The Good Fight and Patricio Manuel

By Robert Ecksel on March 5, 2019
The Good Fight and Patricio Manuel
“In my eyes, he’s already succeeded.” (Brandon Magpantay, Special to The Desert Sun)

Patricio Manuel, a super featherweight fighting out of Los Angeles, won a unanimous decision in December at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino…

“Boxing is for men, and is about men, and is men. A celebration of the lost art of masculinity all the more trenchant for its being lost.”—Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates might be wrong; there’s a first time for everything. It’s possible that boxing is not for men, not about men, and not men, however unlikely that may be. Enough women follow and participate in the sport to, at the very least, if not put the lie to her assertion, at least cast shade on its veracity. But when it comes to boxing being a “celebration of the lost art of masculinity all the more trenchant for its being lost,” well, them’s fighting words.

Although I have little to no interest in tennis, except as a cultural phenomenon, there’s a controversy roiling that sport which has unintended connections to boxing.

On February 17, Martina Navratilova, the trailblazing gay rights activist who Tennis magazine called the greatest female tennis player for the years 1965 through 2005, having won 18 Grand Slam singles titles and 31 major-doubles crowns, wrote an op-ed in The Sunday Times of London which has stirred controversy in many quarters. Titled “The rules on trans athletes reward cheats and punish the innocent,” it begins by recalling a tweet she wrote which read: “You can’t just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women. There must be some standards, and having a penis and competing as a woman would not fit that standard.”

The reaction was immediate and put Navratilova on the defensive. She admitted that “Perhaps I could have phrased it more delicately and less dogmatically, but I was not prepared for the onslaught that followed,” chiefly a series of “bullying tweets” from a “Canadian academic and transgender cyclist named Rachel McKinnon,” accusing the tennis legend of being “transphobic.”

In October 2018, the 6-foot, 196-pound McKinnon won the Masters Track cycling world championship in the 35-44 age category. The woman who came in third, Jennifer Wagner-Assali, complained about the victory. And while McKinnon’s “levels of testosterone, the male hormone, were well within the limits set by world cycling’s governing body,” the loser’s protest was not unreasonable.

“To put the argument at its most basic: a man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organization is concerned, win everything in sight and perhaps earn a small fortune, and then reverse his decision and go back to making babies if he so desires,” wrote Navratilova. “It’s insane and it’s cheating.”

“Simply reducing hormone levels,” she continued, “does not solve the problem. A man builds up muscle and bone density, as well as a greater number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, from childhood. Training increases the discrepancy. Indeed, if a male were to change gender in such a way as to eliminate any accumulated advantage, he would have to begin hormone treatment before puberty.”

Navratilova mentioned Renée Richards, nee Richard Raskind, “a strong but not outstanding player who competed at the US Open” in the 1970s, before making “the full commitment” and proved to be “no better a tennis player as a woman than as a man.”

Navratilova also brought up Olympic 800-meter champion Caster Semenya. “She was designated female at birth and has been raised as female throughout her life. Suspicions were aroused because she was such a dominant runner and her body shape looked male.

“It turned out that Semenya has a condition called hyperandrogenism, which produces naturally occurring, but elevated, levels of testosterone. She has never taken medication or sought an advantage. She has just trained and run.”

The outcome of Semenya’s case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport is expected on March 29.

Navratilova has apologized, under pressure from the LGBTQ community, and she seems sincere.

“I know I don’t have all the answers. I don’t think there is a definitive answer here,” she said, before adding that she welcomes a “conversation that includes everyone and is based, as I have said, not on feeling or emotion but science,” when all she wanted was a level playing field.

What does any of that have to do with boxing?

Enter Patricio Manuel, a super featherweight fighting out of Los Angeles, who won a unanimous decision in December at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in what was billed as the first pro bout in the U.S. involving a transgender man.

As valid or not as Navratilova’s argument might be, the fact that Manuel’s transition was from woman to man and involves neither cycling nor hitting a ball turns her proposition on its head.

Manuel was a five-time national amateur champion who competed as a woman in the 2012 Olympic Trials. He wasn’t a novice. But the four-round bout over 0-5 Hugo Aguilar was not insignificant, especially to Patricio Manuel.

“This is the definition of true happiness in this moment,” he said. “I needed all that to happen. I [didn’t] know if I would be able to perform. I think it needed to happen this way. I’m just really glad with the way everything played out.”

Golden Boy Promotions President Eric Gomez pushed hard to make the fight. He brought in Vic Valenzuela, a veteran trainer working out of the Duarte Boxing Club to assess the prospect, who was as moved by Manuel’s story as Eric Gomez.

“I’m in a position where I can help,” said Gomez, “and I wanted to help and that’s it. You can’t hide it. I’m not trying to hide it, either.

“This is bigger than boxing. It’s for all sports. The story is, I don’t care who you are, what country you come from, what nationality. It doesn’t really matter. If you’re good enough to compete, you’ll be able to compete. All you need is a chance. I’m just happy to be a part of it

“Pat [got] his chance, and win or lose, in my eyes, he’s already succeeded.”

The fight wasn’t a gimme. Manuel started strong, but twice got rattled in round two. He took over in the second half of the bout and the judges scored it 39-37 across the board.

“I’m so happy that Golden Boy Promotions did the right thing,” Manuel said. “They actually stepped up in that moment to help me. I’m really grateful.”

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  1. Your Name 10:54am, 03/07/2019

    MM, We are on the same page.

  2. Mau-Mauing The Flak Catchers 09:20am, 03/07/2019

    Your name… Well it is reassuring that there were some sensible answers from some the women questioned. The women who saw no problem with fighting a transgender male to female are clueless as hell. Say you have a guy that has been naturally producing testosterone in his system for 20 years plus, some hormone replacement thingie for a few years is not going to rid him/her of that advantage overnight. Think about a former male fighter deciding to change his sex to female and fight women. Imagine IF some beast like Brock Lesnar decided to change his sex to female and fight women in the octagon. Oh my God, that would be like feeding those poor girls to a starving grizzly. Hell, my money would be on Caitlyn Jenner to whip any of those female boxers in a boxing match even at Caitlyn’s age and despite her have probably no boxing experience at all.

  3. Your Name 06:49am, 03/07/2019

    Here is what women think:

  4. Your Name 05:18pm, 03/06/2019

    Geezuz God help us

  5. Mau-Mauing The Flak Catchers 11:06am, 03/06/2019

    Not only in powerlifting, my friend. Some transgender male to female won a Texas state title in high school wrestling. The powerlifter was from Australia and the article claims he won a “weightlifting” championship.  It only gives Olympic lifters another reason to make fun of powerlifting. haha. ONLY KIDDING. Seems like this is happening in all sports, powerlifting, wrestling, boxing, MMA, happened in tennis long ago with Renee Richards. I see Richards would go on to coach Martina, and as I suspected, Richards was over 30 when she was doing the circuit which is “old” for a tennis player, at least back then it was.

  6. Your Name 10:32am, 03/06/2019

    OMG, Mau Mauing, not in powerlifting!!!!!!!!!! Say it’s not so.

  7. Mau-Mauing The Flak Catchers 08:47am, 03/06/2019

    A male to “female” “transgender” MMA fighter brutally beat a REAL FEMALE MMA fighter awhile back. At least in the case of the boxer mentioned in this article,  it is a female to male transgender which really endangers her/him more than his/her opponent. At least this “man” in this article isn’t a COWARD like the MMA transgender I mentioned.  If I recall correctly a male to female transgender also entered a female powerlifting meet and proceeded to win quite easily. Oh wow, what an accomplishment. Back in the days of Martina there was a transgender tennis player named Renee Richards. If I remember correctly, Richards was a marginal tennis player at best, maybe he/she was a little too old or maybe just not that good of a tennis player. We’ve really REGRESSED INTO A SODOM AND GOMORRAH since the Bobby Riggs vs. Billie Jean King, “Battle Of The Sexes” match. I used to root for feminine Chris Everett against the mannish Martina when they played against each other. Here I was thinking that it was unfair for cute little Chris to play mannish Martina, and now we have a MAN pummeling females in the MMA octagon. GOD HELP US.

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