Seven names that helped establish women in “The Sweet Science” were the first to be honored as Hall of Famers.
Christy Martin Salters, Lucia Rijker, Regina Hamlich, Bonnie Canino, Barbara Buttrick, Joann Hagen, and Christy Halbert were inducted into the initial International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame Thursday morning in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The women were chosen by a group of eight industry experts to be inducted into the first class.
Author and blogger Malissa Smith served as MC at the event, as she detailed the histories of honorees.
All were in attendance for the ceremony, with Joann Hagen getting her award posthumously from her niece Mary Cummins.
Rijker recalled her journey to watch the 2012 Olympics to see the women fight for the first time at the worldwide showcase of athletic talent. She also recounted her journey to the U.S. to become one of the top female strikers in both boxing and kickboxing.
“To be the best female fighter in the world, I always thought you need to be the best you can possibly be,” Rijker expressed in her acceptance speech. “It’s not about knocking somebody down, it’s about bringing out your full potential as an athlete. Whatever you do in life, do it good, do it 200 percent, and that will bring out your fullest potential, and that’s what the sport did for me.”
Rijker also credited fellow hall of famer Martin on being an inspiration to her. Martin chronicled her journey from breaking the glass ceiling – co-main eventing a ppv in 1996, to her recover after she was stabbed several times by her ex-husband in 2010. She found boxing as therapy to recover physically and mentally.
Germany’s Hamlich was honored as the having sparked interest again in Europe for the women’s boxing scene. Only having lost once in her 13 fight career, her farewell fight was one of the most watched bouts in European history.
“I’m very proud to be here, because it’s historic,” Hamlich explained. “We are, all together, the best example that dreams can come true if you believe in it. In the beginning, they really laugh about this little girl that liked to box. But women boxing is a very good sport if you do it well, if you do it with your heart. Believe in you.”
Also inducted was Dr. Christy Halbert, who was honored not only for her boxing but her efforts to bring women into the Olympics. 2012 Gold medalist Clarissa Shields was in attendance, which only seemed fitting. Shields thanked the honorees for helping set the table for her successes.
“I had to go through a lot to make it to where I am, but to know there are women who paved the way, it makes me feel a lot better,” Shields stated. “I feel like I’m not by myself. They understand the struggle , how hard it is to be a female fighter and be recognized. They never had the chance to go to the Olympics, so this is going to give me a lot of motivation going into Rio in 2016.”
Hagen, who was always looking for a fight, was given a brilliant induction by Smith. Her 1954 fight with fellow inductee Buttrick would be the first boxing bout to be broadcast in the radio.
Buttrick’s only loss was to Hagen, and 15 years later, she would return for one more bout before retiring. She founded the WIBF in 1989, which is the sanctioning body for many female boxing matches across the world.
The event was held by the Women’s Boxing Archive Network, and the Hall of Fame was created by its own Sue Fox, who has been a long time report, historian, and advocate of women’s boxing.