Female Prizefighting: A Look Back at 2018
By David A. Avila
It was the best year yet for female prizefighting in 2018 and expect even more in 2019.
Blame it on Rio for what’s slowly and powerfully developing into a slow growing tidal wave of appeal. Boxing fans are catching on to female boxing and it all began with the Olympic Games in Brazil back in 2016.
Claressa Shields, the star of those Rio Olympics three years ago, became the Fighter of the Year in 2018 with her fearlessness and zeal to fight against the best and fight often. All of her fights were televised nationally and she heralded the arrival of women prize fights.
Several boxing promotion companies led the way to visibility and acknowledgement for female fighters. DiBella Entertainment, Matchroom Boxing, Golden Boy Promotions, Salita Promotions and Top Rank spearheaded women’s boxing and showcased them on televised and streamed fights.
Boxing fans now know female boxing exists.
Aside from Shields, others were seen by television viewers for the first time. Champions such as Cecilia Braekhus, Katie Taylor, Kali Reis, Amanda Serrano, Jessica McCaskill, Christina Hammer, Cindy Serrano, Franchon Crews, Erica Farias, Alicia Napoleon, Maricela Cornejo, Brenda Flores, Louisa Hawton, Aleksandra Lopes, Victoria Bustos, Eva Wahlstrom, Yamila Reynoso and Anahi Torres were seen performing by boxing audiences through streaming systems such as DAZN and ESPN3 or on networks such as Showtime and ESPN.
Even some sizzling contenders were televised and streamed such as Mikaela Mayer and Seniesa Estrada. Expect these talented boxers both to be world champions in 2019.
Below are some of the pivotal fights televised or streamed in 2018 that made it a great year.
Some of the highlights of 2018:
Jan. 12, 2018 – Claressa Shields met Tori Nelson in a battle of undefeated super middleweights at Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York. The speedy Shields opened the year with a bang to win by unanimous decision. On the same card, Franchon Crews defeated Tiffany Woodard by decision in a six round super middleweight fight.
Feb. 24, 2018 – Anahi Torres upset Louisa Hawton to win the WBC International light flyweight title at the Inglewood Forum in the Los Angeles area. Hawton entered the fight as an undefeated former world champion strawweight but out-boxed by Mexican veteran Torres. It was an intense bloody affair and showed that female fighters could out-entertain men’s boxing when evenly matched.
March 16, 2018 – Seniesa Estrada blew by Sonia Osorio of Mexico with an impressive performance to win by decision at Belasco Theater in downtown L.A. In the front row was former Olympic medalist Marlen Esparza who was set to meet Estrada in a battle of light flyweights later in the year. Though it did not transpire –Esparza is expecting a child- East L.A.’s Estrada would show the world her impressive fighting abilities.
April 28, 2018 – Katie Taylor battered Argentina’s Victoria Bustos for 10 rounds at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York to retain the IBF and WBA lightweight world titles. It was the former Olympic gold medalist’s first win of 2018.
May 4, 2018 – Seniesa Estrada and Puerto Rico’s Amarilis Adorno at StubHub Center battered and stopped the Boricua in three rounds. Estrada looked too dominant and once again won every round before the fight was stopped. It was
May 5, 2018 – Cecilia Braekhus was floored by Kali Reis midway through their title fight at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles. But the undisputed welterweight world champion rallied back to win the fight by decision and retain her world titles. It was also the first time that HBO had ever televised a female fight in its 45 year history.
June 22, 2018 – Claressa Shields was dropped for the first time as a pro by Hanna Gabriels but survived the knockdown and mounted a furious rally to win the vacant WBA and IBF middleweight world titles. Shields moved down to middleweight to after cruising easily through the super middleweights and found a more talented and willing opponent in Costa Rica’s Gabriels who moved up from super welterweight for the challenge. It was the best fight of the year and showcased female fighting at its best. It was selected Fight of the Year by the Prizefighters.com and Shields was voted the Fighter of the Year. On the same fight card, Christina Hammer defeated Tori Nelson by unanimous decision to retain the WBO and WBC middleweight world titles. The wins by Shield and Hammer set up the scheduled clash between the two middleweight champions but was scuttled due to an illness suffered by Germany’s Hammer. That showdown is now scheduled for this upcoming April and will be televised.
July 13, 2018 – Seniesa Estrada stopped Jhosep Vizcaino in the third round at the Novo Theater in downtown L.A. with a left hook to the liver. It was her second consecutive stoppage win and fans were beginning to notice she was more than just good.
Sept. 8, 2018 – Amanda Serrano won by unanimous decision over Yamila Reynoso at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York to win her historic sixth world title in six weight divisions. The world title belt win at super lightweight added to her collection that includes bantamweight, super bantamweight, featherweight, super featherweight, and lightweight titles. Now she’s gunning for a seventh division at super flyweight later this month.
Sept. 13, 2018 – Franchon Crews defeated Maricela Cornejo by decision at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel and Casino to win the vacant WBC super middleweight title. Crews had fights fall through earlier in the year and when her time was called she answered with a victory. ESPN televised the title fight.
Octo. 6, 2018 – Jessica McCaskill handily defeated Argentina’s Erica Farias at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Ill. to take the WBC super lightweight world title from the long-time champion. McCaskill had only a couple of weeks to prepare but showed real fighters are always ready and shocked the boxing world with a dominant win.
October 13, 2018 – Mikaela Mayer defeated Canada’s Vanessa Bradford by unanimous decision at CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska to win the NABF super featherweight title. It was Mayer’s first eight-round fight and first capture of a title. Mayer’s win over undefeated Bradford was one of six fights the former Olympian Mayer engaged in 2018.
Oct. 27, 2018 – Heather Hardy met Shelly Vincent in a rematch at Madison Square Garden in New York City to capture the vacant WBO featherweight world title. Hardy-Vincent was televised by HBO and proved the Brooklyn fighter could indeed fight and draw a crowd while attracting a television audience too.
Nov. 17, 2018 – Seniesa Estrada stopped Debora Rengifo in the third round at Mexicali, Mexico to win the WBC Silver light flyweight title. Estrada knocked down Venezuela’s Rengifo in the first round, then stopped her in the third round. It was Estrada’s third consecutive knockout win and proved that despite the lack of Olympic recognition, an American fighter could still boldly succeed in the female prize fight world.
Nov. 17, 2018 – Claressa Shields defeated Hannah Rankin after 10 rounds to win the vacant WBC middleweight title and add the title to the WBA and IBF collection already owned. The opponent was supposed to be Christina Hammer but the Germany fighter was ill and unable to fight. Rankin took Hammer’s place and did admirably.
Dec. 8, 2018 – Claressa Shields defeated Femke Hermans by unanimous decision at the StubHub Center in L.A. Shields accepted the fight days after her win against Rankin and willingly accepted a fight three weeks later. It was televised by HBO. On the same card Cecilia Braekhus defeated Aleksandra Lopes by unanimous decision on the same card. Both female fights were televised by HBO in their final boxing telecast after 45 years. It was a bittersweet ending for HBO which had never taken a chance on women’s boxing. Even in the finale HBO did not provide a budget that would have enabled the promotion company to match more competitive fights. Both Hermans and Lopes were not competitive and actually fought to survive and not win. It was a sad ending.
Dec. 14, 2018 – Mikaela Mayer won every round against Colombia’s Calista Silgado to win at American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas. It was Mayer’s first defense of the title and sixth fight of the year to make her one of the busiest female fighters in 2018. A world title bid is a certainty in 2019.
Next we talk about future mega fights on the horizon for female prizefighting. It’s going to be extraordinary and already Showtime plans to have an all-female fight card. DAZN has also mentioned future mega fights with its main star Katie Taylor charted to defend her lightweight world titles. ESPN has its star in Mikaela Mayer also poised to make waves and 2019 looks to make a bigger impact for the sport of female prizefighting.