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Inside the World of Women’s Boxing

This year the Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions comes to Indianapolis April 25-30 at the Indiana Convention Center. And as they have for the last 16 years, women fighters will share the fight cards with men.

Boxing has been liberating for generations of young men and youths who’ve gained discipline and confidence. And perhaps more importantly, it has also emancipated women.

This story is told in The Sweetest Thing: Inside the World of Women’s Boxing, a new book by author and boxer Mischa Merz. A Golden Gloves and Ringside World champion, Merz records the electric atmosphere of the fight gyms and gives portraits of women’s boxing’s stellar fighters.

There’s no one kind of boxer. There are ice-cold technicians and brutal brawlers. There are hyper-feminine princess punchers, crop-topped butch boxers and plenty who fall into neither easy category. What they have in common is passion, patience, courage and honesty. And no gender has a monopoly on these. “The increased acceptance of female athletes . . . has given women the freedom to be tough,” Merz writes. “And it is in the arena of women’s boxing where this narrative is playing out most eloquently.”

For decades the women’s movement has argued for a woman’s rights over her own body. Boxing makes this a physical reality.

But boxing’s not all about individuals. There’s also camaraderie. As Merz notes, it takes trust to box well. You need faith in your trainer, sparring partners, even in your opponents. And everyone shares the baptism of pain.

As Merz makes clear, there’s plenty of human frailty, in and out of the ring. But the sweet science shows how much of our bold, vulnerable humanity is shared. And it pushes us to hone it well.


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