By Laura Wong
Boxing, like other high-contact fighting sports, can get ugly. Confined to a ring no larger than 25 square feet, a fighter’s only escape from the stalking blows of an opponent is to keep the gloves up and defend himself. Or herself, as owner of Babyface Boxing Gym, Blanca Gutierrez would have it.
< p>In 2011, Gutierrez and her trainers—some women, some former world champions, some both—held their inaugural event featuring an all-female amateur card.
They called it Beautiful Brawlers: a nod to their participants and a counter-story to historical disinterest and exclusion of women in boxing.
Beautiful Brawlers III brought more than 500 people to SportsHouse in Redwood City on Aug. 28. There were a total of 17 fights and a number of rising and current stars.
Olympian Queen Underwood edged out 2013 Adidas National Champion Stalacia Leggett in the four-round main event.
The 2013 national champion, Jamie Mitchell, defeated Casey Morton in an exciting three-round rematch. At ringside, world champions Ava Knight, Melissa McMorrow, Gina Guidi, Carina Moreno, and Jolene Blackshear provided their support and star power.
This reporter interviewed Gutierrez about the inspiration and mission of Beautiful Brawlers and trends in women’s boxing today.
Of course, many people want to know what attracts a woman athlete to start boxing in the first place.
“My father was a bantamweight boxer and a pioneer for the sport in the early 1950s,” said Gutierrez. “He was inducted into the California Boxing Hall of Fame in June of 2011 and taught me the values of hard work, sacrifice and going after what you want in life.”
She remembers that her dad drank raw eggs in the morning, jumped rope, and shadowboxed all the time.
When he died in 2000, Gutierrez’s husband suggested that she open a gym, and she did: Babyface Boxing, named after her dad, Javier “Babyface” Gutierrez.
The idea of Beautiful Bawlers came about because women find it difficult to fight.
“I was a kickboxer, and I wanted to stay active, but it was impossible because there were not enough male coaches taking [female fighters] seriously and not enough girls competing,” she said.
“After all the frustrations, I decided that I would make an all-female card where girls could shine, be taken seriously, and fight the best of the best to elevate the sport of boxing for other females,” she said.
With the help of Martha Salazar [former WBE Champion] and Eliza Olson [former IBA and WBC Champion], she created sparring camps so that women could get ready, get sound advice and have some place to go where they know they are the focus, Gutierrez said.
“Now we have Olympic hopefuls on the Beautiful Brawlers card and our first Olympian: Queen Underwood, who became a Beautiful Brawler Champion after beating Stalacia Leggett for the title.”
Gutierrez says she is pleased that public perceptions of women in boxing are gradually changing.
“Public attention and attitudes are changing towards women’s boxing in the amateurs but not the pros,” she said. “Since Claressa Shields won the Gold, we got noticed, but that’s not enough.”
“The Beautiful Brawlers all-female boxing card sets the spotlight on more than just one female or three, unlike the Olympics which only lets three weight classes compete,” she said.
“We have some great things planned in the next few years. What we accomplish will not only shock us, but we will shock the boxing community.”