Out of Their Weight Class – Women’s liberation came a long way in United States. We have women running Fortune 500 companies. Ruth Ginsberg is the second female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. American ladies are in the Senate. Hillary Clinton is running and has a good chance to become the first female U.S. president.
As far as sports, the Williams’s sisters have reached amazing heights in professional tennis, UFC’s Ronda Rousey is more popular than any male fighter on the planet, but American ladies of boxing might as well live in the dark ages. Despite a much improved skill level, American women of the sweet science are not afforded many opportunities to make a living in the sport they love.
So what are the major challenges for female boxers?
“I believe recognition and respect,” said Crystal Morales, professional boxer who trains at the famous La Colonia gym in Oxnard, California:” We don’t get the same respect as men do in the ring.”
Twenty nine year old Morales (9-10-1, 2KO’S) grew up in a boxing family. Her father used to box and her uncle had a gym in Mexico. As a young girl Crystal used to get in trouble in school fighting, and once she almost got into a scuffle with a girl in front of her father. At which point her dad asked her “So you think you are tough?” and proceeded to take her to a boxing gym.
It happened to be La Colonia Boxing gym in Oxnard. Trainers Robert Garcia and Fernando Cervantes were there, as well as Robert’s father, “Grandpa” Garcia. They put Crystal in a ring with a girl to spar for one round. She asked for one more and then she wanted to know when to come back for training and she hasn’t missed a day of work since.
“It is very difficult to get a fight,” said Morales citing a variety of reasons including promoter’s attitude towards women’s boxing. Also there aren’t that many girls boxers, so at times they have to fight out of their weight class.
“There is the fight that I took in Washington with a girl who was 145,” said Morales who is a lightweight at 135 pounds. “Of course I was way lighter than that but I wanted to fight, I was hungry for a fight. When they offer us a fight we take it.”
Crystal was lucky to come away with a win that night. Another Southern California girl fighter, Kaliesha West wasn’t so lucky.
West who is also trained by her dad competes as a super bantamweight. Last year she went to Canada to face an opponent at 126 pounds. Kaliesha lost the fight.
“When it comes to fighting out of your weight class there’s nothing wrong. Had she been a 122 pounder it I would be able to move around her easier,” said West about fighting Olivia Gerula a featherweight in 2014. “But when they punch you can feel it. There is a big difference.”
Fighting above your weight class is dangerous and not just for women, but for men as well. I remember Arturo Gatti knocking out Joe Gamache in New York fifteen years ago. They fought at 140 pounds, but Gatti looked like the much bigger man. I thought Gatti killed his opponent when I watched the knock out. It was scary.
Decorated amateur star from East LA Seniesa Estrada got the highest praise from Roy Jones Jr. when she fought at the Forum last year.
“That girl can really fight,” said former pound for pound king, Jones Jr. Talented Seniesa hasn’t lost a fight. Maybe it is because her team doesn’t let her fight too much out of her weight category. But since turning pro in 2011 Estrada has only been able to get five fights.
Talented “Lady of Boxing” Ava Knight from Northern California is a flyweight. She has had to fight anywhere from 104 to 124 pounds to get in the ring. Couple of years ago she went to Mexico and fought below her weight class and took a loss.
One of the top female boxers in the world today, Layla McCarter, who is a lightweight, had to fight at 148 pounds in South Africa in 2012. That is two weight categories above her fighting weight. That is dangerous.
Is fighting outside your weight class a serious problem for women’s boxing? Yes, what are we doing about it? It is a very good question.
“It’s just something we have to do to stay active,” said Kaliesha West. “At the end of the day it’s about being smarter to walk away with the victory.”