I’ve been boxing since 2010. First – on a dare – I started training one-on-one with Terence Fowler at FightFit. Workouts at FightFit offer the perfect combination of learning actual boxing (sorry, boxercise people) and not getting hit, packaged in short, but intense, 30-minute one-on-one sessions.
As I came to love the sport, I wanted to do more. I wanted to learn more. I wanted to get into the ring. And, if I’m being completely honest, I needed both the catharsis and the mental challenge of stepping up the intensity, learning to take hits, and – yes – hitting back.
So, at the end of 2013, I told one of the founders of Pearl Gloves that I wanted to fight in the 2014 event. He agreed to put me on the card and the organizing committee went to work on finding me an opponent. And I went to work on training.
It was around this time that I started to really deal with the gender myths and misconceptions around women in boxing.
First, there was the “oh my goodness, but you could get hurt!” – like I hadn’t considered, or didn’t already know, that getting punched in the face and body would hurt. Then, there was the “but your nose is so perfect! What if your nose gets broken?” So, I assured people that a) I was aware of the potential for injury; b) it was unlikely that novices would be hitting hard enough and with enough skill to break noses; and c) I would be just as valuable a human being if my nose ended up crooked.
The more significant myths and misconceptions I have encountered, though, are that – because I am a boxer – I am aggressive, violent, intimidating, and even just mean, coupled with the idea that boxing is *only* about punching things and people… and anyone can do that!
I’ll address the latter part of that statement first. I used to think that boxing was barbaric and just about punching people myself…and that anyone could do it. Now, as a boxer, I know that there is so much more to it than that. There’s learning to hit correctly, and (and this is really difficult) learning how to not get hit. There’s learning stance and footwork, and how to compensate if – for instance – you’ve had five knee surgeries and can’t rely heavily on being quick or agile. There’s learning to move your head; there’s learning how to take advantage of whatever speed and power you may have; and there’s learning how to push through some of the most challenging physical work you will ever do…and guess what? Not anyone can do that.
Now, for the former; for the idea that I am aggressive, violent, intimidating and am mean – mean enough to start a fight at the drop of a hat. I hear these things from women and men alike, but more often from men. The issue is that I just don’t hear my male counterparts described in these ways. My male boxer counterparts are assumed to have the discipline to not just start a fight now that they know how to punch people. These adjectives aren’t used to describe them, because it is far more acceptable, even encouraged in some cases, for men to behave in ways that would be characterized as aggressive, intimidating, and – sometimes – even violent. For a woman to *ever* behave in these ways – even in a highly-disciplined, well-controlled environment – is not acceptable. Ever.
But, here’s the thing…in addition to not being aggressive, violent, intimidating, or mean by nature (we can all be these things occasionally), if one gets into the ring and they are not calm and focused, they will surely lose…and even get hurt.
When I fought for my first time in November 2014, I stepped into the ring with a woman I know; a woman I call a friend; a woman with whom I am still friends. It was important to me to get into the ring with someone I could trust who would challenge me, but who I knew held no malice toward me.
Getting into the ring to fight was – and still is – more a mental challenge (at least for me) than it is a physical challenge, in part, because of the ways in which women are socialized, and in part, because of who I actually am by nature. It was difficult to learn hit another person. It is far easier for me to take the punches than it is to throw them. I do things in sparring and fights to negotiate what I have to do to have some success in the ring; while I am not fast, I know that I am a powerful puncher. Unfortunately, because I don’t actually want to hurt anyone, this presents challenges for me and requires a great deal of discipline. Discipline that I feel is simply not credited to women who choose to box.
Ultimately, for me, boxing is absolutely about breaking down gender barriers, myths, and misconceptions, as much as it is about working through the mental challenge to participate well in the sport.
It is about trying to get people to take me seriously as a fighter – figuratively and literally – and to understand that the things I learn through boxing complement all the other things in which I am involved.