Throughout boxing history, women have made a significant contribution to the sport, both in and out of the ring. These contributions have often been met with little recognition from the media and the public at large, including those within the boxing world.
But today, the Boxing Writers Association of America is pleased to announce that beginning with the 2017 award season, the organization will present a Women’s Fighter of the Year award, to be presented each year at the BWAA’s annual dinner.
“With the recent influx of talent from the amateur ranks, the beginning of network television support and the willingness of major promoters to have female fights on their shows, we’re entering a Golden Age of women’s boxing,” said Thomas Gerbasi, chairman of the BWAA women’s boxing committee. “And as such, there is no better time than now for the Boxing Writers Association of America to start recognizing the women who are not just deserving of this award, but all women who step through the ropes to compete.”
Joining Gerbasi, the current women’s boxing columnist for The Ring magazine, on the voting committee for this award will be:
Sue Fox, a former boxer and pioneer of women’s boxing coverage who created WBAN (Women’s Boxing Archive Network) and the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame (IWBHF).
David Avila, a respected journalist and longtime supporter of the sport.
“While women's boxing can be loosely traced in its beginnings to London in the 1720s, and throughout the ensuing decades with various exhibitions and scattered bouts, efforts to legitimize the sport came up short in the 1950s and 1970s,” said Fox. “As with most other sports, it was not until the media began covering the sport in the last decade of the 20th century that women were afforded the opportunity to display their ring skills.
“And it was a boxer named Christy Martin who took that opportunity and, presented with a 1996 undercard spot against Ireland’s Deirdre Gogarty on a Mike Tyson PPV telecast, demonstrated to boxing fans everywhere that women, indeed, could not only climb through the ring ropes but, once there, give positive proof that they belonged. Since then, the sport of women's boxing has increased in both size and the talent of the athletes, culminating in 2012 when the sport was accepted for Olympic competition, more than a full century after it was granted exhibition status at the 1904 Games.
“A natural progression, at this point, is to afford the sport a deserving spotlight with the establishment of a Women's Fighter of the Year award in conjunction with, and under the auspices of, the Boxing Writers Association of America.”
“Women’s prizefighting has gained a foothold around the world and has already anchored itself in many countries,” said Avila. “This year, the U.S. has been televising female boxing and that was the first major move in this country in a long time. Female boxing continues to grow rapidly and is supplanting male boxing as the main event in countries such as Argentina, Mexico, Germany and Japan. In the U.S., it’s only a matter of time until fans will discover what other countries have learned: women’s boxing attracts fans.”
The first order of business for the committee was to name the award, and it was unanimously decided that each year, the top female boxer in the world will receive the Christy Martin Women’s Fighter of the Year award.
Martin introduced herself to the boxing world as “The Coal Miner’s Daughter,” and her tenacious fighting ability landed her on several Mike Tyson undercards in the 90s, as well as on the cover of Sports Illustrated. For many, Martin was the first female boxer they had ever seen, and she opened the doors for the boxers to come. Owner of a 49-7-3 record over the course of a 23-year pro career, Martin’s impact has been felt far beyond the ring over the last few years, as she survived an attempt on her life by her ex-husband in 2012 and has been a staunch advocate for bringing awareness to the epidemic of domestic violence. Now working as a teacher in Charlotte while also leading Christy Martin Promotions, the 49-year-old is the epitome of a fighter.
“It’s really overwhelming and satisfying because now I feel people did take notice of my career and they remember that what I did open a lot of doors for the women that are coming along these days,’ Martin said. “This is forever. In five, ten, fifteen years, they’re going to say it’s the Christy Martin Award, so people are going to have to Google Christy Martin to see what she did. (Laughs) There’s satisfaction in that because everything I did will live on forever.”
As for the award that bears her name, Martin said, “It’s important because it shows that women are now finally getting recognition with a Fighter of the Year award. In the past, it’s always been the male fighters and the female fighters never got the same recognition. But I think with amateur boxing programs now being an option for women, it’s opened up and the sport is finally getting exposure worldwide.”
The inaugural BWAA Christy Martin Women’s Fighter of the Year award will be presented in the spring of 2018 at a date and location to be announced