The Past, the Present and The Future

By Cain Bradley on August 30, 2016
The Past, the Present and The Future
The future pioneer may be Claressa Shields. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Shields was the subject of Oscar De La Hoya’s only tweet about Olympic boxing, leading some to suggest he may be after her signature…

Female Olympic boxing entered its second games after being a roaring success in London in 2012. The three Olympics champions from 2012 came into 2016 as odds on favorites to reclaim their crowns. They exit, seemingly in three different stages of their careers.

The Past: Katie Taylor is the Irish lightweight, one of the fore bearers of female boxing, possibly the greatest ever. The talented sportswoman who has also represented her country in football has been at the top of the boxing world since she was 19. She won her first European Championships in 2005 and was the five time World Champion. She had also won a total of 12 European titles of some variety. Her appeal was worldwide though as she travelled and fought in numerous countries to well over 100 wins. Katie Taylor has even fought on the undercard of a professional world title fight. The AIBA President at time even admitted without Katie Taylor that female boxing would not have made the Olympics when it did. London erupted into its best atmosphere when the Irish found their deafening voice.

Despite only being 30, a rough year has indicated the dominance of Taylor is a thing of the past. She lost her first World Championship fighting eleven years against Estelle Mossely. It was such a big shock it was one of the headlines on BBC Sport, where male amateur boxing barely registers. Thought to be a blip she entered the games as favorite and number one seed. Eight minutes after her second Olympics begun, she was out. The Finnish Mira Potkonen, who had lost to Katie five times, edged a split decision. It was controversial no doubt but Katie should have won comfortably. Perhaps the sport is passing her by. Perhaps losing trainer Billy Walsh to team USA had a bigger impact than anyone expected. Perhaps, as professional Andy Lee suggested, she was overtrained, overworked by her new trainers. Perhaps her mind was on professional boxing, which she mentioned an interest in. Whatever the reason, it is hard to call or expect Katie Taylor to ever be the superstar of female boxing ever again. Katie was the pioneer of the females boxing in the Olympics but that ability to make changes look to be in the past.

The Present: Nicola Adams is a British flyweight who came to the forefront in 2012. The Bolton born boxer had made her way down to London and fought out of the Haringey gym. She made her way through the Olympics round by round and became the first female Olympic boxing champion. Heading into the Olympics she had only two World Championship silver medals. Both times she lost to the Chinese star, Ren Cancan in the final. Come the Olympics, cheered on by a home crowd, she defeated her rival for the gold medal. She has since completed the full crown; winning European, Commonwealth and finally a World title earlier this year. She completed her historic Olympic double by winning in Rio beating her old rival Cancan in the semi final.

The beaming smile and easy to market qualities of Nicola Adams have made her the face of British amateur boxing. The rest of the British team barely receives any attention as the ever-changing nature of the amateur team does not lead to stars. Nicola was and has been the star for the last four years. The opportunities afforded to her are ones that not many female boxers will have received as she timed her rise to prominence perfectly. It would be a surprise if Adams was still at the top of her game in Tokyo but also still a surprise given her position in the team and earnings from the amateur game if she turned professional.

The Future: Only 21, Claressa Shields could either be boxing’s greatest ever Olympian or attempt to change the female professional scene. The American, from Flint, Michigan, grew up through a life of poverty and sexual abuse. She made it through this to become a twice World Champion and after winning her first Olympic title in 2012 at 17 went on to defend it in Rio. Her only defeat came as a fresh 17-year-old to Savannah Marshall. To showcase her dominance, Claressa took out her London 2012 gold medal and wore it on the podium with her 2016 medal. This took her amateur boxing record to 77-1, an almost unprecedented level of success. She also derided a reporter who used the word if when discussing defending her title. The biggest sign of her dominance may have been the final as she routed the second seed Fontjin with ease. She was awarded the Val Barker trophy for her performances in Rio.

Shields was the subject of Oscar De La Hoya’s only tweet about Olympic boxing, leading some to suggest he may be after her signature. Despite the suggestion of her agent that sponsors stay away from female violence, Ronda Rousey is one of combat sports biggest stars. Ronda has a rare combination of looks, charisma and skill that maybe even Clarissa cannot match. She has the option of being a trailblazer and seeing if attaching her stardom to female professional boxing can help a dying aspect of the sport. Or she can become the most dominant amateur boxer in history. By the time she is 30 she could have won 7 world titles and 4 Olympic gold, a feat unmatched. Her story has already been sold to Universal but the final few chapters still need to be written.

The pioneer women’s boxing on the biggest stage, Katie Taylor, may already be a story of the past. The main benefactor from the changes Katie Taylor helped to achieve may have been Nicola Adams. She has forged an incredibly successful career with perfect timing. The future pioneer may be Claressa Shields who has the chance to go down in history in whatever way she chooses.

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  1. The Thresher 08:07pm, 08/30/2016

    Point taken

  2. Eric 06:15pm, 08/30/2016

    The Thresher….Naah. Let him, her, it, have fun. It is quite flattering to know that I actually have that kind of effect on someone. hehe. If they taint hating on ya, you taint doin’ something worthwhile. You only worry when they start to totally ignore you.

  3. The Thresher 05:28pm, 08/30/2016

    Ask the Administrator to fix it. He must have a different IPU.

  4. Eric 03:30pm, 08/30/2016

    Damn it, Jim. This fake “Eric” who keeps trollin’ me is not only lame, but creepy as well. Wonder if this thang is related to Anthony Weiner. Seek professional help, friend. You sound ill. Laaaaaaaaaaateeeerrrrrr.

  5. Eric 01:15pm, 08/30/2016

    Gotta admit though that I often fantasize about having some female boxer beat the living tar out of me. Not that the would be all that difficult, hell the average untrained woman off the street could kick my ass. And I don’t mean just a spanking, although a good hiding right on the seat makes my day.
    I mean fists to the face and body. I find it oddly arousing. Some of those female boxers really look like they could “take charge” and teach me a lesson in manners. I’m mean, I’m submissive to begin with, so I like a take charge woman but a female boxer or even some MMA broad, well, we could just take it to the next level, know what I mean. It would give new meaning to the expression “ground and pound”. Any takers out there?

  6. Eric 12:48pm, 08/30/2016

    I agree. The 90’s were indeed the last decade that boxing could lay claim to being a top tier sport. The irony is that many boxing people back in the 90’s and early 00’s, were saying that MMA was just a fad that would die within a few short years, and boxing would continue to reign over MMA. It might even be safe to assume that pro rasslin’ is just as popular as boxing nowadays. Sad, but true. Any successful female boxer might want to attempt switching over to MMA ala Holly Holms. It seems they would have a better shot at earning more money in that sport than boxing.

  7. The Thresher 11:46am, 08/30/2016

    Hmm. the majority of the public has never really accepted male boxing in a big way—or not since the 90’s

  8. Eric 06:42am, 08/30/2016

    I just don’t think the majority of the public will ever really accept female boxing in a big way. Personally, I hate seeing two women beat on each other, but that’s just me. I still remember when Cathy Cat Davis graced the cover of Ring magazine decades ago. Back then, women boxing was regarded more or less as a freak show and to be honest, I don’t think it has progressed that much further since the late 70’s. There have been some super talented women boxers like Lucia Rijker & Ann Wolfe, hell, Wolfe could probably beat half the men in her weight class, but these are only a small handful. Christy Martin was more of a gimmick, and Mia St. John’s popularity had a lot to do with her looks. Laila Ali was talented but her appeal had just as much to do with her name as her talent. Dana White, love him or hate him, knows how to market a product. Have to give White just as much credit as Rousey herself, in turning Ronda into the biggest name in UFC in such a short time period. The beauty, Gina Carrano, or the beastly Cyborg, got some love, but neither drew anywhere near the numbers that the male UFC stars received. And face it, the UFC female fighters are deep in talent, and MMA has surpassed boxing as the combat sport of choice in today’s world. Female boxing didn’t catch on when boxing was a huge sport back in the late ‘70’s, now it is boxing in general that seems to be dying out. And thanks to the exciting McGregor-Diaz rematch, boxing has slipped further down the list behind MMA. This only makes it that much harder for females dedicated to the sport of boxing to succeed in a big way.

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