Here’s a video of Katie Taylor, whose speed, aggression and intelligence are not in question. She’s one of a few who have risen above the herd and gets recognised as a sports star and a talent regardless of gender. Still, women’s boxing has a long way to go before it’s as popular as the men’s sport.
One reason often given for this is that women rarely get knockouts, which is something that the fans want to see. I have actually seen a woman knock out another woman in white collar boxing, but that was only once compared to many occasions with the men. The reason for that seems to be that they have less power. There is also the question of skill, though as Amy Andrew raised in my chat with her, this is really a chicken-and-egg problem. The more opportunity you have to fight good opponents, the better you get, and the more often fights are televised the more money goes back into the sport. That means more people ultimately get into it, and the competition makes people up their game.
I think some of the prejudice comes down to the belief that men are stronger than women and more naturally designed to fight than women are. That’s probably true if you were talking about a pound-for-pound match. However, it’s not true that women are somehow naturally less suited to fighting.
Why it doesn’t matter
Ever heard of the Bechdel test? It’s a test applied to movies and literature to see how effectively women are represented there. It asks whether a work features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man.
Does your life pass the Bechdel test? Do you meet with friends only to discuss the men in your life – husbands, crushes, bosses? Or are women the main reference in it?
When I talk to fighters about the intensity of the moment with your opponent, the way that time seems to stand still and it is just you two alone in the world – that is passing the fucking Bechdel test.
When women fight, our references are not men. They are each other. There really is no better way to focus on someone than having them coming towards you trying to punch you. How often can we say that’s true in life?
For that reason, it’s essential that we get more women in the sport not only to box, but as coaches, gym owners, etc. Otherwise the danger is that your reference for approval and attachment is still going to be a man.
I hope that boxing takes after UFC and that the women fighters attract viewers and fans in their own right, and not as an inferior, novelty version of what men have been doing for years. We’ll take time to get there but this feels like a pivotal moment. I hope I’m right.