A Look Into Why Women Boxers Have To Risk More Than Men
In boxing, there is a constant calling for the best fighters to fight one another. When it happens, fans and pundits use it to determine whether someone should rank among the sport’s elite. It is the ultimate way to judge the real from the fake.
The main avenue for this to happen is through unification fights, where world champions fight each other within a division. Regardless of the weight class, nothing creates a buzz like the announcement of a unification bout.
The problem is you do not see unification fights happen often enough. In an era in which there are four “world champions” per division, you cannot fully gauge who is the boss of a division. The question that is often posed is, why do we not see it on a more consistent basis?
As irritating as it can be, there is a glimmer of hope. Folks clamoring to see this happen can see these instances taking place in women’s boxing. Indeed, women seem to be more willing to test themselves than men.
THE DON DIVA
Much respect in this regard must go to former undisputed women’s world welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus. In September of 2014, she unified all the world titles at 147-pounds and held that distinction until her upset defeat to McCaskill in August 2020. A nod must also be given to current two-division world champion Claressa Shields, who in 2019 unified all the world titles at 160-pounds.
LADIES FIRST, LADIES FIRST
The sport’s undisputed world champions currently happen to be women. They are undisputed Women’s Lightweight world champion Katie Taylor (17-0, 6 KOs) and undisputed Women’s World Welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill (9-2, 3 KOs).
According to Sky Sports, WBC champion Terry Harper has agreed to terms for an April showdown against WBA belt-holder Hyun-Mi Choi. WBO world 130-pound champion Mikaela Mayer is also in serious negotiations to face IBF champion Maiva Hamadouche. If things pan out, the winners of those two fights will face each other. So, by the end of this year, you could also see an undisputed world champion at 130-pounds.
MAKE IT MAKE SENSE
You may ask, why is this not more prevalent when it comes to men’s boxing? Part of it is due to the disparate way the sport is run between men and women. There is also the element of money and power dynamics.
The harsh truth is male fighters make more than women across the board. The cash distribution is greater. Television and streaming platforms do not invest in women’s boxing in the same way they do the men. Female fighters must make a serious splash to gain more attention and make more money to compensate.
That includes taking greater risks and putting their titles on the line against other world champions. Unless you are promoted by one of the sport’s power players like Top Rank, Golden Boy, and Matchroom, or get a major endorsement deal, the likelihood of making decent paydays is not very strong.
Conversely, men world champions are far more likely to exist in more of a comfort zone and safe space. If you become a fan favorite, attract the attention of the likes of PBC, ESPN, and DAZN, the struggle is not nearly as hard.
THE DISPARITY IS REAL
Women’s title fights are only ten 2-minute rounds as opposed to twelve 3-minute rounds for men. Detractors of women’s boxing argue that it is not as aesthetically appealing as men’s boxing. Some use that as the excuse for women’s boxing not being as popular.
Here is the thing. That does not justify why the male boxers and their handlers are not as willing to engage in world title unification fights, especially since they will make more money in the end.
To be fair, it seems like we are on the verge of an announcement of the heavyweight unification showdown between IBF/WBA ‘Super’/WBO World Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua and WBC Heavyweight belt-holder Tyson Fury. A fight between WBC/WBO Junior Welterweight champion and IBF/WBA ‘Super’ 140-pound champion is also expected to happen later this year.
But in general, women world champions have been more willing to unify their titles than men. In 2019 and 2020 alone, Shields, McCaskill, and Taylor all became undisputed world champions. The number of men who achieved this accomplishment is an astonishing big, fat zero. Is it time for the men’s world champions to be as daring as the women?
By: Michael Wilson Jr.