One would be hard pressed to answer the question of in the last decade, what parts of the sport of Boxing have been the most significant in terms of true progress. By the design of the way such a question is asked, one would likely find no shortage of answers covering just about every aspect that the sport has to offer and most likely every subject. Some would likely point to the push towards digital subscription-based streaming as one significant move of progress for the sport, while others would point to the continued reliance of some to use the overpriced and outdated model of pay-per-view as a sign of Boxing's regression as well as for lack of a better term, "Being Stuck In Its Antiquated Ways" from a business standpoint. Two subjects that have been recurring themes of this observer's work for many years.
Outside of those themes which remain a focal point for the sport, if one were to ask yours truly that aforementioned question regarding what has been the most significant progress in my view that has taken place over the last decade my answer is simple and does not require much thought because, in my opinion, the answer is indisputable. "Women's Boxing."
When I began writing about and covering combat sports in the mid-1990’s, women’s participation in the sport was just starting to get exposure due largely to Hall of Famer Christy Martin, who was the first superstar of Women’s Boxing, with her bouts being regularly featured on television and yes, pay-per-view on the undercards of some of the biggest bouts in Boxing history. Despite her success as a trailblazer in bringing Women’s Boxing to the forefront, the sport in the United States did not get the recognition, and respect that it truly deserved for many years including after Martin and other notable stars in Women’s Boxing including Lucia Rijker, Laila Ali, Holly Holm, and others retired from the sport. The struggle for consistent television exposure also remained a real one as most women’s bouts were either shown on undercards of other bouts and not given much attention, or at times not shown at all.
This differed significantly from how Women’s Boxing is treated internationally as many world championship fights would serve as the main event on cards also featuring men’s bouts on a consistent basis and that would occur several years before the United States would catch up to the rest of the world in finally recognizing what Women’s Boxing had to offer. Perhaps in an indirect way, this was aided somewhat by the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and the success of fighters in that sport such as Rhonda Rousey. It was not until the 2012 Summer Olympics that things began to shift however in the favor of Women’s Boxing. For that was the first Olympic games where Women’s Boxing was included along with the men’s Boxing tournament. Although that in of itself was groundbreaking, it was the performance of Claressa Shields in dominating the tournament to becoming the first Gold Medalist for the United States in Boxing since Andre Ward accomplished it in 2004. It would be an accomplishment that Shields would repeat in the 2016 Summer Olympics before setting her sights on a professional career after becoming the United States first boxer to win consecutive gold medals in Olympic competition.
Due to the success she was able to have as an Olympian, the spotlight was naturally focused on Shields upon turning professional in 2016 and it was that, that led the way to the sport of Women’s Boxing being able to gain long overdue recognition and exposure here in the United States as finally, it would be Women’s bouts showcased on a regular basis on television as along with Shields, fighters like Katie Taylor, Amanda Serrano, Heather Hardy, Cecilia Braekhus, and Jessica McCaskill, to name a few, have all become stars in the sport and have all headlined Boxing cards where men’s bouts are also featured. In what was another groundbreaking moment for the sport, it was Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano who engaged in one of the best fights this observer has ever seen in April of last year. An all-time classic that was the first Women’s bout to main event in the legendary Madison Square Garden. Not only did the fight exceed every possible expectation inside the ring, but the event also accomplished something that those who for whatever reason did not take Women’s Boxing seriously did not think was possible. It sold out Madison Square Garden’s main arena drawing over 20,000 spectators.
For someone who going back to when I started had been asked regularly “Why do you cover Women’s Boxing? No one cares…” I can’t lie to the reader when I say that seeing what had been accomplished that night from a distance was emotional for me because it also justified why I have tried to give Women’s Boxing as much attention and coverage as I could for years in addition to men’s bouts on every level of the sport. Simply put, I knew long before the boom that has taken place over the last decade that Women’s Boxing belonged on the same level as the sport for men and all the sport for women needed was consistent exposure and the chance to show what it had to offer. In time, I felt if women were given that chance, the sport would grow as well.
As emotional and vindicating as it was for me to see that accomplishment for Women’s Boxing, there has always been one thing that I have felt has held the sport back. The fact that Women’s bouts, going back as far as the 1960’s, long before the first women’s bout was ever broadcast on television, were fought with only a two minute round length and not the three minute rounds that men’s bouts are fought under. Longtime readers, particularly those who read the ‘Boxing Wishlist” that usually begins every calendar year here on The Boxing Truth® know that one wish that has been consistently featured over the years is to see women’s bouts moved to three minutes. Something that I have been screaming for, for years. Why? When one considers that women’s bouts in the sport of MMA are fought with five minute rounds, the same round length as men’s bouts, and women’s bouts are scheduled for the same three and five round distances as men’s bouts, there really is no reason why women’s bouts in Boxing should be relegated to two minute rounds, even if the argument for it is in regard to safety. I would also go as far as saying that world championship bouts in Women’s Boxing should be scheduled for twelve rounds, the same distance as men’s bouts.
Despite my pleas for such steps toward equality, particularly in regard to allowing women to fight in three minute rounds, which would solve the frequent conundrum for judges in many cases of having to score fights even because the two minute round length often does not allow one fighter to stand out clearly from the other because of the obvious quicker pace, progress toward that goal has been slow. Ironically, it was the delayed 2020 Summer Olympics held in 2021 in Tokyo, Japan that would provide the evidence that three minute rounds should be allowed in Women’s Boxing. For the first time since Women’s Boxing was added to the Olympic Boxing tournament, all bouts held in the delayed 2020 tournament were fought with three minute rounds and there were no causes for pause or any injuries, which had been the argument some have used for why Women’s Boxing “Can’t Have Three Minute Rounds.” Despite another feeling of vindication having seen women’s bouts fought with three minute rounds run smoothly, with conclusive outcomes throughout the 2020 tournament, in over two years since the delayed tournament took place due to the global COVID-19 epidemic, Women’s Boxing on the professional level has not been able to benefit from three minute rounds. At least, not yet.
For on October 27th at the Caribe Royale Hotel and Casino in Orlando, FL, Boxing history will be made. Undisputed Featherweight world champion Amanda Serrano will defend her crown against WBO number one contender Danila Ramos. The undisputed world championship bout, which will headline a card that will be broadcast on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN, will be fought not only with three minute rounds, but it will be the first women’s bout in Boxing history to be fought at a scheduled twelve round distance. When I was first informed of this bout and both of the addition of two additional rounds as well as the three minute round length, the same length and distance as world championship bouts for men, I excitedly yelled “YES!”
By now, the reader should know where I stand on both the issue of round length and why women should be equal to men. This is something that is so long overdue and while this comes at the request of both Serrano and Ramos themselves rather than the change to equality being a universally adopted standard in the sport this will likely be the first step in that process.
Some however, might be asking beyond the issue of equality, what will a three minute round do and how will it benefit female fighters. The primary benefit for the fighters will be in the ability to pace themselves, something that men in the sport are able to do. When fights are fought under a two minute round length, generally they are extremely fast paced with both fighters literally throwing everything they have at each other right out of the gate, which in some cases can resemble a toughwoman or toughman contest. Although often exciting, this not only results in fighters becoming fatigued quickly, but because the rounds are shorter in duration than men’s bouts, it also often turns into a nightmare for judges who are tasked with scoring a fight.
One aspect that might also be seen as a benefit that will come with a move to three minute rounds is it might allow for more knockouts to occur as well. While a knockout can occur at any time regardless of the duration of a round, there are many top fighters in Women's Boxing that do not have many knockouts on their records, which some might attribute that to the respective styles that fighters might have, I also feel that this could be attributed to the fact that up until this upcoming bout, the pace of women's bouts have been geared for two minute rounds and one might argue that the added minute will allow fighters to not only pace themselves more normally, but also time to strategically look for a knockout if the opportunity arises.
While from an analysis standpoint most of the checkpoints that would indicate an advantage for one fighter over the other going into this fight would favor Serrano, a fighter with more experience than Ramos and one that has won world championships in seven different weight divisions, the truth here is we really don't know what will happen in this fight simply because it is the first Women's bout in history at least on the professional level to be for a world championship fought with three minute rounds and will be scheduled for twelve rounds as opposed to the previous standard of ten two minute rounds for world championship fights.
While it is likely that both Serrano and Ramos have been sparring in preparation for this bout in three minute rounds and doing sessions at a twelve round distance, we simply will not know whether there will be a difference in how both fighters approach this encounter in terms of strategy until the fight is underway. Regardless of who wins this fight, this is nevertheless a true groundbreaking moment for women in the sport and while the Florida State Athletic Commission (FSAC) should be applauded for being the first to sanction a woman's bout that puts Women's Boxing on equal ground with male fighters in the sport, hopefully more female fighters will insist on following the lead of both Serrano and Ramos in demanding three minute rounds and the same standards as men follow in the sport. Although I hope more athletic commissions adopt this push for equality in the sport so it is a universal standard worldwide for women in Boxing, it is more likely as was the case for this fight that the fighters themselves will have to demand/request three minute rounds and a twelve round distance on a fight by fight basis at least for the immediate future before all the respective commissions and regulatory boards around the world truly embrace equality in Boxing. Something that is truly long overdue.
"And That's The Boxing Truth."
Serrano vs. Ramos takes place on Friday, October 27th at the Caribe Royale Hotel and Casino in Orlando, FL. The fight as well as its full undercard can be seen globally on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN beginning at 6PM ET/3PM PT with preliminary bouts, which will be followed by the main card, which will begin at 9PM ET/6PM PT.
(*U.S. Times Only.) (*Card and Start time Subject to Change.)
For more information about DAZN including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices, platforms, Smart TVs, availability around the world, local start times in your area, and to subscribe please visit: www.DAZN.com.
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