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Women’s Boxing – Sport or Joke? -- Part II


By Eldon Frost (eldonfrost@canada.com)


In the April 2001 issue of the CyberBoxingZone Journal, I wrote an article entitled, “Women’s boxing – Sport or Joke?”  and WOW!  The number of responses I got was amazing!  Some respondents agreed wholeheartedly with my analysis, while others stopped short of a death threat.  Women’s boxing is clearly an area where NO ONE has a mediocre opinion.


Perhaps the most fascinating response (retaliation?) to the article was from The WBAN (Women Boxing Archive Network), who bestowed upon me the “Dark Ages Award.”  According to the web site, this prize is awarded to “Journalists and organizations who are ‘Clueless.’” (www.womenboxing.com/darkageaward.htm)  Although I must admit I was holding out for a Pulitzer or a Nobel Prize, these appear to be slow in coming, so I’ll take anything!


Despite the Dark Ages Award and the resulting online tirade, however, Sue Fox of the WBAN seems to agree with me on most of the major points.  Sue herself wrote an article calling Freeda Foreman's match with Aicheria Bell "embarrassing" (http://mail.canada.com//jump/http://www.womenboxing.com/fight091700foreman.htm), and has an entire section of the web devoted to the mismatches in women's boxing (http://mail.canada.com//jump/http://www.womenboxing.com/tiger.htm).  Womenboxing’s daily news section also highlights many of the issues I mentioned, including the use of multiple fighter names (ex. Sara Jones = Sara Goodson), and the prevalence of 4-round matches (ex. The IFBA recently changed its rankings to quarterly updates "due to the small number of women's bouts over 4 rounds...").


The majority of the emails I received, however, were not about the minutiae of the article, but rather a common rally cry that there are female boxers who are great fighters, and who deserve recognition.  The famous “daughters of boxing legends” and the “foxy boxers” are the ones getting the bulk of the press, but the BEST fighters are, more often than not, left out of the limelight.  The majority of the boxing public views the foxy boxers as the crčme de la crčme, when in reality they are the semi-skilled publicity driven engines of the boxing machine.


The question then becomes, “Are the so-called ‘foxy boxers’ and the ‘daughters of boxing legends’ good for the sport, or bad for the sport?”  Are they a positive influence on the sport by way of their popularity, or are they merely a sideshow of semi-talent?  Moreover, how can the more skilled contingent gain greater prestige and press?


The letter that really started things off was an email by Marcel Niessen.  Marcel is the husband and manager of 4-time female world champion Marischa Sjauw.  Marischa recently lost a highly controversial decision against Lisa Holywyne, with Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard in attendance.  If Marischa had won the fight, it would have been her fifth world title.




“Hi Eldon. 
I'm happy to see you can take criticism!  It takes a man to do that. (Note:  you should have seen the first email!)
I am Marischa Sjauw's manager/husband. As a matter of fact, Marischa was in the newspaper the day before yesterday and today she had an interview with the LA Times coming out later this week. We ALSO complained about the St. Jokes, Ali's, Foreman's etc …


It would indeed be good if you can write something about the real talented boxers. Marischa worked with the BEST trainers in the game and they all love her. You can verify Floyd Mayweather Sr, Jesse Reid and Eddie Mustafa i.e. She also worked with Johnny Bumphus, Roger Mayweather, Alex Ramos (who is our advisor) and Danny Garcia. Ask any of those people what they think about her skills and they'll tell you. She wasn't comfortable at 135 so she will move slowly to 147.  She'll be great at that weight. 
Anyway...thanks for the response and if you want to learn more about Marischa 
please visit: http://www.sjauwboxing.com/.  Feel free to contact any of the above named trainers for their opinion about her.




I took Marcel’s advice.  First, I called up Alex Ramos -- former member of the U.S. Olympic team, former US titleholder, founder of the Retired Boxers Foundation, and of course -- advisor to female champion Marischa Sjauw.





EF: “How long have you been working with Marischa?


AR: Over a year now with Marischa Sjauw.  I’m their advisor, I help them out.  I worked the corner when she competed against the hometown favorite Liz Mueller.  I met her in a training camp about two years ago, and ever since then you know – she’s one of the most dedicated fighters that I’ve seen.  I’ll be honest with you.  Like I tell Marcel and I tell Marischa -- I’m not really really into women’s boxing, but you know what?  She convinced me.  She’s a dedicated fighter, she works hard.  I do respect a few women fighters -- I’m not gonna mention names, I don’t want any trouble! (Laughs)


EF:  Now this weekend, Marischa is going for her fifth title (against Lisa Holywyne).


AR:  Ya, she’s going for her fifth title, and it’s unbelievable.  Here is a girl that comes from Holland, is dedicated to this game, and is a hard worker –I tell you a very very hard worker…. You have to give credit where credit is due.  This is a four-time world champion, going for a fifth time, and I won’t be surprised if she gets it.  She’s that good of a fighter.


EF:  As a female boxer, do you think there’s things that she has to deal with that maybe a male fighter wouldn’t have to?


AR:  Well you know what?  It’s different.  Women boxing has been around for years… in the 70’s there were women boxers that were pretty decent.  You know they never got the recognition or the exposure they needed.  Now there’s the daughters of Ali, Frasier and Duran’s daughter, you know, George’s daughter – and they’re really really starting to be recognized.


EF:  So you think the “daughters of boxing” is a good thing then?


AR:  Well you know, what I wanna tell you is this – I don’t know how good it’s been but, I think there’s some women that are really really good.  These daughters of famous fighters… I don’t take nothin’ away from anybody.  Anybody that steps in the ring… you gotta give ‘em credit for their hard work.  It takes a lot to get into the ring and get pounded, you know what I mean?  But Marischa -- I categorize her with the real good fighters.”


EF:  Marischa IS in a different class.  The daughters of famous boxers -- do you think that it’s been a good way for some of the more skilled fighters to get recognized?


AR:  It’s a different thing… they do get a lot of media attention, when you have George Foreman’s daughter, Muhammad Ali’s daughter…they need the exposure, they do need it.  Women’s boxing has been around.  There’s a lot of women fighters out there that can’t fight a lick, I’m dead serious, but you know there’s also the good ones, and the good ones don’t get the recognition as far as the other ones do…so whatever it takes.


EF:  What would you like to see Marischa accomplish that you haven’t seen yet?


AR:  I believe that she’s gonna win her fifth world title.  I would like to see the payday that these fighters deserve, and get the type of exposure with the major networks.  The women are getting paid like club fighters.  Marischa’s not making the type of money that she deserves.  When you become a four-time world champion – there’s been very little fighters in that category – the Sugar Ray Leonard’s, the Tommy Hearns, Griffith way back in the days.  That takes a lot, and Marischa has got it.  She can fight.  She’s very timid.  I think that if she was out there, doing the same exact thing like a lot of these other girls that are out there, in the magazines and all this other bullshit, that she would definitely… (Pause)  She’s not like that.  She’s a fighter.  Truly.  Yet, she’s a very timid person.


EF:  (Laughs) You know, it’s so funny to hear you say that, because she sure isn’t a timid person in the ring!


AR:  I know!  (Laughs)  I was working the corner, and said you know, “Marischa, this is a fight!  When this bell rings, you SHOW this girl.  You push her; you crack her -- what the hell!  You ain’t going in there to play hopscotch or patty-cake patty-cake – you’re going in there to fight!  There ain’t nothin’ nice about it in there!”  (Laughs)

But anyways man, I love her!  She’s a great fighter!


EF:  Thanks for talking to me Alex.  It’s been great.  Really great.


AR:  God bless you man.  I thank you for calling.”



So there you have it -- strong words of praise from Alex Ramos, and even a direct comparison to some of boxing’s greatest.  I also found it interesting that, like me, Mr. Ramos didn’t quite know what to think about the “daughters” of boxing.  On one hand, they display far lesser boxing skills than other fighters, potentially making a mockery of the sport.  On the other hand, the recognition they command puts women’s boxing in the spotlight.  It’s a complicated issue, so to get a third opinion, I contacted trainer and current Oscar-god Floyd Mayweather Senior.






EF: “So you trained Marischa Sjauw?


FM: My brother mainly trained her but I trained her sometimes too.  Marischa Sjauw – she’s really one of the better women boxers out there, it’s just a matter of her getting the exposure that she needs.  Marischa -- she’ll fight anybody.


EF:  So you and Roger both trained her then?


FM:  Roger pretty much trained her.  If I’d have trained her, I’d have made sure she was in the picture.  She’s doing things, but things should be done much better.  She really needs some backing.


EF:  Had you seen her fight prior to when you both started helping her out?


FM:  I saw her fight this one fight – it wasn’t a better fight.  One thing about her, sometimes she overdid it.  She overtrained you know?  Overtraining is like undertraining -- you can burn yourself out.  Just like if you undertrain you don’t get enough, and you run out of gas.  She was just like a pear.  When a pear is too ripe it’s soft man and it ain’t no good! (Laughs)  But I say to myself, I’ve trained a lot of great fighters and stuff now, and Marischa’s one of the girls that I would enjoy training, because she catches on real fast, she punches good.  There is so many things that I could show her.  I didn’t really get to the depth of what Marischa has because my brother was training her, and I didn’t want to get involved.  I did to a point.


EF:  Is there something you have to do differently training a female boxer, or in the ring is it all the same?


FM:  It’s all the same.  You’re a woman in a man’s game, so you’ve gotta do the same things that a man does.  You gotta break ‘em down to the body, hit ‘em in the kidneys and stuff.  But you know, I don’t care for women boxing.


EF:  Is that right?!


FM:  I really don’t.  It’s not that I won’t train one, ‘cause I do train a woman – Pamela Barker.  She got a lot of exposure there for a minute.  She got to thinkin’ that she was doin’ it.  I was the one that was doin’ it.  I said “OK.”  Now, after I back up from her, she went to another trainer.  She’s having trouble now.  It showed her who was really runnin’ the show.


But, you know my opinion about Marischa Sjauw?  I can’t say what’s going on with her now because I haven’t been around her in a while, but I can see a lot of good potential that can be brought out of her.  A lot of trainers don’t go to the depths that I do to make a fighter better.  I’ll do anything to make a fighter better.  If I was training her I’d have her doing things like a man: I’d have her chopping trees, I’d have her running about a mile -- or half a mile -- with one pound weights, punching with the barbells, running backwards, skipping, running sideways, doing about a quarter of a mile of sprints.  At the end I’d have her running in combat boots.  I would train her just like I train a man.  You would see her knocking Christy Martin out.  If not knocking her out, giving her a good whoopin.  Marischa Sjauw can fight.  She’s a good fighter, all she needs is backing.  With the right backing she’ll go a long way.”



As usual, Floyd Sr. was his modest, soft-spoken self!  Floyd is not a guy to pull punches.



So where does all this leave women’s boxing?  What have I learned from this?  The best analogy I could come up with is a musical one.


Marischa Sjauw, Christy Martin, Regina Halmich and a few select others are like The Beatles, Bob Marley and Miles Davis.  Do they have talent?  Yes.  Are they famous?  Yes.  Are the Back Street Boys and other made-for-TV bands currently selling more records?  Yes.  Which type is better?  Well, purists have no trouble deciding whether Miles Davis is better than Baby Spice, but if you ask the fans of Baby Spice, I’m sure they’d disagree.


Everyone recognizes that the “foxy boxers,” skilled or not, are good for publicity.  When a sport generates publicity, it creates heroes.  When heroes are created, disciples are created.  These disciples are the future of the sport.


At the conclusion of my last article, I wrote “I can give only this advice to both promoters and female boxers. If you want women's boxing to be four rounds of entertainment and diversion on an undercard, you are doing a brilliant job. Keep it up! If you really want women's boxing to be taken seriously, you must first learn to take it seriously yourself. Set up real fights with legitimate and equally-matched contenders.”  This statement does not apply to fighters like Marischa Sjauw and others who are taking the most competitive fights they can find.  There are many fighters, however, to which this definitely applies.  The skilled female boxer is still thought of as the exception rather than the rule.  There is no doubt that it should be the rule.


To all female boxers, just remember one thing – your potential disciples are watching.