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Thursday, March 03, 2022

No Holds Barred: A Bit of Women's Boxing History, on The WAAR Room with Chris Baldwin and Malissa Smith 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with our colleagues Chris Baldwin of the WAAR Room and Malissa Smith of Girlboxing on the WAAR Room. A video of this discussion has also been posted on the WAAR Sports YouTube page.

We spoke with them by Zoom Sunday, February 13.

In every generation, there are big super fights, to be made for men and women in the sport. There was the fight between Laila Ali and Jacqui Frazier-Lyde as the main event on a pay-per-view card on June 8, 2001, in a big tent erected at the Turning Stone Casino outside of Canastota, New York.

While Bob Arum, yes, that Bob Arum, did not have a particular hand in that fight, he did try to promote the "Million Dollar Lady" super-fight between Christy Martin and Lucia Rijker in 2005. This wad meant to capitalize on Clint Eastwood's Oscar winning film, "Million Dollar Baby" starring Hilary Swank. Martin and Rijker were to have been guaranteed a $250,000 purse a piece. They were also both past the prime of their careers, but there'd been a rivalry that began to brew in the late-1990s, and it was the fight fans wanted to see, perhaps only eclipsed by the dream of pairing Laila Ali and Ann Wolfe.

In the end, Rijker had to pull out of the fight due to a torn achilles tendon, which turned out to be career ending. Ever the "champion" for women's boxing -- not -- Bob Arum was less than stellar about Rijker's injury, having done a lousy job of promoting the fight in the first place and seeming to blame the women for what was reported to be anemic ticket sales.

Arum's early forays in women's boxing extend all the way back to the late 1970s. He felt very burned by the experience, and in 1987 went on record to state that women's boxing is "ridiculous," and how he'd sworn that he'd never promote another women's bout.

He did go on to promote women's boxing champion Lucia Rijker in the late 1990s, and a few years later, Mia St. John. A martial artist, St. John's trademark was "hot pink" to distinguish herself from Christy Martin's baby pink. She gained popularity fighting on Oscar De La Hoya fight cards on pay-per-view in the early 2000s.

And of course, fast forward to 2022, and Bob Arum is still at it denigrating female prize fighters while promoting yet another champion female boxer.

The Taylor-Serrano main event super fight on April 30, 2022, in the main room at Madison Square Garden, demonstrates just how far the sport has come in terms of popularity and respect. It is, however, only the beginning. Bob Arum's open disdain for female achievements in the sport may be treated as being anachronistic, but the truth is he is not alone in his thinking. One need only look at the fight cards on mainstream boxing media in the United States, to see how much further there is to go.

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