Not Too Pretty to Punch

Published in BULL Magazine, p. 36, March Issue 2013.

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Ada Lee enters the ring.

Jab, breathe. Hook, breathe. Duck. Block. Uppercut, breathe. Sweat drips from the boxer’s brow. Oomph! The sudden shock as the gloved fist collides with her cheekbone. Whoa, hold up—her? That’s right. Women’s boxing is a thing now. It has been for a while.

Historically, female boxers have faced several opponents—in and out of the ring. But recently they have made great progress in punching through the glass ceiling of boxing culture.

One of the most significant triumphs was the inclusion of women’s boxing in last year’s London Olympics. Nicola Adams, flyweight gold medallist, wrote in The Guardian that spectator enthusiasm should silence sceptics. “They have been cheering for us as much as the lads,” she wrote.

Local female boxers have also seen victories with NSW ending its 22-year ban on women’s boxing in 2008. In 2011, Sydney Uni Boxing Club (SUBxC) hosted female fighters for the first time at its annual Intercollege and Interfaculty Fight Night. Laura Hanlon, a first year MECO student at the time, observed wide-eyed. As a long-term admirer of combat sports, Hanlon was inspired to take up amateur boxing.

Twice a week, Hanlon and her fellow SUBxC athletes trained together in a one-hour high intensity workout. They’d face off against the punching bag, the trainers, and finally one another in a round robin sparring contest. Closer to the annual Fight Night, boxers raise the bar with an extra weekly session to prepare themselves physically and mentally. Fitness, discipline and focus are essential to winning.

Though Hanlon has never been knocked out, she has been punched in the face comparing it to the shock of hitting your head on the car door.

Hanlon was set to debut in last year’s Fight Night until her opponent pulled out with a shoulder injury. Because of SUBxC’s lack of female boxers, a replacement of matching height, weight and skill level could not be found for the disappointed Hanlon. Consequently, there were no female fights. This indicates a key problem in women’s boxing—low participation.

Hanlon labelled the notion that women are ‘too pretty to punch’ as “complete rubbish”. She sees herself as a boxer in her own right. “Whether you’re male or female, it doesn’t matter. It’s more the merits of what you achieve. Don’t be like, ‘oh that’s really good for a girl’”.

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