“All fights are outstanding”: In women’s boxing, no one is afraid of big fights
German boxing is fighting for visibility, and there are always disappointments internationally too: the biggest fight these days recently bursts after a negotiation farce. In women’s boxing, on the other hand, a lot is happening. One of the big makers of the boxing circus is enthusiastic about the fighters.
Angela Cannizzaro came to Hamburg on Saturday night to lose. The woman from Calabria has no chance against Nina Meinke. Already in the second round Cannizzaro goes to her knees after several body hits by her superior opponent. The referee waves to the end of the day, Cannizzaro’s 19th defeat as a professional boxer is in the books. From Nina Meinke’s point of view, the duel with the Italian is a “stay-busy fight”, as it is called in boxing jargon. A struggle to keep the rhythm of training and competition.
Meinke has been world champion of the WIBF association in the featherweight division (up to 57.2 kilograms) since November, boxing under the banner of the Hamburg boxing promotion “P2M”, behind which stands a solvent investor in the entrepreneur Axel Plass. The evening at Hamburg’s Grand Elysée was nothing more than a way station for Meinke. In early summer she wants to start an attack on more world titles. But more on that later.
Tina Rupprecht has a much harder time than Meinke this weekend. In Fresno/California she meets the American Seniesa Estrada at a big boxing show. Rupprecht holds the world championship belt of the WBC association in straw weight (up to 47.6 kilos), Estrada operates as WBA champion. A unification fight and a big stage for “Tiny Tina”, as Rupprecht calls herself because of her height of 1.53 meters. Little Tina shows a big heart and puts up a brave fight with the larger and talented Estrada. After ten rounds, she is nevertheless unanimously declared the loser. Boxing Germany now only has two world champions: Meinke and the lightweight Dinar Kisikyol. After all, that’s two more than German men.
“Falling off a cliff after the Klitschkos”
Boxing in Germany – it has been languishing for years, quite a few connoisseurs say it is on the ground. The big boom, the golden days, were a long time ago. “It feels like German boxing fell off a cliff after the Klitschkos. Hopefully it can come back up,” British promoter Eddie Hearn told RTL/ntv. The boxing brothers from the Ukraine were the last to lure millions of viewers in front of the TV campfire on RTL.
Women’s boxing also seems to have reached an all-time high in Germany with boxing queen Regina Halmich. When Halmich climbed into the ring for the last time in 2007, up to 8.8 million Germans tuned in to ZDF (giving the station a market share of almost 40 percent). You have done “pioneering work”, says Halmich today. Because she beat up Stefan Raab twice in the media and was a boxing luminary of her time, women’s boxing is of course part of it today – that will also become clear on Saturday in Hamburg.
“We have set ourselves two focal points: heavyweight and women’s boxing,” explains P2M boss Axel Plass in the large hall of the Grand Elysée Hotel, which was converted into a boxing hall that evening. Big, heavy boys and talented, hungry boxers, all with local roots – with this approach, the boxing company founded last year wants to help fistfighting in Germany get back on its feet. In addition to the German heavyweight champion Peter Kadiru (who will box in London on April 1 as part of the supporting program of superstar Anthony Joshua), Felix Langberg from Rostock and the 2.05 meter tall top talent Viktor Jurk, P2M has Nina Meinke and Dinar Kisikyol under contract – how said: currently the only boxing champions that Germany has.
Meinke has been one of the faces of German (women’s) boxing for years. In Hamburg, the 30-year-old was named “Boxer of the Year” by the specialist magazine “Boxsport” for the third time. In any case, Meinke has clear goals for a title that she could defend in 2023. “We now want to attack the big associations as well,” says the likeable Berliner after her two-rounder in Hamburg over a well-deserved after-work beer. Meinke is supposed to get back into the ring in Rostock in June: for a world championship fight or at least a world championship elimination. Meinke reports that your promoter is already working for the WBA. “I’m in the top 5 in all four major world associations anyway.” It is possible that she is already fighting for the right to claim the WBA world champion in Rostock.
Women’s boxing is booming internationally
For Meinke, a big fight like the one Tina Rupprecht got would be within reach. WBA Featherweight Champion is American Amanda Serrano – one of the superstars in women’s boxing worldwide. Unlike in Germany in the post-Halmich period, women’s fistfighting is booming internationally. Just over a year ago, Serrano and Ireland’s Katie Taylor boxed for the lightweight crown in New York’s Madison Square Garden. It was the first “main event” of two women in the “most famous arena in the world” – and a huge deal. On the (paid) streaming platform DAZN, around two million people worldwide saw the fight, which turned into a spectacular battle. Taylor and Serrano conceded a million dollar exchange. A seven-figure amount: top athletes in other sports, including soccer players, can only dream of it.
Only a few months after Taylor vs. Serrano, the next big women’s boxing show took place in England. In Greenwich, Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall fought a high-class battle for all the middleweight titles. Shields, who only calls herself GWOAT – Greatest Woman of All Time – won. This fight also delivered: great sport – and numbers. Sky UK broadcast the duel free-to-air, with more than two million Brits watching at the peak. The broadcaster later cheered about the “most watched” event in the history of women’s boxing (apparently the former Halmich quotas were not known to the colleagues).
What are the reasons behind the recent boom in women’s boxing? “At the top level, the fights always deliver. That’s something you don’t always see in boxing. Sometimes a fight gets hyped, you wait months for it, sometimes years, and when it happens it’s not how you want it to be hoped for. But in women’s boxing, at the top of the world, all these fights are outstanding,” says promoter Eddie Hearn. The busy Brit knows what he’s talking about. Hearn hosts matches from the likes of Anthony Joshua and Canelo Alvarez. The historic fight in the Garden between Taylor and Serrano was also “on his cap”.
Another plus in women’s boxing is that there are often interesting stories behind the athletes, says Hearn. “I also think they’re a lot more open to the media. Most importantly, they’re willing to box the best, the other champions.” A stark contrast to men’s boxing, where recently the long-awaited fight between the heavyweight champions Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk burst after several months of negotiation farce.
“People always think the promoters are the problem. That’s not true: we want big fights, that’s how we make our money, that’s how we get our TV ratings, that’s how we sell tickets,” says Hearn. Or to put it another way: the problem is often the boxers who refuse to fight – whether out of financial megalomania, vanity or even fear. “The women never say no. Of course they want a real deal, but they never say no to a challenge or a big fight,” says Hearn. When Amanda Serrano recently canceled the rematch against Katie Taylor, all his client asked was, “Okay, what if we play the world champion at the next highest limit?” Hearn says. Three hours later he bagged the fight between Taylor and undisputed light welterweight world champion Chantelle Cameron on May 20 in Dublin. The next million payday.
Bold Rupprecht delivers great sport
Tina Rupprecht also made good money at the weekend. She received a five-digit sum for the fight against US star Estrada, she revealed in an interview with RTL before her flight across the pond. She can now make a living from boxing, said the 30-year-old. Despite this, Rupprecht still teaches physical education twice a week at a junior high school. The boxing teacher: one of those “interesting stories” that Hearn talks about. Above all, however, Rupprecht underpinned the main thesis of the star promoter on Sunday night: In women’s boxing, the best fight against the best. Rupprecht did not stick to her WBC title, ventured into the cave of the lioness Estrada, delivered great sport. She lost – and yet gained in stature. In her weight class, Rupprecht now has to take a back seat. But she shouldn’t have boxed out for a long time, world championship belt or not.
The same applies to Nina Meinke. “The Brave” is also ready for anything, she emphasizes in Hamburg. Meinke can refer to her viate curriculum in the boxing ring. Six years ago, the southpaw boxed at Wembley Stadium in the supporting program of Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko against Katie Taylor, who has become a superstar. After colliding with the heads, Meinke shot the blood from a cut above the eye. Her godfather Sven Ottke, who stood in the corner as a trainer, was completely different. In round seven, the referee stopped the fight, it was Meinke’s first professional defeat. Ottke, for many years one of the protagonists of the German boxing boom, was still proud.
“These fight records with zero, i.e. without defeat, are of no use anyway,” says Meinke: “Losing is just as much a part of sport as winning.” The boxer struggled, kept going, lost twice before she finally achieved her first goal last fall: WIBF World Champion. Not the big title yet, but at least a belt steeped in history that Regina Halmich once wore. Meinke’s victory in Hamburg against Edith Soledad Matthysse was for many observers the best fight of the P2M program. The spectators in the Porsche Center went wild, going back and forth for ten laps.
Not only women fight for visibility
Regina Halmich finds it just right that Meinke now wants to hit the fat pots. “The WIBF is not enough, it has to get out, it has to fight for the titles of the big associations,” says the long-time world champion in an interview with RTL / ntv. At the time, the WIBF was the only world boxing association for women, and it was only and thanks to their success in Germany that the WBC, WBA, WBO and IBF – i.e. the big four – got involved.
Women’s boxing is no longer an appendage of boxing, no longer a fringe sport, but a completely normal part of the big picture. Also in terms of business. Once again, no one knows better than Halmich how far the journey can go. In 2022, the 46-year-old was inducted into the “International Boxing Hall of Fame”, as the first and only German champion since Max Schmeling. She now sits in the fistfighting hall of fame alongside legends like Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather and the Klitschko brothers. The three-day ceremony in Canastota/New York was “surreal”, Halmich recalls: “It was the greatest recognition of my life.”
Women’s boxing is a “field of dreams”, a ring of dreams. Can things boom again in Germany? “The boxers need a platform to show themselves, they need the public, the media, the television stations,” says Halmich. However, the fighting ladies are not alone with their invisibility, the German boxers have also disappeared from the wide-ranging programs. So the question is: will boxing in Germany ever get back on its feet?