A Woman’s Right To Fight

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31.03.04 – By Matthew Hurley – Women’s boxing has, and always will be, a fringe sport. An anomaly of a once major sport that in recent years has become something of an outlaw profession in the eyes of the sports media and the general public. Mention boxing in mixed company and you will get one of three responses – snickering, apathy or genuine enthusiasm – and the enthusiastic seem to be few and far between. But women’s boxing… it remains an unsolvable puzzle.

Recently I interviewed a former woman prize fighter from Brockton Massachusetts, Wendy Sprowl, and came away thoroughly impressed. Her insights into the fight game were illuminating, particularly her ruminations on training and weight loss. Our discussion eventually turned to the tragic death of Bobby Tomasello. Wendy fought on the under card of that fight (which was broadcast on ESPN) and sat with Bobby afterwards before he collapsed into a coma from which he would never return. To hear her speak of the fallen fighter was both heartbreaking and somehow exhilarating. She spoke as a fighter. Her sex didn’t matter. She understood what Bobby had gone through and the sacrifice he had made for the sport he loved. It was a sacrifice she seemed willing to make herself. Fighting induced pride in her heart, a fierce belief that she belonged. Her heart beat, and still beats, to a fighters drum.

{My next article will be dedicated to Bobby Tomasello and everything I write will be inspired by Wendy’s recollections of that tragic night.}

But what struck me most about Wendy was the way she spoke about boxing. I was very upfront with her in regards to my opinion of women’s boxing. Frankly, I have trouble watching it. Simply put, it makes me cringe when women pound on each other. And the talent pool in women’s professional boxing is as shallow as a beach at low tide. But fighters like Wendy, who fought as an amateur and a professional and is now a trainer, epitomize all that is good about boxing. She, along with many female fighters who respect the sport, dedicate themselves to both training and to the innate desire for the respect that boxing accords those brave enough to step through the ropes of a boxing ring.

Some of the stories Wendy related were disconcerting but hardly surprising. The money was bad, opportunities were either taken from her or simply squandered because of nefarious back-door machinations by money grubbing promoters. But there were many good stories, particularly her fondness for her trainer and manager who never took a nickel from her. Hers is ultimately a winning story. She persevered and continues to participate in the sport she truly loves.

Today she is a successful trainer and is grooming an up and comer who recently had her first fight. She’s even led her sixteen year old daughter into the ring. When I asked her about that, and all the risks involved, she replied, “I’d rather have her learn discipline and keep her in the gym than on the streets. And she really enjoys it.” Fair enough. Boxing has always been known as a safe haven for kids who may go astray. And all kids go astray at some point. There final destination simply depends on where they started from. If boxing can keep a life in line that’s all right by me.

So think what you will about women’s boxing but never thumb your nose at anyone with the courage to step into the ring be they man or woman. Wendy Sprowl is a fighter through and through and if you don’t believe me, you step into the ring with her. I dare you.