By Jackie Kallen
Back in the late nineties, I was asked to be commissioner of an organization called the IFBA (International Female Boxers Association.) I eagerly accepted, anxious to help these women move forward in a sport they love. There were many talented females fighters from all over the world and they were being given a chance to fight one another for a legitimate belt.
The stars back then were Bridgette “Baby Doll” Riley, Yvonne Trevino, Kathy Williams, Lucia Rijker, Christy Martin, Jolene Blackshear, Mia St. John, and others who fought as hard as men.
It was sometimes difficult to find a spot for the women on regular fight cards, so various promoters tried the concept of all-female cards. The idea didn’t really catch the public’s fancy and it started to fade. There were fewer and fewer women in the spotlight. The popular names started to get older and there didn’t seem to be another superstar on the horizon to bring the sport back to the fan’s attention.
Of the top 10 female boxers in the world today, only one is from the US. Her name is Diana Prazak and even the most devoted boxing fans are probably not aware of her and her 13-2 record.
This Friday night in Whitehall, NY, the women will get their chance again. Melissa St Vil (6-1-2) will fight Nicole Woods (11-14-3) for the interim WIBA Lightweight title. Only in women’s boxing would you see a fighter with only 9 fights compete for a title against an opponent who has lost 8 out of the last 10 bouts and hasn’t won a fight since 2010. However, this has the makings of an exciting fight. Despite her record, Woods is a scrapper.
On the undercard, Ronica Jeffrey (13-1) will take on Stacey Reile (10-4) in an 8-round featherweight face-off. Ronica is coming off a close split-decision loss to Carla Torres in May. A win will put her back on track. Reile is also coming off a loss, but it was back in 2011 and she hasn’t fought since. It will be no surprise if ring rust plays a part in this fight.
Also on the card, Sarah Kuhn (7-4-1) will be up against Olivia Fonseca (3-3-2) in a welterweight battle. Kuhn lost to Melissa St Vil last year, but beat Nicole Woods. She will be watching the title fight with a knowing eye. So will Fonseca, who fought St Vil back in 2007 as her pro debut at 20 years old. She managed to get a draw.
It’s a shame that this card is not on national TV so fight fans could see how hard these women fight and how seriously they take their business. They train with the males, spar with them, and make the same sacrifices. Yet their efforts go largely unrecognized.
MMA seems to see the women in a different light. Ronda Rousey is what every young girl in the sport hopes to emulate. Hopefully boxing will soon have a similar role model to look up to.