Female Boxing and Kickboxing/MMA

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Female Boxing Historical Overview

Key Takeaways

  • Reports of women participating in boxing go back to the 18th century, where most fights "were done bare-knuckled."
  • The first reported female boxing match to take place in the US was in 1876, at the New York Hills Theater, where Nell Saunders beat Rose Harland and won a butter dish.
  • In 1954, Barbara Buttrick "became the first female boxer to have a nationally broadcasted fight."
  • The International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board (EB) approved the inclusion of women’s boxing for the 2012 Olympics in London.

Introduction

Female boxing can be traced back to the 18th century. However, the sport was recognized as a professional practice until the late 20th century. A historical overview of women's boxing is provided below.

The Start of Female Boxing and First Matches

  • Reports of women participating in boxing go back to the 18th century, where most fights "were done bare-knuckled."
  • In 1722, Elizabeth Wilkinson Stokes ('The City Championess'), who fought both men and women, challenged Hannah Hyfield ('The Newgate Market Basket-Woman') to a boxing match. Wilkinson won "after a 22-minute fight." After this, she became "the most popular female fighter in Britain" and earned the name 'Lady Bareknuckles.' Wilkinson and Hyfield "advertised their fights in newspapers" and became very popular in the 1720s.
  • The popularity of female boxing fights declined and by the 1830s women’s boxing became nearly extinct. In 1865, the Queensbury rules were issued, which established boxing gloves and timed rounds, and the regulation of the sport became more strict. "By 1880, women boxing in Britain had been banned."
  • There was a revival of the sport in the second half of the 19th century, beginning in the US and "spreading to France, Germany and Great Britain." However, contact sports were still believed to be physically and mentally dangerous for women.
  • The first reported female boxing match to take place in the US was in 1876, at the New York Hills Theater, where Nell Saunders beat Rose Harland and won a butter dish.
  • Professor Andrew Newton founded the first women’s boxing club in London in the 1920s. Annie Newton, his niece, "was the most famous member." At this time, men believed women practicing boxing was 'unladylike.'
  • In 1926, the Shoreditch Borough Council banned an arranged exhibition match between Annie Newton and Madge Baker. The Mayor of Hackney, Rev. W. Evans, stated to the Daily News: "I regard this proposed exhibition of women boxers as a gratification of the sensual ideals of a crowd of vulgar men." Newton was only allowed to give an exhibition with the punchball.
  • Shortly after the 1920s, exhibition matches were organized but eventually banned, as the government determined the matches to be ‘disgraceful’. Despite this discouragement, female boxing continued to grow for the next thirty years.

Key Milestones

  • In 1904, boxing made its debut in the Olympics in St. Louis, but only as an exhibition.
  • In 1954, Barbara Buttrick "became the first female boxer to have a nationally broadcasted fight." Buttrick also became the first female boxing world champion in 1957, representing "the first real acceptance for women in competitive boxing." After retiring, she founded the International Women’s Boxing Federation in 1989.
  • In 1975, Nevada issued the first female boxing license to Caroline Svedsen. In the late 1970s and ’80s, the first women were licensed for boxing in the US. Some include Marian Trimiar (known as Lady Tyger), Jackie Tonawanda, and Cathy Davis (known as ‘Cat’).
  • Cathy Davis was the first female boxer to appear on the cover of The Ring magazine in 1978.
  • Bans on amateur women’s boxing were lifted in Sweden in 1988, in the US in 1993, and in England in 1996.
  • In 1994, the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) "lifted the ban on women’s boxing," giving way to the beginning of competitive and professional female boxing.
  • The International Boxing Association "approved the first European Cup for Women in 1999 and the first World Championship for women in 2001."
  • The International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board (EB) approved the inclusion of women’s boxing for the 2012 Olympics in London.

Research Strategy:

To provide the requested information, we leveraged the most reputable sources available in the public domain, including The Focus, MK Boxing, and Boxing Africa.
Sources
Sources