Female boxers enter male-dominated sport, crush stereotypes

Abby Waetcher | Staff Writer

 Women are putting on boxing gloves and throwing themselves into the ring. 

Sixty years ago, whenever boxing was mentioned, the vast majority of the public would think of Muhammad Ali and his triumphs over his hundreds of opponents. Twenty years ago, Mike Tyson was the most notable boxer. 

Now, when people hear the word boxing they tend to conjure an image of a heavy-set, fake-tanned, muscular male figure. Over the years, however, more and more women have entered the high-intensity practice. 

Boxing offers a workout that works in multiple different areas of the body. The ‘swinging motion’ of the arms moves the muscles within them as well as the shoulders and the muscles in the upper back, which increases upper-body strength. Boxing is also an aerobic exercise that offers a high-calorie-burning workout and ultimately increases stamina. It also increases hand-eye coordination as well as challenges the balance. Junior Sydney Richards said that boxing offered her an alternative way to help strengthen her shoulders during her off-seasons. 

“When I am not swimming, I need a way to help strengthen my shoulders again,” Richards said. “Boxing offers me a workout similar to the intensity of swimming and a way to help strengthen my scapula again.” 

There are many different types of boxing that can be altered or designed for the boxer’s specific needs. Junior Isabella Diaz participates in a special type of boxing that involves the incorporation of an additional move: kicking. 

Kickboxing uses the same movements as boxing while incorporating kicking into the fold. Kickboxers will alternate between punches and kicks to accomplish a full-body workout. Diaz said that kickboxing allows her to work out in a way that allows her to work different parts of her body while also serving as a stress reliever. 

“Kickboxing is a great physical workout for me and it is also a way to make me feel good about myself,” Diaz said. “It’s also my way of letting stressful things out in a controlled environment where I can’t hurt anyone.”

Although choir teacher Katie Hayward is 32 weeks pregnant and her boxing practices have been put on a temporary hold, she said that boxing helps her feel more confident in herself and helps her cope with stressful experiences. 

“There are times when I go [to] boxing stressed about school or something else, and I’ll always feel better afterward,” Hayward said. “Part of that relief is just the general benefit of moving my body, and some of the relief comes from the fact that I get to hit the mitts hard. There is just something inherently satisfying about that.”

Most people are shocked when they find out that girls box because their presumed body types are not often associated with the stereotypical hypermasculine and domineering boxers often seen on television. However, because boxing is tailored to every person differently, anyone despite their age, size, and gender is capable of boxing. Richards said that she feels that people often characterize boxers as aggressive people when in reality, this notion is a myth. 

“People are always surprised to hear that I box because it’s always been thought of as an aggressive sport,” Richards said. “I’m not an aggressive person and would never punch a person, but people always think that boxers are intimidating people and we’re not.” 

Over time, women are crushing the assumption that boxing gyms are typically packed with men as more women fill the programs every week. Hayward, Richards, and Diaz said that they have seen more women experiment with boxing at their gyms; as a result, more and more women have been using boxing as their primary way to exercise. 

Hayward said that while her gym is primarily made up of women, the community that they have built within their program encourages everyone regardless of their skill to work as hard as they can to get better at the sport they love. 

“Seventy-five percent of the boxers in my gym are women,” Hayward said. “The rest are kids: boys and girls who are typically younger around ten to eighteen. All of us are super normal human beings that don’t resemble bodybuilders at all, but we are all strong people working to become better athletes.” 

Photo by Abby Waetcher