women professional boxing was officially recognized. The landmark event that got women professional boxing in front of the cameras was a Pay per View fight offered by HBO. Christy Martin and Deirdre Gogarty engaged in a wild six round boxing match in March of 1996. The public loved it and the popular magazine Sports Illustrated ran with the concept. In July of 1997 the first Women’s National Championship took place.

Women’s professional boxing set another first in 1999 when the first event where a man faced a woman in the ring took place. This idea didn’t settle well with the USA Boxing regulations or with spectators. While a few male/female matches have taken place over the years it is not a mainstream type of event.

Many of the women in professional boxing today are actually the daughters of former male professional boxers. Laila Ali is the daughter of Muhammad Ali. There was plenty of media coverage when she faced the daughter of her father’s stiff rival Joe Frazier. This particular fight drew a Pay per View record of 100,000 sales for the fight.

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