Have you noticed female fighters being featured on boxing cards lately?
Last year in September, Kaliesha West won a vacant bantamweight title stopping Angel Gladney in front of thousands of fans at Los Angeles’s premier sports venue, Staples Center. Even though the fight was on the undercard of Golden Boy promoted show that featured Shane Mosley and Sergio Mora in the main event, Kaliesha got much needed exposure in front of knowledgeable L.A fight fans. Two weeks later, Glendale Civic Auditorium has hosted a first professional female fight ever to take place in the City of Glendale: debutant Holly Lawson took on Britney Christensen. Fans went into an up roar watching ladies do their work in the ring.
Last Friday Ava Knight destroyed Gloria Salas in the very first round on the Golden Boy promoted fight card at Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino in Indio, California. It wasn’t just a knock out that impressed me; it was the skill level that Ms. Knight demonstrated while in the ring. Lean, athletic, with a well defined six pack on her stomach, Ava entered the squared circle as if she was a mermaid in water. Gliding gracefully around the ring Knight unloaded several fluid combinations and when she got hit back she almost looked surprised that her opponent was able to connect.” I wasn’t hurt at all,” said Knight after the fight:” It was just kind of like ok, you know I am back.” Back she was, dropping Gloria Salas for good with a lightning fast hook at 1:55 of the first round.
“Trust me, you are going to see a lot more of Ava, a lot more!” said Claudia Ollis, Knight’s advisor and a lady who might be partially responsible for resurgence of women’s boxing. According to Ollis , her other protégé, Melinda Cooper who is widely considered one of the top pound for pound female fighters today, will be fighting in Mexico this weekend. Then in March, at the Mecca of Boxing in Las Vegas on a Top Rank promoted card with Cotto vs. Mayorga as a main event, Christy Martin will be featured fighting Dakota Stone.
Is this trend going to continue? Are we to expect a new Serena Williams of boxing to emerge soon? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, more and more female fighters could be seen in all of boxing gyms. Just this morning at Maywood Boxing Club, a hotbed for professional boxers in Southern California, I watched ladies spar right alongside with men. For years now, women have been practicing their craft and they are getting pretty good at it.
Several years ago in Los Angeles during a dinner hosted by World Boxing Hall of Fame to honor women of boxing, Lucia Rijker, one of the best female fighters ever, spoke with passion about women boxing becoming an Olympic sport and what a huge step it was to expose women of the sweet science to fans and media in our country. Summer of 2012 is upon us and some of the best amateur girl boxers will represent United States in Olympic Games in London. One of the Olympic hopefuls, East LA’s Seniesa Estrada was featured as an added attraction on a Golden Boy Promoted card at Club Nokia in Los Angeles last year. Trained from the very young age by her father, Joe Estrada, former drug addict and a gang member, eighteen year old Seniesa definitely knows her way around the ring. Should she make the Olympic team and be successful during the games, Seniesa Estrada has all the requirements to become a star; a heart worming story, a great set of skills and the looks. Could she become a female version of Oscar De La Hoya?
Could she or any other female fighter finally brake through a good old boys network that controls the sweet science? In the sport dominated by male machismo the challenge seems tremendous. Aside from that, major TV networks have serious reservations about featuring female fighters. But times are changing; not too long ago women and politics were not spoken in the same sentence in our country. Nowadays, most of us believe that it is only a matter of time before a lady will become a president. But that change in attitude did not come easy.
And just like Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life to breaking a color barrier, there are some people in boxing that are working tirelessly to break a gender barrier; one of them, a new face in boxing is Claudia Ollis. With father who boxed in the army, Claudia grew up watching fights. But watching injustices that were done to women fighters made her want to do something about it.
Entrepreneur by nature, vibrant and passionate about her goal, Claudia brings fresh new ideas and attitudes to the old game. She believes that her enthusiasm and tenacity will go a long way in promoting women’s boxing.
“I have a whole new way to promote girls, “said Ollis when I interviewed her at the Maywood Boxing Club:” 2011 is our year. Fans, they have really acknowledged female fighters again.”