Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Madison Marshall, boxed into a corner of the ring, was getting hit over
and over again when her trainer, Jennifer Salinas, yelled, "Get back
in the center, get back in the center!"
Breathing hard and with her ponytail bouncing, 14-year-old Maddie and her sparring partner were soon dancing around the ring again, trading punches.
Maddie is one of 36 competitors in all-female amateur boxing matches Saturday at Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's County. District-based promoter Wanda Bruce, who organized the fights, said the event is an opportunity for young female boxers to gain ring experience for higher levels of competition.
Until this week, when the International Olympic Committee decided to
include the sport in the 2012 games in London, boxing had been the only Summer Olympics sport without female representation.
Bruce is the only promoter organizing all-female fights in the Washington area, said Luke Runion, the athletes' representative for the Potomac Valley Association, a USA Boxing committee. Competitions typically feature nine or 10 bouts, but Bruce is offering 18 to accommodate demand.
"More all-women's shows are cropping up around country," Runion
said. The rise in women's amateur boxing can be credited to the increasingly mainstream appeal of the sport, said Christy Halbert, a longtime boxing coach and head of the Women's Task Force for USA Boxing. She said that about 100,000 women in the United States participate in some form of boxing, whether at a gym or competitive levels. When women began to compete in boxing in the United States in 1993, Halbert said, they were barred from training in gyms, and male coaches refused to train them.
"It's hard for girls to find other girls in their skill set," said Julie Goldsticker, a spokeswoman for USA Boxing. "The more opportunities you have in tournaments, the more likely you are to stay interested in the sport."
Kieona Barnes, 22, will also make her debut at Rosecroft on Saturday.
She is a night security officer and trains early in the morning after
her shift. She said she began boxing five years ago to relieve stress,
and she has noticed another benefit.
"When I have a bad day and I see young girls not hanging out on
streets, and we're all in the gym together doing something positive,"
Barnes said, "it makes me smile."