IN RECENT years there has been significant advancement in the movement to create parity between male and female professional fighters. Names like Katie Taylor and Claressa Shields have done, and are continuing to do, essential work to push women’s boxing onto a larger platform and earn the respect it deserves. But this isn’t a new phenomenon; this fight has been happening for decades. Sky’s new documentary, Right to Fight, focuses on the women who built the foundations for what boxing is today, using research and archive footage from former fighter Sue Fox.
Written and directed by Georgina Cammalleri, the documentary looks at a handful of women who had to overcome unfathomable obstacles in the 70s just to ply their trade as fighters. There is Pat Pineda, who was molested as a child, married at 16, pregnant with baby number two at 17 and felt suicidal by 18. Boxing was her refuge and how she channelled the rage inside her. But even then she was the target of abuse; the documentary details how her manager hid letters written to Pineda threatening to rape her and hoping that “your babies die.”
Cathy Davis broke away from her family’s gender-based expectations and moved to New York to train as a fencer. The coach she approached told her he doesn’t train women and slashed her leg with his weapon. She then turned to boxing and was helped by manager Sal Alighieri. A less talented documentarian might keep the story there, but Cammalleri expertly highlights the privileges Davis’ race afforded her over the likes of Pineda and Marian Trimiar, the other fighter included in this doc. As a white woman, Davis became the face of women’s boxing at the time.
Trimiar, from Harlem, had dreams of becoming a fighter from a young age, inspired by Muhammad Ali. When she began pursuing those dreams she was turned away from gyms time and time again, so she created business cards which read “First Black Female Boxer.” That did the trick, but when she was eventually welcomed into the gym she was beaten up by male boxers as an initiation rite and they even bored a peephole into the shower she used.
These women had to endure constant harassment and abuse from men both in their personal and professional lives. Trimiar fled from her violent husband when she found out she was pregnant. Alighieri tried to force Davis into marriage, despite the fact she is gay. Through all of that they continued to show up in the gym, they worked as hard as they could, took whatever fights they could get and refused to be scared off from the sport.
The documentary ends with a short reunion of the three women, before closing out with footage of Trimiar being inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, roaring in triumph. It’s an enthralling watch made all the more captivating by the charisma and storytelling of the women involved. This isn’t just a must watch for boxing fans, but anyone with even a remote interest in sport. Throughout its history boxing has been a sport dominated by men, but we are beginning to see a shift now. The seeds for that change were planted by these women decades ago, and they deserve to have their story heard.
So, having watched this astonishing documentary, it was even more disheartening to see ‘influencer’ Daniella Hemsley flash her breasts in the ring after winning her bout on the Kingpyn Boxing card aired on DAZN. This isn’t the first time this has happened on one of these influencer boxing shows, either. The act quite sadly stole the headlines, not just on boxing sites but national newspaper ones as well. If you were to search ‘boxing’ on Google over the weekend, all of the top results would have been about Hemsley’s breasts.
Eddie Hearn was asked for his opinion on what transpired by Boxing Social and he said: “I hate it. We’ve worked so hard for women in boxing to be respected for their ability, for their merits, for their hard work. One thing we must understand is that isn’t boxing. That needs to be pushed. All that stuff – Misfits, Kingpyn. It needs to be booted so far away from professional boxing, and we really need to disassociate ourselves with what it is.”
Now, it is a little rich that this is coming from Hearn, who played a pretty large part in welcoming influencers into boxing, but that doesn’t make what he’s saying any less true. Alycia Baumgardner defended her super-featherweight crown over the weekend and received a fraction of the coverage Hemsley did. It’s embarrassing.
The WBC continued to embarrass itself as well with its handling of Tyson Fury, who will be fighting MMA star Francis Ngannou later this year. It was confirmed to MMA Fighting that Fury’s ‘world’ WBC title will not be on the line against Ngannou, but that the bout will appear on his professional boxing record.
Their baubles mean little, but the WBC have been speaking for months about how they will be addressing Fury’s status as champion and who he will have to fight. It was put forward that they would have Deontay Wilder and Andy Ruiz face off in a final eliminator – there is no sign that that fight is being made.
Just as they have done with others like Floyd Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez, the WBC are simply letting Fury do what he wants because he’s a big earner for them. If the organisation had any sort of respect for itself, it would enforce its rules and make Fury face worthy challengers.
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