Arte Publico Press 2006


Women Boxers: The New Warriors


Delilah Montoya


            Theboxers in this book represent a new generation of women, who grew up with suchrole models as Wonder Woman, the PowerPuff Girls, Cat Woman and, in some cases,working mothers. However, my interest is in thinking about them as malcriadas. My interpretation of a malcriada is that of a “spoiled child”or “bad girl.” A malcriada is awoman who will not behave and is determined to do what she wants, regardless ofwhat society rules or even good sense dictates. When a family is confrontedwith this sort of unseemly member, they struggle to change her. Welcoming theuphill battle, the malcriada remainsunchanged; in the end, the family learns to accept her and even become proud ofher accomplishments.

            Womenboxers certainly fit the definition of malcriada. By crossing the ropes and getting into the ring, they enter into the bastionsof manliness to confront a brutal sport. A social understanding has alwaysbeen that a woman is not to witness, demonstrate or indulge in acts ofviolence. Many, in fact, are appalled by the violent sport of boxing and thatit should be banned. But the malcriadas,determined to box, turns their backs on these opinions. Title IX of the CivilRights Act and the feminist movement gave them the right, and they willinglyhave taken it.

            Theinspiration to push limits and break barriers is as varied as the boxersthemselves. At the young age of five, Stephanie Jaramillo was inspired by MikeTyson; watching his moves on TV fueled her desire to control the ring. MonicaLavato points to the tragic death of her boyfriend; boxing helps her rememberhim by connecting to his fighting nature. He was a street fighter who gainedthe respect of the Espanola community in New Mexico. Fighting and winning giveher that same respect.

            Someof these women were kick boxers who stopped kicking and started boxing becauseof the lack of fights in the kick boxing sport. Jodie Esquibel and Holly Holmwere both kick boxers. They train with Mike Winkeljohn, a champion fighter whoheld three world titles (two Muay Thai belts and one kickboxing belt) duringhis professional career. Believing Jodie’s and Holly’s talents would take themfurther as professional boxers, Mike coached them into making the switch. Holly holds an IBALight Welterweight Title and Jody’s speed in the ring makes her acommanding contender. Jackie Chavez, whose talent earned an IFBA SuperBantamweight Title, has a similar story. Her trainer, SergioChavez, fought for sixteen years as an amateur fighter and, to date, he hascoached professionally for fifteen years. He teaches Jackie her boxing skills.Once a kick boxer, Jackie now faces her opponents as a professional femalefighter.

            Professionalboxing is an established combat sport, at least for men, and provides women therare opportunity to be professional athletes. Akondaye is a seasoned athletewhose goals are to win a belt while obtaining a Ph. D. in Social Work. Byboxing, she can sustain a career as a professional athlete. Her athleticcareer started with high school track; in college, she was on the basketballteam and, after graduation, she turned to body-building. As of 2005, she wasranked number one on the WBAN chart. Akondaye has won many her of bouts withtechnical knockouts.

            LikeMohammed Ali’s daughter Laila, Terri Cruz grew up in a boxing family; herfather and brothers were professional prizefighters. However, at the age offourteen, Terri became a single mother. Single mothers who box professionallyare common in the sport. Lucy Contreras, Doreen Hilton and Elishia Olivas arealso single mothers who use the purses they earn to provide for their youngfamilies.

            Veryfew women boxers can afford to work exclusively on their boxing careers; mostbalance this interest with other jobs. They work as waitresses, securityguards, medical or social workers, office workers, or are full-time students. In general, female boxers come from working-class families that teach them thatdetermination and hard work are instrumental in achieving their goals. YvonneSwindle, like all the other boxers, trains five days a week to build her bodyand mind for the good fight. To do anything less could yield injuries whilefighting in the ring. For the boxer, this is the devil that waits in hercorner.

            Nowfor the first time, in 2012, boxing will bring in Olympic gold for amateurfemale boxers. And many of the non-profit boxing gyms that train the amateurfighters are preparing their young women for this challenge. This is a pivotalmoment for the boxing community.


Delilah Montoya

University of Houston