Thursday, May 23, 2024

Amanda Serrano was overcome with pure joy. Her face lit up as the scorecards were read and several featherweight championship belts were placed on her right shoulder and waist. She had dominated Danila Ramos en route to a unanimous decision win in October, bolstering her argument for being considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, and a trailblazer.

Serrano’s performance came in the first unified women’s championship fight contested over 12 three-minute rounds in boxing history. Female boxers, until that point, were only able to compete in bouts with 10 (or fewer) rounds at two minutes each.

“I really enjoyed the three minutes,” Serrano said after the fight in Florida. “I was able to set up a little more of my punches, and I think I’m going to continue with the three minutes. I know the women out there, they saw that it’s possible, that we can do it. And me and Danila, we showed that we’re capable. There’s going to be a lot of women out there that are going to say, ‘Yes, they did it. Now I can do it.’”

The sport was changed that night. At least for matchups with WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO and Ring Magazine championships on the line. Serrano’s WBC belt was not that night, and now the world knows why.

Last week Serrano announced she was vacating her WBC belt because the sanctioning body would not endorse women fighting under the same rules as their male counterparts.

Serrano, in a ruthless individual sport in which women have had far fewer opportunities than men to fight and earn a living, used Instagram to publicly express her displeasure with the WBC.

Moving forward, if a sanctioning body doesn’t want to give me and my fellow fighters the choice to fight the same as the men, then I will not be fighting for that sanctioning body,” she said. “The WBC has refused to evolve the sport for equality. So I am relinquishing their title. Thank you to the sanctioning bodies who have evolved for equality! If you want to face me in the ring, you have a choice. I’ve made mine.”

WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman said his organization made this decision to protect female fighters from suffering potential long-term damage in the ring and issued the following statement to The Athletic:

Boxing by its nature demands safety guidelines, rules, and protection. Rules are not discriminatory, arbitrary, or sexist. Rules are based on science, expertise, fairness, and above all, for safety. Our mission has always and will always be to lower the risk of anyone going into the ring, man or woman, in this combat sport, which is not a game. The WBC has chosen to honor these rules, principles, and values and will continue to research Women’s Boxing, support women’s boxing, and protect any woman participating in this incredible sport.

Amanda Serrano retains her championship belts after defeating Danila Ramos in October. (Alex Menendez / Getty Images)

Studies over the years have differed about the risks for women in boxing.

The WBC worked with the Pink Concussions Professional Advisory Board, a group of doctors who “focus on pre-injury education and post-injury medical care for women and girls with brain injury, including concussion incurred from sport, violence, accidents or military service.” Their work concluded that women have been shown to have increased susceptibility, symptom scores and prolonged symptoms of concussions compared to men.

“Whatever the cause, there is still the noted difference between the sexes regarding concussions,” the advisory board said in a statement. “Boxing carries the obvious inherent risk of head injury. One of the ways to help mitigate the cranial trauma is modification of the rules, which includes the number of rounds and the length of the rounds.”

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