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Boxer Alicia Ashley Sets Record for Being the “Oldest Female Champion”

Fightland Blog

By Nick Wong

Photo by Alex Cruz/EPA

Fighter Alicia Ashley made boxing history by claiming WBC female super bantamweight title against Christina McMahon last Thursday, making her boxing’s oldest female champion at the age of 48. The Jamaica native bested the undefeated McMahon in a 10-round title fight, winning a wide unanimous decision with scores of 100-89 and 98-91 twice. For those keeping track, the accomplishment ties her with male counterpart Bernard Hopkins, and like Hopkins, Ashley beat her own record when she lifted the title from Christina Ruiz at the age of 43.

Readers may remember Ashley from a piece Fightland put out last year documenting her and Gleason’s Gym teammate Heather Hardy’s campaign for women’s boxing in Brooklyn. It appears both women are still working hard in their pursuits with the undefeated Hardy fighting three times this year (a fourth planned for December), and Ashley setting new records in the sport. Not only does the win last Thursday make Ashley the oldest boxing champion, but also the oldest active female boxer period, a distinction in a career that first started over 16 years ago.

Ashley began fighting in the general arena of martial arts and eventually transitioned into amateur kickboxing at the age of 27, a relatively old age for such a high contact sport. Despite the late start, she managed to compile an impressive 10-0-1 record, and transferred the same talent into boxing, quickly earning the sport’s highest amateur accolades, such as the New York City Golden Gloves Championship in 1996, 1997 and 1998, as well as the USA Boxing National Amateur 125-lb gold medalist in 1997 and 1998. She accomplished similar feats in the professional ranks, claiming the WIBF featherweight title, WIBF super bantamweight title, and twice captured the WBC super bantamweight title. She currently holds record of 23-10-1 with 4 KOs by, and fills the second slot in the super bantamweight world rankings according to Boxrec.

Her bout against McMahon headlined the “Brooklyn Brawl”, a card promoted by former boxer Dmitry Salita, and symbolized the rare but growing trend of female competitors being the principle draws for the paying public. What is perhaps troubling is that in spite of all this, Ashley and many other women boxers are still largely underpaid for their performances. In addition to fighting professionally, Ashley also works as a trainer out of Gleason’s Gym to help makes end meet.

"It's very depressing to know that the females fight for a title fight that can be anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000. A male is six figures," Ashley said in an interview.

The disparity draws attention to a larger debate of how women can gain equal footing to their male counterparts in the Sweet Science. Some observers attribute the difference in pay due to women only being allowed to fight 10 two-minute rounds in championship fights compared to the 12 three-minute rounds men’s boxing offers, presumably resulting in less exciting bouts. According to this source, sanctioning bodies cite factors such as menstrual cycles and other physiological differences as to why the two divisions are structured differently.

But when looking at the sport’s MMA counterpart, one has to wonder how much validity there are to those claims. Women fight full 5-minute rounds in the UFC, and Ronda Rousey is reportedly the company’s highest paid athlete. Clearly, the marketability is there, and women are proving their physical capabilities in the cage; the opportunity just needs to be given. At least in my view, this is one page that boxing can borrow from the UFC.

 

Check out these related stories:

Kathy Long: Defying the Boundaries

Women Boxers Are Breaking Barriers in Peru

 

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