With the recent addition of women to the UFC, female boxers and mixed martial arts fighters are getting more attention than ever. Despite the lack of coverage female boxing has received, it has been around for over a century. The first reported American female boxing fight occurred in 1876 in New York. A female boxing match featuring Cathy ‘Cat’ Davis was even televised during the 1970s. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that women’s boxing started to grow with fighter superstars such as Laila Ali, Christy Martin, Deirdre Gogarty, and Lucia Rijker. After female boxing being excluded from the Olympic Games for many years, it was officially included in the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Today, female boxers are gaining momentum within the ring and are making a name for themselves around the world. Among the many outstanding female boxers throughout history, these are the eight best female boxers of all time.
8. Laila Ali
Best known as the daughter of Muhammad Ali, Laila Ali lived under her father’s shadow for years until she stepped out into the boxing ring. At the age of 21, Ali faced off against April Fowler and knocked her out in 31 seconds.
Ali’s career continued down a winning path as the 5’10” boxer knocked out 21 of her 24 career opponents. She was named Super Middleweight Champion by the International Boxing Association in 2002 and Super Middleweight Champion by the International Women’s Boxing Federation in 2005.
Laila Ali fought Jacqui Frazier-Lyde, the daughter of Joe Frazier, in the first Pay Per View boxing card ever to be headlined by women. She won the fight and in the following years went on to claim the International Women’s Boxing Federation’s Light Heavyweight title in 2002. Despite her successful wins, Ali has been criticized for dodging difficult fights and refusing to fight competitive boxers.
7. Mia St. John
Mia St. John’s success in boxing began when she was just six years old and began competing in Tae Kwon Do. With a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, Mia moved into professional boxing in 1997. She knocked out her first opponent in under a minute, sealing her legitimacy in the boxing world. St. John went on to open for all of Oscar De La Hoya’s major fights for the next four years.
Mia St John fought in 47 professional matches before she was given a title bout with Liz Drew, a match that would earn her the IFBA lightweight world title. Almost immediately after St. John fought Donna Biggers and won the IBA continental lightweight title. At the age of 40, St John fought in Mexico and won the WBC international boxing championship. Finally, at the age of 45, Mia St John won her match against Christy Martin and claimed the WBC Super Welter Weight Championship of the World.
During her career Mia St. John fought a record 60 matches. She won 47 matches, 18 by knockout.
6. Christy Martin
Christy Salters Martin made headlines in 2010 when her ex-husband James Martin stabbed and shot her during a fight in their home. But before her private life grabbed media attention, Martin was one of the most exciting female boxers of all time. With a full career of 57 fights, Martin won a total of 49. More impressive than her number of wins was the 31 of her 49 wins that came as a result of knockouts.
The first real breakthrough of Christy Martin’s career occurred when she fought as an undercard in the 1996 Tyson-Bruno fight, in a brutal fight against Deirdre Gogarty. Martin is also known for her fights against Mia St John. Both fights are recognized among some of the greatest boxing matches of all time, though Martin only won one of the fights. Martin’s last fight was against Dakota Stone on September 2, 2009. Since her husband’s arrest, Martin has turned her fighting career into helping women learn self-defense.
5. Ann Wolfe
Anne Wolfe is best known for her Tyson like fighting style and hard punching abilities. In fact, her victory over Vonda Ward is considered one of the greatest “one punch knockouts in the history of women’s boxing”. Wolfe’s historic Vonda Ward knockout wasn’t the only time Wolf won by KO. Of her 26 pro boxing fights, Wolfe knocked out 16 of her opponents.
Standing at 5’9″, Wolfe competed in the 1998 USA National Championships as an amateur before she made her move into professional boxing on October 17, 1998. After the start of her career, Wolfe moved quickly through the boxing ranks, winning 24 of her 26 fights. Her career continued to rise until she retired in 2006 after defeating Lisa Ested. After her career in pro boxing ended Ann Wolfe became a trainer to male and female boxers.
4. Regina Halmich
Widely regarded as the woman who made boxing a major female sport in Europe, Regina Halmich had a long and successful boxing career. Before she stepped into the boxing ring, Halmich was a lawyer’s clerk in Germany. She gave up her job in 1993 and became a professional boxer. In her debut fight Halmich won with a 5-round unanimous decision. She continued to fight in at least three fights per year and maintained that pace throughout her career. During her 13 years in the ring, she fought 56 times and won 54 fights. Regina Halmich ended her boxing career on November 30, 2007 to pursue work as a television commentator. Halmich was honored in January 2008 with the “Highest Achievement of the Year 2007” award by WBAN.
3. Ronda Rousey
Not only has Ronda Rousey made headlines with her fierce fighting style, she has also made a name for herself in Hollywood. The boxer/UFC champ recently starred in “Fast 7” and “Entourage”. She has claimed the cover of Sports Illustrated, released a memoir, and become the face of Reebok. But aside from her Hollywood fame, Rousey is claiming fame in the fighting arena too.
At the age of 28, Rousey is the #1 pound-for pound female MMA fighter in the world and the #5 pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC. Before she was a fighting champ, Ronda Rousey was a judo champ. She won a bronze medal at the 2008 Bejing Olympic Games. Three years later she began a career in Strikeforce, beating her first two competitors in the first round by an armbar a submission position she continued to use to win several other fights. Rousey was signed as the first female fighter in the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2012. She is undefeated in her career winning 11 of her 11 matches.
2. Lucia Rijker
If a female boxer’s career could be summed up in their nicknames, no boxer’s career would be more stellar than Lucia Rijker. Deemed, “The Most Dangerous Woman in the World,” Queen of Lightning,” Lady Ali,” and “The Dutch Destroyer,” Rijker is a female boxing legend.
Rijker grew up in Holland, where at the age of six she took up judo. She also excelled at fencing, and even became the Netherlands’ junior fencing champion. It wasn’t until the age of 15 that she began studying kickboxing, a sport in which she excelled tremendously. When she had worked her way to the top of the kickboxing with a 37-0 record, Lucia Rijker entered pro boxing.
During the 1990’s Lucia Rijker fought 19 times. She won all of her fights with an impressive 14 coming from knockouts. She received the WIBF Welterweight Title. Since her 19 wins, Rijker has not retired as a professional boxer, but said she would consider one more fight with Laila Ali. She trained Hillary Swank for the movie “Million Dollar Baby” and also starred in the film.
1. Cecilia Braekhus
Dubbed “The First Lady” of boxing, Cecilia Carmen Linda Braekhus is currently the undisputed world welterweight champion. At the age of 33 she has won every one of her professional 27 fights, seven of then through knockout.
Braekhus’ boxing roots began at the age of 14 when she took up kickboxing. By 2005, as an amateur boxer, Braekhus won the gold medal at the 2005 European Championships, the silver medal at the 2005 World Championships, and 75 of her 80 matches.
In 2009, when the Norwegian boxer entered the professional boxing circuit she started claiming titles right from the start. First the WBC World Championship, the WBA female welterweight title, the WBO title in 2010, and the World Professional Boxing Federation title after knocking out Mikaela Lauren in the 7th round.
Braekhus has fought against some of the toughest female boxers in the world, including Mia St John in 2013, and won. Her continual boxing success has made her the first woman in the world to hold the WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO titles simultaneously.