Katie Taylor and Claressa Shields have each played their part in transforming boxing.  

Malissa Smith is promoting her upcoming book The Promise of Women’s Boxing – available on June 4 – and two of the fighters who have been significantly involved in the women’s boxing revolution are Shields, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, and Taylor, who won gold in 2012, but couldn’t repeat in 2016. Women’s boxing is now a staple of the biggest shows on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Smith explained that her book is split into three time-frames. 

“I broke the book up into three distinct periods,” reflected Smith, a women’s boxing historian. “The period from 2012 to 2016, which really focused more on the amateur world of boxing, and contrasting that to the women who had already been boxing as professionals but were having such a hard time getting traction on cards.

“I then looked at the period from 2017-2019 to think about what happened when the Olympians finally started to enter into the world of boxing; was their experience different from the old gang of women’s boxers?” 

“In the case of Katie Taylor and Claressa Shields, it was a very different paradigm. They started off earning salaries that the women who had been boxing all along never saw. Then, the third part is looking at the COVID [era] to the current state of boxing. This showed a real shift, where women started to have real superfights and earn a million dollars.”

A major factor in the success of women’s boxing could be seen as the Olympics and the benefits that are in place for fighters who go through the Olympic system, win medals and hit the professional ranks with excitement, enthusiasm and a reputation. 

“The proven ability of the Olympians, Katie Taylor, for one, Claressa Shields, as another,” Smith continued. “They are very different women, they are very different fighters. But they had a similar experience in terms of coming to the party with a promotion team and management team, that had a real sense of what the future could look like. Katie Taylor as a fighter is a known quantity and we essentially have her to thank for [women’s boxing] being in the Olympics in the first place.”

Taylor’s dominance in international competition was a major driver of women being included in the Olympics. 

Another key factor to the growth of women’s boxing are the rivalries that are building and that have resulted in terrific fights. Katie Taylor versus Amanda Serrano was one of the biggest and best fights of 2022 and brought in a massive crowd, but there has also been Mikaela Mayer versus Alycia Baumgardner, Claressa Shields versus Savannah Marshall and many others. 

High-profile figures in women’s boxing are drawing interest from fans who have not typically watched women box. 

“Part of that is [the fights] are also delivering,” added Smith. “What you have is the best fighting the best even on undercards. You are seeing high-caliber boxing, and that just adds to what the rivalries are about.”