Women’s boxing dates back to the 18th century, and women first entered the ring at the Olympics in 1904.
But for 200 years, women’s boxing was effectively outlawed. It took until 1988 for professional women’s boxing to be officially sanctioned, with Sweden being the first country in the world to do so.
After this, women began to fight professionally in many countries around the world. However, it took another ten years until the United Kingdom’s British Boxing Board of Control agreed to issue licences to women.
These days women’s boxing is massively growing in popularity and value. Here we take a look at the current WBA champions from super middleweight to featherweight, to find out more about the women who are making a difference in the sport right now.
American Alicia Napoleon-Espinosa became the WBA super middleweight champion in March 2018. Known as The Empress, Napoleon-Espinosa (12-1) has defended her title twice, with the latest victory coming against Schemelle Baldwin in August 2019, when Napoleon-Espinosa's dominance meant the referee had to step in during the fourth round.
The current WBA middleweight champion is Claressa Shields (9-0), who hails from Michigan in the US. She was the first American boxer, male or female, to win consecutive Olympic medals, and is one of only seven boxers in history to simultaneously hold all four major world titles in boxing. T-Rex, as she is known, has been middleweight champion since defeating Hanna Gabriel in June 2018.
Despite losing to Shields in that fight, Costa Rican Hanna Gabriel holds the WBA super welterweight title. La Amazona (20-2-1) has defended her title four times since June 2016 when she beat Katia Alvarino by technical knockout to take the vacant belt. In 2010, Gabriel took the WBO junior middleweight title in a fight against Dominican Gardy Pena, which lasted just 11 seconds.
Norwegian Cecilia Brækhus is the current WBA welterweight champion. The First Lady has defended her title 23 times since she first took the crown in 2014. In 2018 she was named by the Guinness World Records as the Longest Reigning Female Boxing Champion, the Longest Reign as a Four-Belt Undisputed Boxing Champion, and the Most Bouts Undefeated by a Female World Champion Boxer.
Earlier this year, American Jessica McCaskill became the WBA super lightweight champion. CasKILLA (7-2) worked as an investment banker before going pro in 2015. She unsuccessfully challenged Katie Taylor for the WBA lightweight title in 2017, but went on to take the WBC super lightweight title in 2018 before adding the WBA crown from Anahí Esther Sánchez in 2019.
As well as defending her WBA lightweight title against McCaskill, Katie Taylor (14-0) has fought off six other challengers since 2017. Irishwoman Taylor, known as KT or The Bray Bomber, started boxing aged 11 and became pro in 2016, making her debut at Wembley Arena. Her latest victory came against Belgian Delfine Persoon in June 2019 at Madison Square Garden.
South Korean Choi Hyun-Mi is the WBA super featherweight champion. She became known as the Defector Girl Boxer after her family fled North Korea in 2004 to make a new home in South Korea. Hyun-Mi (16-0-1) has held the title for almost six years, after defeating Emiko Raika in 2013 for the interim title. The following year she took the title by TKO against Keanpetch Superchamps.
The WBA featherweight champion is Jelena Mrdjenovich. The Canadian fighter took the title on home turf in March 2016 when she defeated Argentinian Edith Soledad Matthysse. The victory came just over seven months after she lost to Matthysse at a title fight in Buenos Aires. Mrdjenovich (38-10-2) most recently defended her title in April 2018 against France’s Stephanie Ducastel.