Every moment is magic with Raquel Ruiz, independent journalist. Immediately after touching down from Sacramento, Raquel convinced me to drive a 16-hour roundtrip to see Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields fight in Ottowa.
Here's the piece I wrote for Stiff Jab on Claressa's dominant performance. Despite the thrill of seeing my heroine back in the ring, there was an air of anticlimax hanging over the match. After the high of women's boxing's Olympic debut, we're all back to the reality of playing, coaching, and chronicling a fringe sport.
Raquel was in town for the first-ever Fighting Women Symposium in Toronto.
From left to right: Malissa Smith of Girlboxing; Mischa Merz, Australian champ and memoirist; Raquel Ruiz; me; and Sue Jaye Johnson, photographer of record for women's boxing, for whom I was a last-minute substitute on the Symposium's "Media Roundtable."
The Symposium was everything women's boxing is: scrappy, underattended, sometimes heartwarming, often boring. The best part was running along Lake Ontario with Raquel. The second best part was Corey Erdman's presentation on the economics of women's pro boxing, which showed that well-matched women's fights can draw big gate and PPV numbers in markets like Mexico, Germany, and the Phillipines and asked why, if MMA promoters are recognizing the potential of women stars, HBO and Golden Boy are holding out.
We watched a documentary about young women boxers in Kabul. The fact that these girls were awful boxers made it hard to know what to feel.
We learned about the Indian women's boxing team, who are supported year-round, and a Canadian nonprofit called Shape Your Life, which teaches boxing to domestic abuse survivors. The issue of abuse is never far from any conversation about women's boxing. I slept through Hella Tsaconas's talk but enjoyed reading it on her iPad and learning about worlding and cruel optimism.
On the last night, our lovely hostess Cathy van Ingen curated a vegan-friendly cocktail hour, and Corey Erdman hosted us at the Fight Network offices so we could watch Paulie Malignaggi make Adrian Broner look unexplosive.
As always, it was hard to leave the gentle land of Canada.
The mildly aggrieved tone of the Symposium reminded me of why I don't go to grad school. It was the opposite of being ringside for Claressa Shields.
Nobody ever promised us we'd get paid to play. Boxing is a gift economy, and I've never been shortchanged.