By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Sue Fox only had 12 professional bouts, with four wins and three draws.
In fact, her career in the 1970s was far from making any major impact on the sport, outside of a pioneering one.
But the impact she’s made on the sport since her last appearance is striking.
The lifelong West Coast resident started WBAN – the Women’s Boxing Archive Network – in 1996, after scouring the Internet for information on the history of women in the ring and finding little available.
She spent the subsequent two years doing deep-dive research and ultimately developed the WBAN website (womenboxing.com).
Fox took the efforts to an all-time level in 2013, when the WBAN announced formative steps toward establishing the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame and a sister website, IWBHF.com.
The hall had its first induction ceremony in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. in 2014, with an enshrinement class that was chosen by an eight-person panel and included Lucia Rijker, Christy Martin Salters, Regina Hamlich, Bonnie Canino, Barbara Buttrick, Joann Hagen and Christy Halbert.
The hall’s sixth such ceremony is set for Aug. 30 in Brisbane, California.
“One of the most important factors in putting together an induction event is finding a boxing event, preferably a female amateur boxing event, that takes place within a day,” Fox said. “This year, we are having our event in conjunction with the Beautiful Brawlers Show that will have over 35 female amateur bouts. That event will take place the following day, on Aug. 31, in Brisbane.
“I usually like to start several months before the event takes place, finding the right venue and getting the logistics in order with the venue, the inductees, etc.”
The International Boxing Hall of Fame recently took steps toward recognizing women in the ring, announcing that it would begin inducting female fighters at its 2020 ceremony in Canastota, N.Y.
But if you think the IBHOF’s news might make Fox feel like her thunder had been stolen, think again.
“I was excited,” she said. “I actually had one of my writers tell me that news at the time. It is not a death knell for the IWBHF, and I do believe it enhances our objective. I am thrilled that female boxers will be honored in the IBHOF.”
Boxing Scene caught up with Fox in the throes of her IWBHF planning to discuss the state of women’s boxing, what led to the recent momentum it’s gained and how she feels about its long-term health.
BoxingScene.com: Regardless of your perspective on the IBHOF's news, it's got to be an exciting time to be a fan of women's boxing. How satisfying is it to see women on premium cable shows and magazine covers, etc., considering where the sport was when you were participating and in the years that followed?
Sue Fox: It is long overdue for female boxers in the sport. To see these elite athletes receive these opportunities has made it for me, personally – after covering the sport on the Internet now for 21 years with WBAN – a light at the end of the tunnel. There are so many talented female boxers in the sport at this time, and I am always hopeful that the sport will continue to flourish for these fighters.
BoxingScene.com: Back then, did you honestly think you'd ever see these days of significance?
Fox: No, I didn't. It has been a long road for female boxing and it still is a struggle for many, but it has improved immensely throughout the last few years.
BoxingScene.com: Why do you think the evolution occurred? Would it have happened anyway, or were there specific events or people that turned the tide for acceptance?
Fox: There are many milestones throughout the sport, but one significant event in particular was when the female boxers were able to compete in the 2012 Olympics for the first time in the history of the sport.
BoxingScene.com: Talk about the fighters on the scene today. Who do you look forward to watching? What fights do you hope get made over the next few years, and do you believe the momentum will continue?
Fox: There are so many skillful female boxers in today's sport. It would be difficult to mention all of them without leaving someone out that is significant. There are some definite fights that I look forward to seeing take place this year. I do believe that women boxers are now getting some major mainstream coverage in the sport and that will definitely continue the momentum in the sport.
BoxingScene.com: Will women ever headline a major pay-per-view show? What will need to happen to get the sport to that level?
Fox: I believe there will be future opportunities for women to headline a major pay-per-view show. What it will take are great matchups with highly competitive fights (and) that the women's boxing bouts are publicized in press releases and other media news sources so that they can develop a firm fan base.
BoxingScene.com: Compared to who's out there, do you think you'd be on a world-class level if you were at your fighting peak these days? Where would you fit in?
Fox: To compare fighters from the past to the fighters of today is like comparing apples to oranges. The opportunities for female boxers in training, the amateurs, etc., have changed dramatically throughout the years.
BoxingScene.com: Your nickname is very distinctive. What's the story behind it?
Fox: I obtained the ring name of "Tiger Lilly" when I first walked into a karate dojo in the early 70s, and after a short while of training my karate instructor put me in a match with a male fighter. As we began to spar each other I fought wildly with him, and after the sparring session my karate instructor gave me the moniker Tiger Lilly. The name followed me all the way through martial arts and boxing. He told me he named me Tiger Lilly because I was like a wild flower.
BoxingScene.com: What role do you feel you've played in growing the women's side of the sport? And, regardless of the role, I've got to imagine you feel some pride for it -- correct?
Fox: I believe the role that I played in the growth of the women's boxing side of the sport was trying to continue coverage of the sport for 21-plus years at this time. I never cared if a boxer had one fight or 50-plus fights, I tried my best to give media exposure to any and all female boxers whether they were amateurs and/or pros. I do feel good about what WBAN may have done for the boxers, but it was actually all the people who helped me throughout the years that should feel proud for all their contribution of articles, photos, coverage at boxing events and other types of boxing-related events. I could not have accomplished what I have done on WBAN without all of those who helped me out worldwide throughout all of these years.
BoxingScene.com: What are your personal goals as related to the sport, and what do you envision or the sport if we were to revisit this conversation in a few years? What needs to happen to keep it growing positively?
Fox: My personal goal is to leave an imprint on the history of the sport that has been developed throughout the years on WBAN and other WBAN-related websites. I would envision if we were to revisit this conversation in a few years that we would be able to see even more progress with what is going on presently in the sport, and that WBAN would continue to do its part in giving any and all boxers exposure so that boxing fans can learn more on each and every boxer we cover. For the sport to continue to grow in a positive manner we need competitive matchups on any and all boxing cards, whether they are televised or in local boxing shows. We also need the female boxers to continue to get major exposure by the news media, and more television exposure.
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This week’s legit title-fight schedule:
WBO junior featherweight title – Los Angeles, California
Emanuel Navarrete (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Francisco De Vaca (No. 10/Unranked IWBR)
Navarrete (27-1, 23 KO): Second title defense; Nine KO/TKO wins in last 10 fights (58 total rounds)
De Vaca (20-0, 6 KO): First title fight; One career fight longer than eight rounds (1-0, 0 KO)
Fitzbitz says: If Navarrete’s first fight with Dogboe – a title-winning decision – had been a month later, he’d have a legit case to make for fighter of the year. De Vaca’s not in his league. Navarrete in 8 (99/1)
Last week's picks: None
2019 picks record: 63-13 (82.8 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,074-356 (75.1 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.