Female Prizefighters – Arguably the biggest rivalry in the sport of boxing is the one between the country of Mexico and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
The history of professional prize fights between two of the sport’s super powers is long and storied. Wilfredo Gómez vs. Salvador Sánchez, Julio Cesar Chávez vs Hector “Macho” Camacho and just recently Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. Miguel Cotto are some of the bouts that have raised the competitive heat between the Boricuas and Mexicanos.
In female boxing, both countries have a number of prominent fighters. Mexico has been one of the pioneering nations in the sport giving us a number of names in this latest resurgence of the sport which began the late 80s with the likes of Laura Serrano, Mariana “Barbie” Juarez, Jackie Nava, Ana Maria Torres among other world champions, but Puerto Rico do not have such a resume.
There are many Puerto Rican female fighters during this current era but the majority have made their home in the continental United States but none hail from the island of Puerto Rico.
Why is that?
Despite a passion for boxing from Puerto Rican fans why is there a void of female fighters that live and train on the island and look to give us a genuine female version of the Mexico vs. Puerto Rico rivalry?
According to Noemi “La Rebelde” Bosques, an up and coming prospect from St. Petersburg, Florida, of Boricua descent, it is a cultural thing. “Thinking of the way my family is, the way I was raised, it is not common. They expect you to be very lady-like, to take care of the home at an early age. On the island, all the women are in high heels, toe nails done and it is common to be a homemaker, an ama de casa, very early, at eighteen, nineteen years of age. It’s how things are.”
“My family hates it, to this day,” Bosques says with a chuckle of the reaction she still gets from even the closest to her. “Especially my grandmother’s side of the family, a Puerto Rican woman should be taking care of her man, her family, that comes first. Have dinner ready as soon as the man walks in the door. If a woman is to work, it’s a little part-time job or as an actress on TV, that is acceptable.”
Carlos Narvaez, former sports editor of Puerto Rico’s El Vocero newspaper, believes female boxing is still growing on the island despite a number of female fighters have developed there.
“We can agree female boxing is still in a development stage,” he said via telephone. “It has rich history but not as long as men’s boxing so I believe it is still developing on the island. We’ve had a strong showing at the Pan-American level in the amateurs and the women who are representing the island are improving.”
For retired veteran Belinda “Brown Sugar” Laracuente, born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, but based from Miami, promoted by Don King and who fought Christy Martin in March of 2000 on the undercard of Trinidad vs. Reid in Las Vegas, it is about what it has always been about, money.
“It is hard to train on the island without any support. The men get stipends, they get paid to train, women don’t so if you work, you do that and then go train but nobody is paying for your gas to drive around and go to the different gyms. It’s about the money.”
Melissa “Huracan” Ramirez, champion in four different weight divisions and also born on the island but fighting out Florida, seconds the sentiment.
“You have to remember Puerto Rico is part of the United States and there is no business in the U.S. for female boxing,” Hernandez states. “Even the make Puerto Rican fighters have to leave the island to fight in main events in New York or Las Vegas. We all know the United States doesn’t support female boxing.”
But boxing for women on the island exists with a good example being Laracuente who began to box along with her brother on the island and developed into one of the best amateurs, male or female Puerto Rico has produced. According to Narvaez, there is a number of developing female amateurs developing in the country, mainly in the Metro area of San Juan, Bayamon, Caguas, who receive some help from the government to continue learning the sport. Whether they turn pro and more importantly stay on the island remains to be seen.
Despite the cultural obstacles in place, it seems once a young woman steps into a gym, everybody tries to help, at least that was the experience Laracuente had.
“Boxing is the best thing to ever happen to me. I began to box with my brother and I was better than him. I came up with Carlos “Indio” Quintana and my brother and they always helped me,” Laracuente said. “They always wanted me to improve and helped me do that. They always gave me their support, telling me I had a lot of potential.”
Despite leaving the island for bigger opportunities, Laracuente enjoyed the opportunity of fighting in front of her people, something other female fighters would like to experience, like Hernandez, an eleven year veteran of thirty-one bouts who has never stepped into a ring in her home country.
“It would be the proudest moment in my career,” she said with a smile. “I have done everything in my career. That is the only thing left to do.”