The Rise of Women’s Boxing
The landmark court case in 1998 should have triggered a change, but maybe only now are we seeing the seeds of real change.
Jane Couch dared to take on the establishment, and probably public opinion also, and win that important historic court case that allowed women to box professionally in the UK.
In recent times we have seen women’s boxing finally start to gain some much-needed momentum. The UK numbers are still relatively low, we still have less than 50 licensed professionals, but those numbers are rising.
The perception of the sport is changing, the days of the fans leaving the arena when a women’s bout is on, appear to be over. There is a definite shift in opinion, go for a drink at the bar or watch the fight, many more are now seemingly choosing the latter. Negativity is now being replaced by acceptance.
Fights of the quality of Katie Taylor vs Delfine Persoon and Terri Harper vs Eva Wahlstrom would convert even the harshest of doubters.
There still is an issue with the depth in most of the weight divisions. You can go too quickly from novice pro to challenging for world titles.
But depth takes time, and a year or so down the line things hopefully will look very different.
When Taylor turned pro in 2016 under the promotional juggernaut of Matchroom, it gave the sport new life and the catalyst for a new generation to emerge. Fellow Olympian’s Nicola Adams and Natasha Jonas soon followed, adding more credibility and exposure.
The likes of Chantelle Cameron and Savannah Marshall also turned over, and steadily the interest was growing.
Marshall the only person to defeat Claressa Shields, is chasing replicating her amateur success in the paid ranks. Cameron desperately wants a fight with Taylor, and is confident of not only beating Taylor but stopping her as well.
If contract issues with Amanda Serrano can’t be worked out, Cameron might soon get her dream fight.
Hannah Rankin Scotland’s first-ever female world champion, seeks revenge and her title back, and could still have several big fights ahead of her.
Shannon Courtenay and Australia’s Ebanie Bridges know how to fully utilise their social media to promote themselves. In the modern world, it is vital to building a profile, both use their platforms to great effect. A fight between the pair would generate a lot of interest.
There is that new wave of talent simmering quite nicely which bodes well for the future of the sport in the UK. The likes of Amy Timlin, Rhiannon Dixon, April Hunter, Carly Skelly, Jade Taylor, Nicola Hopewell, Courtenay and others are all exciting additions, and all could move into the world title picture in the not too distant future.
The ongoing pandemic has slowed things down somewhat, but we have fighters waiting to make their professional debuts when we see whatever version of normal we will have. Ellie Scotney and Laura Pain are two especially to keep an eye out for.
But Shannon Bowe, Megan Redstall, Ellis Hopkins are also waiting to get their careers up and running.
If ever the time is right for a British title it is now.
Harper and Jonas will soon meet in the first all British world title fight. Harper could be something special, and might even be the heir apparent to Katie Taylor. But Jonas should not be underestimated, the 6-1 odds you can get on Jonas, don’t really reflect her chances. It’s a much better fight than many people think. Jonas has said ‘the fight means everything’ that’s some motivation.
The fight brings more spotlight on the sport, and whoever emerges with their hand raised will have the likes of the unbeaten American Mikaela Mayer to contend with.
We are looking at potentially a golden era for women’s boxing, one that Couch must have dreamed about all those years ago. The depth will be strengthened next year after the delayed Olympics is over. Hannah Robinson, Sandy Ryan and plenty more could make the move in the next few years, not only adding to the depth, but adding real quality also.
For the sport to keep going forward, it needs the fights, the rivalries, new stars to emerge and a conveyor belt of new talent to continue to come through. After many false starts, this time the rise of women’s boxing looks set to continue.