Female Boxer Claims Discrimination

By Matt McGrain on February 5, 2014
Female Boxer Claims Discrimination
It seems a shame that the Equality of Human Rights Commission will have the final say.

Climate, economy and the changeable mood of your average Scottish male has bred a lassie as fierce as she is long-suffering…

The great Scottish boxing writer Hugh McIlvanney summed up our national character as well as any man ever has writing about Ken Buchanan, perhaps Scotland’s greatest ever pugilist, in 1971. He noted that what he diplomatically calls “the Scottish capacity for personalised aggression” has no one explanation but is rather an amalgamation of factors drawing from the spiritual, economic and ethnic factors, but I think this last is the main culprit. The maelstrom of races the modern stock is drawn from seas, pictish tribes and Celtic warriors mongreled with Scandinavian raiders and Norse marauders. Marauded and raided often, Scotland has never been conquered in the same way England has – not by the Normans and not by the Romans, both of whom thought better of trying to bring to heel a tribe of people ready to abandon homes and loved ones at the drop of a dictat and fight a never-ending guerrilla war rather than be subdued. It also tells a story that no invading nation of the Middle Ages could ever find anyone crucial to kill or make terms with; it was a long time before we actually agreed upon who was in charge.

Nevertheless, the Scottish nation has been dominated for the entirety of the modern era by our English neighbors who, according to the unique blend of paranoia and self-confidence my nation’s people personify, work hard to obscure the greatness of the country. This has instilled a drive in individual Scots that has illuminated the world with a series of innovations from the television to penicillin to radar to anaesthetic to the greatest of all, whisky. Possibly, I digress.

Scottish women are special. Climate, economy and the changeable mood of your average Scottish male has bred a lassie as fierce as she is long-suffering, only this generation and the last aren’t married to the suffering part. Their ancestors were special too, and it is a fact that the greater part of the active resistance by Scotland’s poorest people during the atrocity that was the Highland Clearances (men chased from land they had in many cases lived upon for generations, by greedy English and even more greedy Scottish landowners who wanted the land for sheep…don’t get me started) was perpetrated by women; the point is, Scottish women are from tough, fighting stock.

In profiling the 2012 women’s Olympic team I did notice that Scotland had failed to produce a single competitor and I remember thinking at the time that it would be nice if by the 2014 Commonwealth games, to be staged in Glasgow, Scotland, we might not be able to contribute. Sadly, that is not the case and there will be no Scottish female boxing team at the games. I am ashamed to say that the reason why this might be the case despite a hardcore working-class bedrock the likes of which cannot be found anywhere else in the UK is not a question that ever occurred to me. Some light may have been shed upon the matter this week by the unnamed female boxer or boxers, who have taken Boxing Scotland to the Equality of Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Boxing Scotland is “the only acknowledged Scottish National Governing body for the Olympic and Commonwealth Games sport of…Amateur Boxing.” The EHRC has a “statutory remit to…protect enforce and promote equality,” including gender equality.

Female boxers have reportedly previously complained to sportsscotland, the entity that controls funding for various amateur sports in Scotland, that opportunity for development within the sport in the country that is to host the games is severely lacking. These claims seem to be supported by Stephanie Kernachan, not a complainant, who gave an interview to the BBC in which she claimed that she, a sponsor or her gym has to pay to attend most of her fights, including trips to Germany and Sweden.

“It’s really hard to get the competition,” continued the twenty-one-year-old, who has boxed since her mid-teens. “Two years ago I got my first international, but since then, nothing has come my way. How can we get better if we are not getting the opportunities and the training that boys are getting?”

How indeed? As is so often the case where sizeable institutions are concerned, one line from one of the human beings being devoured by them cuts straight to the quick.

According to a 2012 complaint by a group of fighters regular training camps were not available to Scotland’s women and nor were there any regular tournaments. Furthermore it has been alleged that “derogatory language has been used to describe female boxers” and that furthermore that language appeared “in a report on Boxing Scotland’s website,” although it has since been taken down (BBC).

Boxing Scotland’s website claims that they want to “provide the best possible opportunities for those involved to gain enjoyment and maximise their potential” but like any organization of its kind, part of Boxing Scotland’s remit is that they pursue success for the Scottish amateur boxing team, that they produce medals. It seems to me that these two goals may not be compatible, but the organization is hardly unique in that. So whilst several women are said to blame the failure of a female to appear at The Commonwealth Games upon Boxing Scotland, Boxing Scotland blames the failure of a female to appear at The Commonwealth Games upon…the females.

“Without ever blunting any boxer’s enthusiasm and ambitions, these decisions [not to put athletes into elite level competition] are to ensure the boxer’s health and welfare,” the organization told the BBC. “A key objective for Boxing Scotland is the delivery of a world-class performance programme for Scotland’s elite boxers…Athletes must meet certain criteria in order to benefit from elite funding…of the 1,700 athletes registered with Boxing Scotland, 15 currently meet this level.”

Whilst no outstanding female talent exists, no elite funding is made available, but how is an outstanding female talent to emerge without the elite funding? Boxing Scotland know there is a problem; three years ago it approached sportscotland in an attempt to secure an additional £20,000 ($32,000) to help fund women in the sport specifically, but they were declined. This is because sportscotland does not release funds based along divisions of gender. Rather it released to Boxing Scotland around £810,000 ($1.3m) in the previous two years to the furtherance of the entire amateur code. Whether or not Boxing Scotland releases £20,000 to the starving women’s sport is then entirely up to them.

To be fair to Boxing Scotland, the number of women registered to box in my country is up and that is among the key targets. It is also true that sessions for Junior women are being documented on Boxing Scotland’s website, but I think the organization has to accept that no single competitor in the year we get to host a major amateur boxing completion must be regarded as a failure. 

Boxing Scotland would doubtless disagree with me, but there are competitors who would contradict them. It seems a shame, but somehow unsurprising, that the Equality of Human Rights Commission will have the final say.

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  1. Matt McGrain 09:25am, 02/13/2014

    Thanks Caroline.

  2. caroline kernachan 03:38pm, 02/12/2014

    I’m the sister of Stephanie Kernachan
    I can say that this has upset her not to be able to compete on home ground
    I’ve seen her dedication first hand and for her to be denied this is the worst that’s happens
    If there was a way to compete as an independant she and others would do so

  3. Darrell 04:33am, 02/08/2014


  4. Pete The Sneak 06:45am, 02/07/2014

    By the by Mr. Editor sin miedo (fearless editor), thanks for the update on Elena ‘Baby Doll’ Reid. Was wondering what happened to her, She was indeed a cutie and I hope that beat down you witnessed hasn’t damaged her…Peace.

  5. Pete The Sneak 06:39am, 02/07/2014

    I always enjoyed watching Christy Martin fight back in the day as an undercard on all those Don King PPV’s. I guess it was a novel thing back then to see women’s boxing get so much attention and Christy was the poster girl for the sport at the time. But then again, I also enjoyed watching Butterbean on those cards as well…I would much rather watch amateur women’s boxing, where the rules are a bit more regulated to avoid having some of these ladies receive those ‘bone lacerations’ or ‘Purple swollen eye sockets’ that Irish Frankie aptly described. As for professional women’s boxing, no I no longer watch nor have interest in doing so (unless Laila Ali comes out of retirement to challenge Ann Wolfe, then maybe)... Still, I wish the Lassie’s out in Scotland all the best in having their boxing endeavors come to fruition…Peace.

  6. NYIrish 02:29am, 02/07/2014

    I don’t believe females should be denied the benefits derived from amateur boxing. If they want to turn pro so be it. Watching Laila Ali beat the shit out of the overmatched Christy Martin soured me on women in the pros. I just don’t enjoy watching women getting beat up.

  7. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 02:42pm, 02/06/2014

    Robert Ecksel-My comment was my lame attempt to pose a rhetorical question, you’ll notice that I made no reference to the lassies in Scotland who are being unfairly denied the opportunity to pursue their athletic goals. Moreover, when you quote I.B. Singer who penned the greatest short story ever written, I am backed up.

  8. Ted 01:11pm, 02/06/2014

    I raise my hand as I am a great fan of women’s boxing and follow it very closely

  9. Robert Ecksel 11:26am, 02/06/2014

    Irish—Put that way, it’s hard to raise my hand, but raise it I will. If women want to box, if they can box, who am I to say they shouldn’t box? Better they should be in the ring than hidden under a burka. In 2008 I attended a fight between Elena “Baby Doll” Reid and Eileen Olszewski. At the pre-fight presser, the aptly named “Baby Doll,” all 5’2” of her, made quite an impression. She didn’t resemble Carroll Baker in Elia Kazan’s “Baby Doll,” but she did resemble Elena Reid, who was adorable. Reid got the shit beaten out of her in the fight and it was sad to see. Sadder still was watching her as she passed me on the way back to her dressing room. I don’t know that she had “bone deep lacerations” around her eyes or “purple swollen eye sockets” or a “bloody swollen nose” or “swollen bloody lips,” but she was unrecognizable. For all intents and purposes, she was “Baby Doll” no more. But she knew what she was getting herself into and was probably no happier than I that she looked like a gargoyle. But when it comes to women’s boxing, and other subjects too numerous to name, I turn to wiser men than myself, men like Isaac Bashevis Singer: “We have to believe in free will. We have no other choice.”

  10. Matt McGrain 10:55am, 02/06/2014

    I’d name a difference between the Am and the Pro code, Frankie.

  11. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 10:51am, 02/06/2014

    Who wants to see their wife…their mother…..their daughter….their sister….with bone deep lacerations around their eyes…..or purple swollen eye sockets….or bloody swollen noses….or swollen bloody lips….all those in favor raise your hands!

  12. Mike Casey 09:46am, 02/06/2014

    Ken Buchanan and Benny Lynch were indeed great boxers, NYIrish. Lassies? Where?

  13. Matt McGrain 08:42am, 02/06/2014

    Freedom to faught.
    For me, I have a pencil-shaving between Buchanan and Lynch, nothing separates them in my view.  When I did my 100 i tried very hard to get one of these two in for obvious reasons but it just didn’t happen - both lay just, just outside though.

  14. Mike Silver 08:26am, 02/06/2014


  15. NYIrish 05:16am, 02/06/2014

    All that wind about the lassies above and it produces two comments on Buchanan and Benny Lynch.
    Is this an offshoot of “The He-man Woman Haters Club?”

  16. Mike Silver 09:11pm, 02/05/2014

    Scotland’s greatest boxer was the incomparable and brilliant Benny Lynch.
    Ken Buchanan was a very good fighter but Lynch was the best.

  17. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 05:36pm, 02/05/2014

    Ken Buchanan was a great fighter….period!.... I for one wish that he would have retired in ‘75….the losses on his sterling record from ‘79 on just shouldn’t be there.

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