The sport is now replete with female fighters whose intriguing stories are being told
Katie Taylor has been at the heart of the growth of women’s boxing this year.
From its inception at the 2012 Olympics, interest is finally taking hold, with the three champions from those Games – Nicola Adams (flyweight), Taylor (lightweight) and Claressa Shields (middleweight) – going on to become world champions in the paid ranks. The sport is replete with female fighters whose intriguing stories are now being told.
Those same boxers are being recognised in the wider world. Adams, who retired last year due to an eye injury, rewrote history again in 2020, when she became part of the first same-sex pairing on Strictly Come Dancing.
Yet it is 34-year-old Taylor, undefeated in 17 contests and holder of all world title belts at 135lb, who continues to blaze a trail inside the ring. Under the promotion of Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, Taylor’s last defence of her undisputed lightweight titles, against Miriam Gutierrez on Nov 14, was a groundbreaking event, with three women’s fights headlining the six-fight card at Wembley Arena.
The Taylor-Hearn axis has been pivotal in growing the visibility of women’s boxing. “As soon as I met Katie, I realised she was special,” Hearn said. The Irish boxer was the co-main event in the pay-per-view card on the lawns of Matchroom in August, winning a torrid fight with Belgian police officer Delfine Persoon, and faced Spaniard Gutierrez three months later.
“She is the revolution,” Hearn said. “If it weren’t for Katie Taylor, none of these girls internationally would be where they are.
“Claressa Shields wouldn’t have even boxed in the Olympics without Katie Taylor. She’s the trailblazer. We saw a hugely successful show of hers on Sky Sports [in November]. There were huge numbers on social. Over a million people watched that show. We’re in a great place.”
The viewers for that card marked the first major success, in numbers at least, for women’s boxing and during lockdown British boxers have also come to the fore.
Doncaster’s Terri Harper defended her super-featherweight world title, in a razor-tight fight with Natasha Jonas, who is now pursuing a repeat of her Olympic semi-final fight with Taylor in the professional ranks.
Both Chantelle Cameron, from Northampton, and Hartlepool’s Savannah Marshall have won world titles at light-welterweight and super-middleweight respectively. There is also a grudge rematch in the making between Rachel Ball and Shannon Courtenay, with Ball, who steps away from boxing to her day job as a social worker, having won the first, very close encounter, in the summer.
“There’s so many great fighters. This was always the plan. This is why I started doing it in the first place,” Hearn said. “There are a lot of people moaning about opportunities. They’ve got promoters. It’s not my job to get every female fighter out in the world. We sign our fighters and we deliver for them.”
Taylor is delighted to see women’s boxing be given the treatment and respect it deserves.
“Women’s boxing is on a roll right now. We’re seeing fantastic fights week after week,” she said. “People are really getting into women’s boxing right now and it’s getting similar to UFC. They headline fights all the time. It is fantastic to see and people are looking forward to these fights as much as the men’s.
“In the UFC, the women are an equal part to the men. We’re slowly getting to that point in boxing. It’s great to be there and be part of it.”