Published in the Summer 2006 issue • Sporting Goods
Stepping into the ring
No longer a boys-only club, boxing trains women to be champions
Continued from page 1
In Toronto, Sully’s Boxing & Athletic Club is home to the Toronto Newsgirls Boxing Club. Sully’s is one of the city’s oldest gyms, along with the Cabbagetown Boxing Club at the other end of town. Both gyms are situated in tough-girl environs: one is above an auto-body shop and next to a cement factory; the other is in an alley behind a Beer Store. Both have women and teenagers among their members. A few of the women who practice at Sully’s and Cabbagetown have moved up the ranks at regional and national competitions, becoming familiar competitors and occasionally leading in the sport. Coaches at the two gyms have different styles, but are united in one conviction: omen can be great fighters.
Savoy “Kapow” Howe fought and won the first sanctioned women’s fight organized in Toronto in 1993 and is a popular coach at Sully’s. Her classes are advertised mostly by word-of-mouth, but are always packed with women eager to practice their jabs and uppercuts. Classes normally consist of a vigorous routine of cardio, muscle conditioning and technical work such as shadow boxing, footwork and sparring. It’s not unusual on nice days to see the class in front of the gym, sprinting along the gravelly road with Howe behind them shouting encouraging commands to keep going. Classes are exhausting and exhilarating and can leave novices gasping for mercy.
Women take up boxing for a variety of reasons, relating to both physical fitness and mental well-being. The boxer’s training regimen is one of the most diverse and challenging in sport, and if you join a boxing gym you will soon find that activities you once found demanding are now simple. Sprinting to catch the bus? No problem. Hauling 100 pounds of groceries or textbooks? Easy. Your endurance, stamina and acumen—not to mention your muscular strength—will improve dramatically. It’s also fair to say that most women experience greater self-confidence and that boxing makes for unparalleled assertiveness training. Following a strenuous routine of cardiovascular conditioning and technical boxing exercises can make you feel like a superhero. You may not be able to shoot lasers out of your eyes, but almost.
Savoy says she’s in the business of training women to be champions. The kind of champion you are going to be is your choice. When you’re a female boxer, people (your mom, for instance) will often ask you why you’d want to punch—or be pummelled by—someone else. Sometimes you may wonder this, too. But boxing isn’t as bloodthirsty as it’s portrayed to be, and if you focus on the risk involved, you’re missing the point. The joy of boxing is that once you learn you’re strong, nobody can take that away from you.