WOMEN’S boxing is still battling for acceptance and the fight will continue for a little while yet. Boxing is men-only territory in the eyes of too many. An endeavour too violent for their tender female counterparts, they say. But on Saturday night, Chantelle Cameron, with more than a little help from her opponent Mary McGee, saved an otherwise drab bill at the O2 Arena with a superb performance that highlighted – yet again – that a well-matched fight between two women is every bit as compelling as a fight between two well-matched men.
There is of course a temptation to go overboard each time two females get together and produce an exciting fight. To over-compensate somewhat for the lack of widespread acceptance by declaring it a fight of the ages when, in truth, it was just a really good scrap. That was the case with Cameron-McGee, a contest with 10 hard-fought rounds, plenty of memorable exchanges, but one that was ultimately lopsided on the cards because Chantelle was that bit better in pretty much every department.
What that bout should tell us is that when two fighters are on a similar level and are matched together, regardless of gender, the subsequent fight stands a far better chance of delivering than pitching a big favourite against a big underdog, as is too often the case.
If we’re to be honest, the reason Saturday’s main event can be deemed a success is not because it was two women, but instead, because it was simply a good fight. To shout too loudly about the sex of the boxers is borderline condescending.
But what we have seen in recent years is a trend developing in women’s boxing that can only be regarded as encouraging for its future development. Stars are emerging, excellent fights are increasingly common and the talent pool is slowly deepening. One only had to watch the standard of women’s boxing at the Olympics for an indication of the quality out there.
Eddie Hearn has led the way in showcasing female talent on his shows, more so than any other big promoter. And by and large he’s gone about it in the right way. His plan, this time, was for Cameron-McGee to play chief-support to Dillian Whyte versus Otto Wallin thus ensuring plenty of eyes were on the women’s bout. In the end, it didn’t quite work out that way as Hearn took a financial hit when thousands of fans opted for refunds after Whyte pulled out with an injury. Credit to Hearn for going ahead with the bill, for ensuring fighters got paid and, above all, for handing Cameron the platform to shine.
One hopes he’s also learned a lesson about ensuring there’s enough quality throughout the bill and, in turn, other promoters and broadcasters have taken note. Hearn is far from the guiltiest party. I realise I’m going over old ground here but every boxing bill – bar those topped by bona fide superfights – needs more than one or two competitive bouts to deliver real value for money. Too often we’re watching shows from 7pm and have nearly fallen asleep by the time some excitement occurs. One fears that the competition among broadcasters, and the warring powerbrokers they’re reliant upon, is making it increasingly difficult to produce quality consistently, however.
But let’s focus on the positive. Cameron is now the Ring Magazine champion and her next bout will likely see her face the winner of the November 18 bout between Kali Reiss and Jessica Camara, two of Chantelle’s closest rivals in the super-lightweight class. This no-brainer formula, the best fighting the best, has been embraced in women’s boxing far better than it has with the men. Furthermore, we are seeing good fights all the way down the food chain, too. Fighters taking risks in order to progress, unbeaten records not being protected and losses providing education. A perfect case in point is Hannah Rankin, who this weekend tops a bill in Tottenham as eager as ever to develop, with the five defeats on her record being worn like badges of honour as opposed to indelible stains.
But Rankin’s outing with war-torn Maria Lindberg, 44, highlights how difficult it is to get quality opponents for the best fighters every time.
There are still too many ugly fights and too many poorly regulated bouts abroad. There is a long way to go to eradicate all of that. Yet the key takeout here, yet again, is that the making of well-matched fights is the only way to truly build for the future. That’s not only the female code, but the entire sport.