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Female fighting comes of age

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Posted 08-13-2009 at 06:36 PM by dtaylor@montereyherald.co

Editor & Publisher of The Boxing Amusement Park

Your granddaughters are a new breed.
On Wednesday, the International Olympic Committee sanctioned women's boxing for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. And on Saturday night,two females --Gina Carano and Cris "Cyborg" Santos -- will fightin the main event of an otherwise all-male mixed martial arts cardthat willbe televised worldwide on Showtime.
A large percentage of the public remains squeamish about watching females fight or wrestle. Old-world ideas die hard. The truth is, the girls and women who participate in boxing, MMA and wrestling are as passionate about the sport as their male counterparts. They absolutely love what they do.
The gross misunderstanding in all combat sports is that the participants are mean, nasty, sadistic thugs. The reality is that the vast majority -- women included -- are just athletes who cravecompetition, thrive on accomplishment, andfigured out that they're better at fighting than they were at spelling bees.
A surprising discovery that I made during my 30-year career as a sports writer is that, by and large, professional boxerstend to be much nicer people thanother pro athletes. I've covered Major League Baseball and the National Football League as a beat writer, I've been locker rooms of the NBA, pro tennis, and the PGA, and I've found a startling percentage of those athletes to be rude, condescending, and unaccommodating. The complete opposite has been true of pro boxers, who (just a theory) seem to reserve every ounce of meanness, and any mean-spirited attitude, for the time they spend in the ring. Though many of them were once hallway bullies or street toughs, it's rare to read a story about a boxer or MMA fighter who finds himself in a parking lot scrap or a bar room brawl. They save it for the gym, and when they're in the gym, it is a sport and a competition-- not an act of violence. That's why relatively few fighters harbor longstanding grudges or ill feelings toward their fiercest rivals. Shane Mosley and Oscar De La Hoya are business partners. Micky Ward became a corner man for Arturo Gatti. Joe Louis and Max Schmeling were the closest of friends. After weeks of smack talk and bravado at their pre-fight press conferences, and after round after round of ferocious combat, they hug, they congratulate, they part with respect, and often affection.
Gina Carano has movie-star looks and a luminous personality. Cris Cyborg is a playful, engaging, attractive woman. When an international television audience watches them bloody each other Saturday night, old ideas of the traditional feminine ideal are sure to emerge for a lot of viewers. Keep in mind that they're not fighting cocks-- theyabsolutely love the career path they have chosen.
The fact that the International Olympic Committee opened its arms this week to women's boxing is an indicator that much of the world is awakening to the reality that the 21st-century female is embracing a newfound freedom to put her physical strength and athleticism on display without the stigmas and stereotypesthat weighted down her predecessors. (The first female boxers were carnival performers.)
And believe this: Now that they have the Olympics as a goal, there will be more girls -- a lot more -- walking into amateur boxing gyms, asking for a chance to compete. To a fighter, it'snot about being male or female -- and, honestly, they won't care if your old-world ideasmake you change the channel when somebody's lip gets split.
They're not who you thought they were, or want them to be.Deep down, they probably never were.
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