The world's greatest female boxers everyone should know about
In the modern world of sports, our female athletes are often overlooked or marginalised in favour of their male competitors, and there tends to be a heavy bias in favour of men when it comes to coverage. Just the other day I was at a bar with a female friend, who was avidly distracted by footage of a women's football team she supported on the television. I was shocked to find that, when she pointed out the names of the women players, recalling them from memory, I'd never heard of them. I went home feeling slightly ashamed of myself. Why had I been so content to overlook female athletes until now? And was professional pugilism any different? To my horror, I realised that I didn't know the names of any female boxers beyond Rhonda Rousey.
Of course, the only antidote to this kind of ignorance and prejudice is knowledge, so I decided to rectify the gaps in my understanding. So if you're a boxing fan, but aren't too up to speed on the achievements of the other sex, then allow me to introduce you to the eight greatest female boxers, and explain, intimately and authoritatively, why every single one of you could completely kick your ass.
1. Claressa Shields
Claressa Maria Shields, who hails from Flint, Michigan, has held the unified WBC and IBF female super middleweight titles since August 2017, and managed to win a gold in the middleweight division at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games. This remarkable achievement made her the first American boxer of any gender to win two consecutive Olympic medals. In 2012 Shields went on to become the first female American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in boxing. Pretty impressive, no?
2. Holly Holm
Holly Holm is an American mixed martial artist from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Holm is known for competing in the bantamweight division of the UFC, but is also a former professional boxer and a kickboxer. As a boxer, Holm became a world champion 18 times in three separate weight divisions: an unprecedented achievement which set a new record for the sport. After making her original debut in 2002, Holm was named "Female Fighter of the Year" in 2005 and again in 2006 by the Ring Magazine. She was subsequently crowned Female Athlete of the Year 2005 by Albuquerque Sports Hall of Fame and later has the honour of being inducted in New Mexico Boxing Hall of Fame in 2013.
3. Mia St. John
Mexican-American professional boxer Mia Rosales St. John was the former WBC champion in the super welterweight division as well as the IBA and IFBA lightweight champion. Aside from her active career as a pro fighter, she's also a something of a general renaissance woman. St. John is a highly successful model, businesswoman, and taekwondo champion as well! Mia made her debut in 1997, where she KO'd Angelica Villain in just 54 seconds in the very first round! This incredible fight earned her the (rather obvious) nickname "The Knockout". In her active career, St. Jon fought 23 fights and won 22 of them. The other was a draw. That's one hell of a streak!
4. Lucia Rijker
Luci Rijker has been nicknamed "The Most Dangerous Woman In The World" and it's not difficult to see why. This, now-retired, Dutch female boxer, kickboxer and actress first began training in judo as a child at the age of six. Rijker then joined the Dutch National Softball Team, and began boxing at the age of 15. Amazingly, Rijker was undefeated until her retirement in 2007, by which point she'd managed to bag herself a 17-0 boxing record, as well as five world titles in her active career. She also managed to win the European WIBF Boxing Champion in 1997 and 1998.
5. Christy Martin
Born in Mullens, West Virginia, Marin has been hailed as "the most successful and prominent female boxer in the United States" and among enthusiasts is stated to have "legitimised" women’s participation in boxing. Martin holds an amazing record of 49 wins in her boxing career, and is a frequent visitor of induction ceremonies to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Sadly, her life has not been all success, and Christy Martin is no stranger to tragedy. In 2010 she was stabbed several times and shot by her husband James Martin. In April 2012, James Martin was found guilty of attempted murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
6. Ann Wolfe
Ann Wolfe has a pretty scary reputation. She's considered to be one of the best fighters and the hardest punchers in the history of women’s boxing, holding world titles simultaneously in four different weight divisions at one point. When she gained the IBA world Light Heavyweight championship in 2004, Wolfe also managed to surpassed the record of three world titles in different weight classes. In 2006 she retired from boxing after managing to knock out Cassandra Giger.
7. Laila Ali
It can be pretty tough to forge a boxing career of your own when your parent is someone who's synonymous with it, and nobody knows this fact better than Lailia Ali - Muhammad Ali's daughter. Despite this, she's managed to make a name for herself on her own merits, and in 2002, Laila was named Super Middleweight Champion by the International Boxing Association. In 2005, she was named Super Middleweight Champion by the International Women’s Boxing Federation, so I think it's safe to say that she's stepped out of her father's shadow.
8. Regina Halmich
Regina Halmich is considered to be one of the most successful female boxers ever and has helped to popularise female boxing in Europe. She became German amateur kickboxing champ in 1992, and won the same title, along with the European title, in 1994. Regina was the WIBF’s world champion in the Junior Flyweight, Flyweight and Super Flyweight divisions, and made her pro boxing debut in Karlsruhe in 1994, when she defeated Fienie Klee. She retired in 2007 after defeating Hagar Finer.
It just goes to show that female boxers have careers that are every bit as auspicious and impressive as their male counterparts. So next time you're watching a fight, don't forget that our female fighters are every bit as important as the men are and their achievements deserve the proper recognition.