Daisy Lang: “I Dreamed of Being a World Champion”
By David A. Avila
Daisy “the Lady” Lang leads a significant group of superb female prizefighters headed into the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame for 2017.
Though originally from Bulgaria, the three-division world champion blazed her trail while fighting in Germany. Lang was part of a female spearhead along with Regina Halmich who exploded female boxing as a force in Europe.
Both blondes emphatically proved female boxing could succeed.
Lang heads the 2017 group into the IWBHF along with Holly Holm, Ana Maria Torres, Ada Velez, Ria Ramnarine, and the late great promoter Aileen Eaton. A ceremony to honor the group is planned to tenuously take place in Spring 2018 in Los Angeles.
“Daisy was very important to the development of boxing in Germany and Europe,” said Sue Fox, the president of IWBHF.
It’s fitting that Lang leads the group. Before her emergence into the sport, female boxing enjoyed sporadic but limited success worldwide. But when Lang entered the boxing world it came at the perfect time when a number of women in Europe were entering the pro ranks.
Surprisingly, though an athlete, Lang did not begin as a fighter but as a runner.
“I started with track and field. I was a runner in the 400 meter hurdles. And I also was a sprinter in the 100 and 200 meter sprints. Track and field gave me the basis for my boxing career,” said Lang. “I didn’t want to be a professional in track and field.”
Next up for Lang was martial arts where she participated in karate and kickboxing. Eventually she became a world champion in those sports and when traveling to the United States of America she happened upon a female boxing match.
“Actually when I was here in the U.S.I saw women boxing here. It was Christy Martin. I was very excited and I said wow, if nobody did that in my country I will be the first one,” she recalled.
However, being the first can be a treacherous road. Not everyone can endure the obstacles and closed doors encountered by even the most ardent pioneer.
When Lang made the decision to enter women’s boxing it did not exist in Bulgaria and though it was not present in Germany, more opportunities existed.
“When I immigrated to Germany we were the first ones,” said Lang who was raised by parents who were engineers with no boxing tradition in their lineage. “Women were not allowed to be independent in that time. There was a lot of difficulty from the system in that time. That’s why it motivated me to do it.”
No boxing trainers for women existed so her martial arts coach Milcho Milev guided her at first. Then he proposed that she go to Germany to further her career. After struggling at first, she met former amateur boxing star Michael Timm. Then her career began to take shape.
Acceptance into the male-dominated world of boxing was important.
“I needed to watch men how they trained before they allowed me to go inside,” said Lang who studied male boxers training and sparring. “I had to prove myself with sparring with men that I can fight like a man. I needed to show I could box like a man. I always liked to spar with men.”
Living in Germany can be expensive and without sponsors Lang worked as a physical therapist to pay her bills. Though she had a first rate trainer in Timm there were no female boxers to spar. She traded blows with the male fighters and quickly picked up the boxing game with an eye on the world championship.
On July 17, 1999, in the city of Dusseldorf, Germany, the self-motivated Lang won the WIBF bantamweight world title after eight rounds by knockout versus Gizella Papp. She had accomplished her goal first dreamed about as a child.
“I actually had a vision when I was maybe five or six years old. I saw myself as a world champion,” said Lang. “I had no idea how it was going to happen and how it would happen because in those days the system was closed.”
A dream was attained but something was missing.
“In the beginning you couldn’t make money from defending the world title. I was told after the first championship the money would come but it was not true. It took a very long time. I had to work on the side. Nobody wanted to invest money,” Lang said.
Another female prizefighter had been traveling on the same road in Germany named Regina Halmich. When Lang came along suddenly there were two ultra-athletic blonde prizefighters who were gaining traction in a country that had never seen female boxing.
Halmich fought in the flyweight and light flyweight division and had started in 1994. When Lang arrived in 1996 suddenly boxing fans in Germany had two blonde prizefighters headed toward the same path and capturing the attention of the boxing world.
“Germany was the first country that supported this sport. The U.S. was too far away. So my first stop was in Germany,” said Lang explaining her choice of picking Germany as her base in Europe.
In the 90s though female boxing was quickly gaining traction as a popular event, not many female fighters had much experience. So that led to importing fighters from outside of Europe or going to the U.S.
Halmich traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada in April 1995 to find a fight and was stopped by Yvonne Trevino due to a cut. It would be the last time she would fight outside of Germany. After her fights began drawing big crowds it was no longer necessary to seek fights outside of her homeland.
Lang was also drawing crowds to her fights and like Halmich her opponents were brought in from other countries and continents. She continued to win and the talk among fans was who would win between Halmich and Lang who fought in slightly different weight divisions.
From 1996 to 2004 female boxing in Germany rose to heights never attained before in that country or any other country and fans were eager to see Lang or Halmich perform. Their success also spread to North America and South America and suddenly female prizefighters in different countries were looking to compete against the German girls. Suddenly female boxing truly became an international sport.
Fame and success led to various promotional opportunities for Lang who saw the door opening and quickly seized them.
“My first sponsorships were my clients in physical therapy. Then, because I looked very feminine and was a good talker, television was interested. But still you can’t compare the money with the men,” said Lang about her commercial appeal. “My look helped and because I had good management I was able to get some money from commercials including my own drink ‘Daisy Power’ drink. I was a combination of beauty and the beast. I also had my own perfume. We used it on television to promote my sponsors.”
Despite success in the boxing ring and with sponsors there still remained detractors.
“Of course during the journey there was a lot of attacking from journalists who were against female boxing and cited medical knowledge. But I gave good answers. That’s why I wanted journalists on my side,” said Lang who made every effort to be accessible to the media. “Every day was a win for me if I was able to convey my thoughts to the media. It’s so wonderful and important to remember this if you want the people to be on your side.”
Lang fought against many of the best female boxers of her time and after eight years of competing was finally matched against Halmich for the WIBF super flyweight title in 2004. After 10 exciting rounds Halmich won the contest on points in a very close match.
In preparing for the long-awaited Halmich clash Lang traveled to Las Vegas where she sparred against Canada’s Vaia Zaganas and American flyweight Elena Reid. It was a mesh of styles between the three top notch female prizefighters.
“She was tough, a tough sparring partner. I had a lot of respect for her. She was easy to be friends with and a very positive person,” said Reid recalling their meeting in April 2004. After Lang fought Halmich in May 2004, she then fought Reid in September. It was a fight that many felt the American won but was given a draw.
The German media blamed Lang alleging she helped Reid.
“It was controversial. It was already news that I had sparred Daisy. They were such super stars,” said Reid who lost a close decision in the rematch in 2005. “There was speculation by the media that Daisy was giving me advice. She was sad over her being friends with me. She never did give me advice but she gave me positive words as a friend.”
A reporter who alleged that Lang had helped Reid publicly acknowledged on German national television his mistake. But it left Lang saddened by the entire accusation.
Halmich would continue to fight three more years but Lang opted to fight one more time and win by knockout before retiring.
Lang now lives in Los Angeles, California and works in the film industry. She loves the warm climate and the excitement of living in a city that presents many challenges and opportunities.
“A producer is interested to do a movie about me. I’m working on a book right now. People need to know the true story,” says Lang adding that other offers have been made before but she wanted a true account.
The retired super star still has a busy life and is constantly traveling. But though it’s been more than a decade since Lang retired, she is often seen in boxing events.
“Though I’m retired my heart is still in boxing,” says Lang. “I really love this sport.”