Amanda Serrano gave up a belt to fight 3-minute rounds, like men do. Will boxing respond?


Amanda Serrano was overcome with pure joy. Her face lit up as the cards 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 victory in October, bolstering her case 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 then, could only compete in bouts of 10 (or less) rounds of two minutes each.

“I really enjoyed the three minutes,” Serrano said after the fight in Florida. “I was able to prepare my shots a little more and I think I will continue with the three minutes. I know the women who saw that it is possible, that we can do it. And Danila and I showed that we are capable. There will be many women who will say, 'Yes, they did.' Now I can do it.'”

The sport changed that night. At least for matchups with WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO and Ring Magazine championships at stake. Serrano's WBC belt was missing that night, and now the world knows why.

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

Serrano, in a cutthroat individual sport where women have had far fewer opportunities than men to fight and make a living, took to Instagram to publicly express her discontent with the WBC.

“In the future, if a sanctioning body does not want to give me and my fellow fighters the option to fight equally as men, then I will not fight for that sanctioning body,” he said. “The WBC has refused to evolve sport towards equality. So I renounce your title. Thanks to the sanctioning bodies that have evolved for equality! If you want to face me in the ring, you have a choice. I made mine.”

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

“Boxing, by its nature, requires guidelines, rules and safety protection. The rules are not discriminatory, arbitrary or sexist. The rules are based on science, experience, fairness and, above all, safety. Our mission has always been and will be to reduce the risk of anyone entering the ring, man or woman, in this combat sport, which is not a game. The WBC has decided to honor these rules, principles and values ​​and will continue to investigate women's boxing, support women's boxing and protect any woman who participates in this incredible sport.

“We believe that any woman has the choice to compete under WBC rules or compete in untested waters with much uncertainty and greater risks to their own lives, the lives of their opponents and the quality of their lives after in-ring activity. “.

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

Studies over the years have differed on the risks to women in boxing.

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

“Whatever the cause, there is still a notable difference between the sexes with respect to concussions,” the advisory board said in a statement. “Boxing carries the obvious inherent risk of suffering a head injury. “One of the ways to help mitigate head trauma is to modify the rules, including the number of rounds and the duration of the rounds.”

In a July 2020 review published in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 25 studies on the topic were examined. He concluded that “female athletes appear to sustain more severe concussions than male athletes, due in part to a lower biomechanical threshold of tolerance to head impacts. Additionally, concussions can disrupt the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, leading to worse symptoms and amenorrhea.”

However, a year later, another study was published in the same journal. A group of 23 amateur fighters participated in 53 training sessions and six boxing and mixed martial arts competitions. They recorded 896 head impacts: 827 in training and 69 during competition. The final results showed that “men experienced a greater number of impacts than women per practice session. However, there were no significant differences between men and women in terms of magnitude of impact.”

In many mixed martial arts promotions, such as the UFC, men's and women's fights have no difference in length and length of rounds.

Nakisa Bidarian, founder of Most Valuable Promotions and an advisor to Serrano, said the lack of concrete conclusions is the reason her fighter is pushing for equal rounds and times.

“If there was a definitive type of long-term categorical study that said women are more likely to get concussions than men and that this is very dangerous, of course Amanda wouldn't advocate for it,” he said. The Athletic. “But that simply doesn't exist.”

He added: “I can't argue that less time equals less injuries. So men should fight fewer rounds and fewer minutes? Should the NFL reduce time on the field? Should basketball have three quarters instead of four?

More top women's boxing fighters have called for the sport to move to three-minute rounds.

Weeks before the fight between Serrano and Ramos, a group of more than a dozen female fighters, including Natasha Jonas, Mikaela Mayer, Holly Holm, Heather Hardy, Christy Martin, Ann Wolfe, Laila Ali and Ramla Ali, issued a joint statement to via Most Valuable. Promotions supporting the cause.

“As women, we have had to fight inch by inch to earn the same equality and respect that is freely granted to men,” the fighters said. “We came together with the desire and dedication to have the CHOICE to perform on the same stage, with the same rules, as men in professional boxing. “We have earned the CHOICE of 3-minute rounds, with 12 rounds for championship fights to demonstrate our skill and greatness.”

Claressa Shields, the undisputed light middleweight champion, has long been an advocate for more and longer rounds. She told ESPN in 2021 that she believed the differences were partly due to paying less money to female boxers.

“I think the biggest thing in women's boxing is that people say…women shouldn't be paid the same because we don't fight the same amount of time,” Shields said. “But I wish more people realized that we didn't implement those rules; the men did it. So men need to change those rules so that every women's world champion boxer can fight in three minutes and 12 rounds.”

Bidarian said The Athletic that his team had talks with the WBC a couple of weeks ago about alternative stocks. One idea was to allow fighters the option of adding two rounds to championship fights. Bidarian also said her team proposed keeping the women's title fights at 10 rounds, but contested at three minutes each until more data is available. The WBC rejected both suggestions, she said.

Serrano, as a result, rejected the WBC.

His next fight has not yet been announced, although Bidarian said he will not spend less time in the ring again. For Serrano, the importance of defending the future of women's boxing is crucial.

“She was already one of the best boxers in history,” he said. “This further cements that she is a trailblazer and, as her nickname goes, an authentic person. She just doesn't speak it; She does it. And I am beyond honored and proud to be at her side to continue accomplishing those things. Her next fight will be 12-3. And that is the path she is going to follow.”

(Photo: Alex Menéndez/Getty Images)

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