Part 1 in a series about professional female boxing. Read Part 2 and Part 3.

I knew I would write a blog post about women this weekend.

Initially I planned to attend yesterday’s Slutwalk Johannesburg and write about that. The Slutwalk would have made a great photo-op, as well as a newsworthy blog post after U.S. Senator Todd Akin’s idiotic and misogynistic remarks about “legitimate rape” earlier in the week. But I got off to a slow start and didn’t make the Slutwalk.

Luckily I had a second chance to celebrate female awesomeness yesterday. In the afternoon I journeyed to the Brakpan Indoor Sports Centre for the “Power to the Women” professional boxing tournament.

Girl boxers in Brakpan.

An all-women’s boxing tournament is a rare occurrence, especially in South Africa. This one, which was put on by Mbali Zantsi — the only female boxing promoter in South Africa — took place in celebration of Women’s Month and featured nine pro fights. It was my first time watching professional women’s boxing.

To be honest, I almost skipped this event. Brakpan is in the far reaches of Joburg’s East Rand — I had to pay TOLL to get there. My other boxing girlfriends backed out. I was nervous about driving such a long distance in Flash. (My nervousness about that was unfounded, by the way.) But I’d promised George, who had two girls participating in the tournament, that I would go. I really had no excuse not to. So I went.

I showed up to a rather forlorn-looking empty gym. There was hardly anyone there, except for George’s posse of girl boxers from Hillbrow. The girls welcomed me enthusiastically, and we all sat down to wait.

The Hillbrow boxing girlz. I think it’s pretty cool that George brought all his female boxers to the tournament but left the guys at home.

After an hour-and-a-half of waiting, we were all bored out of our skulls and I was ready to bolt. (There was miscommunication about the tournament’s start time.) But at long last, the arena filled up and the show got underway.

I’ve seen a couple of male boxing tournaments, including one professional event. I thought I knew what to expect last night. But this was different. I was blown away by the emotion, enthusiasm, and gritty spirit of these women, and of their fans, who were mostly women. I’ve watched a lot of sporting events in my life but never anything like this. These girls KICKED ASS.

I took so many photos, and have so much to say, that I’m breaking the story into three parts. This post will cover the undercard bouts (I’m not sure if they were officially undercards but I’m calling them that for simplicity), the next post will cover the title fights, and the last post will be about George’s two boxers: Lily and Zulu Girl.

The first few fights were…How shall I explain? They were raw. The fighters were generally inexperienced and rough around the edges. There aren’t many female boxers in South Africa, so as I understand it, women who join the fray can go professional quite quickly.

I think the photos convey what I mean better than words can.

I got a little confused about who was fighting who in the early bouts, so I don’t have names for you. This was the second fight.

There was a lot of bloodshed in these early fights, and several knock-outs. I winced a lot, and made use of my new favorite South African expression: “YOH! yoh-yoh-yoh.” (Thank you, Lungi.)

The biggest knockout came early on in the second fight.


…gone. It was around this time that I decided I will NEVER become a professional boxer. Ever. Fortunately she woke up soon after this and walked off on her own. I hope she’s okay.

These early fighters were not smooth. But what they lacked in finesse and experience, they made up for with intensity.

Third fight.

Yoh! Yoh-yoh-yoh.

The girl in blue is a little dazed. The fight was called soon after this.

The atmosphere began to change with the fourth fight. I took note of the names for these competitors: Lizbeth Butler vs. Eunice Mohlala.

Lizbeth stood out from the rest. She was the only white woman competing, and also appeared to be a good 20 years older than any of the others. I was intrigued.

This was both women’s second fight. Eunice won her first bout and Lizbeth fought to a draw. This match was up for the taking.

Eunice came out swinging at first. Lizbeth was on her heels.

Actually, Lizbeth is off her feet completely.

Lizbeth has found her feet but Eunice is still in charge.

By the end of the first round, Lizbeth was settling in.

This is a real fight now.

I repeat the question that I asked myself again and again last night: “How does she walk in those shoes? HOW?” I admire this woman’s courage as much as I admire the courage of the boxers.

The second round began. Then suddenly, the fight was over.

Yoh! Yoh-yoh-yoh. Eunice is down.

Lizbeth claims victory.

Lizbeth: If you are out there and reading this, I would like to tell you that you are KICK-ASS.

My blood was pumping at this point. I didn’t realize that the best was yet to come, and it would keep coming and coming. Like a flurry of punches.

Next up: the title bouts.

%d bloggers like this: