Published in the Summer 2006 issue • Sporting Goods
Stepping into the ring
No longer a boys-only club, boxing trains women to be champions
Picture this: you’ve spent the last hour skipping relentlessly, burning your way through sets of push-ups and lifts of the medicine ball, slugging 200-pound leather bags as if your life depended on it, and now you’re in the ring for a round of sparring. You feel a combination of electrified and bone-tired; you’re alert but it’s hard to hold up your hands. Your opponent is driven and is stalking you like prey. She backs you into a corner and suddenly you’re hit with a flurry of rapid blows to the head. Before you can react, the voice inside your mind whimpers, “Big red glove.”
This is one of the tougher days at the boxing gym. Today it may be a little harder to go home feeling like a champion, but you’ll try.
For much of the 20th century, women’s boxing was banned in most nations, including Canada and the United States. In Canada, women were allowed to train in gyms, but weren’t allowed to compete. In the 1980s, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms made gender-discrimination in sports illegal, overturning certain provincial laws that banned women’s boxing. In 1991, the Canadian Amateur Boxing Association amended its rules to support women in competitive boxing. (Not-so-fun fact: boxing is the only summer Olympic sport in which women still aren’t allowed to participate.)
Lately, North America has been swept with a pop-culture wave of female boxing heroines in movies such as Punch, Girlfight and, of course, Million Dollar Baby. These films often depict women who box as angry or tortured souls with an axe to grind. While it’s true that boxing can help release aggression, in reality it’s more about sweat, resolve and protecting your nose. Usually, you’re the one who’s taught a lesson, not your opponent.
If you’ve ever considered boxing—because you’ve been awestruck by Laila Ali or Jessica Rakoczy’s rock-solid stance, or maybe because you’ve always yearned to knock the stuffing out of a bag—now is a good time to start. Increasing numbers of boxing gyms are opening their doors to women. Women’s boxing is becoming a serious and exciting sport. There are roughly a dozen gyms in Canada where women officially train, either for fitness or to become amateur fighters.