Make It Right

03.12.03 - By Bernie McCoy: At this point in time there are more talented professional female boxers than at any time since the nascent sport took its first tentative steps on the national stage nearly thirty years ago. Certain bloviators, masquerading as "experts" on all things sport, are more than willing to provide myriad reasons why the Women's boxing has not achieved the mainstream attention that these talented athletes deserve. Here's a simple declarative which speaks volumes about the sport and its problems: In the past year, Sumya Anani was in the ring, competitively, for two minutes!

Is Anani the best female boxer? I'll leave that judgment to the aforementioned "experts". Let me just offer this observation: In the group photo, she's in the first row, right near the center. Yet, Anani's lone appearance in 2003 was the opening round in a scheduled ten rounder on ESPN 2 Friday Night Fights against Fredia Gibbs in April. Gibbs retired after the first round with an injury that was never fully explained. Anani was inactive for the remainder of the year. That's a problem for the sport.

Such dormancy might be justified if Sumya Anani competed in a weight division that was either thinly populated or lacking suitable opposition. Laila Ali has had a problem finding competitive bouts in her weight class since there are not many female fighters at the middleweight level and those that are there have, thus far, offered Ali scant opposition. Ali is scheduled to fight Ann Wolfe in February. Wolfe may be, currently, the only other fighter in that weight class with a talent comparable to Ali.

Anani has no such competitive problem. She is in a weight division where there are a number of talented fighters. Lucia Rijker, who made one of her sporadic ring appearances in July on the undercard of the much ballyhooed Ali/Christy Martin bout, is certainly a logical possible opponent for Anani. However, whether Rijker will ever been seen again in the ring is always a problematic issue. Rijker aside, Marischa Sjauw, Chevelle Hallback, Layla McCarter, Jamie Clampitt and Sunshine Fettkether all offer compelling matchups for Anani. Even Fredia Gibbs, if she is, indeed, willing to step back in with Anani, would be a main event on any fight card; they fought a ten round draw two years ago. Yet despite the available opposition, Sumya Anani fought one round in 2003. That's a problem for the sport.

Not that there aren't other hurdles for the sport; but like any other enterprise, Women's boxing must strive to overcome these problems. There continues to be no definitive, authoritative rating system for Women's boxing; one that provides promoters, media and, as important, the boxing public with a clear cut ranking of the best fighters in the sport. Without such a rating system, the natural matchups, the number one against the number two fighter in a given weight class is never clearly defined. The current ratings, such as they are, are little better than an alphabetical listing of the the fighters in each class. That's a problem for the sport.

Television continues to largely ignore Women's boxing. Fox Sports has substantially cut back its boxing coverage and with it, their coverage of Women's boxing. ESPN recently announced that it was contemplating a similar programming move. While there may be an occasional female bout on the undercard of a championship PPV bout, the regularly scheduled boxing programs on Showtime have, recently, largely ignored female fighters. HBO, the leading cable purveyor of boxing, has, disgracefully, never televised a female bout in over 30 years of telecasts. PPV telecasts, which have featured Women's boxing bouts as the main events, most notably Ali/ Jacqui Frazier in June, 2001 and the Ali/Martin bout last August both attracted substantially fewer pay subscriptions than hoped for. A Martin/Mia St. John PPV event, a year ago, was both a financial and competitive disaster. Sumya Anani has never been on a PPV event. That's a problem for the sport.

Does the sport of Women's boxing have a viable future? Of course, it does; as mentioned the talent level has never been more bountiful. Its just a question of getting the attention of the public. The way to do that is to start with competitive matches; the two best fighters in a weight class matched up against each other. To accomplish that the sport has to definitively establish who the best fighters are; not thru the opinion of the "experts", or worse, self-interested promoters, but with an authoritative, objective rating system that ranks the fighters, recommends competitive matchups and builds a groundswell for promoters to make these competitive matchups. If this isn't done and done soon, the sport will continue to plod along as it has for the past several years, characterized by mismatches, the promotional concentration of flesh over substance, the relative inactivity of the most talented fighters, and the overexposure of the lesser talented boxers. The sport has problems, every sport does, but those problems are solvable, and here's a good place to start: in 2004, Sumya Anani has to be in the ring a whole lot more than two minutes.

Article posted on 03.12.2003

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