Amy Green interviews boxing pioneer Sue Fox
The year was 1976. Gasoline was 59 cents a gallon, the average rent was $220 per month, Apple Computer Company was formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, and “Rocky” was released in theaters.
It was also the year Sue Fox made her pro boxing debut, and ironically, “rocky” is the word she used to describe ring career. “I feel like it was a very rocky experience at best,” Sue said. “Being fairly innocent to the world in my 20’s, I had no idea what I was getting into.” With a background more established in martial arts, competing in brown and black belt division tournaments, boxing was uncharted territory for this novice.
Undeterred, Sue persevered in the sport, enduring mismatches, indifference by trainers and her male counterparts, unscrupulous managers, low dollar purses- any and everything that should discourage most competitors.
In the end, Sue fought a total of 12 professional fights, and in 1979 held the ranking of the number one super welterweight, a ranking determined by Boxing Illustrated. Even though she was never offered to fight for the coveted title, her contributions were hardly unnoticed.
In 2012, Ring Magazine named her as one of the top ten most influential female boxers of all time.
Seventeen years after her retirement from the ring, Sue decided she was far from done with boxing. Realizing no news outlet existed to exclusively and correctly chronicle women’s boxing, she created WBAN, the Women Boxing Archive Network in 1998.
“Originally my goal was to set the record straight for all of the inaccuracies and lack of coverage of the history of the sport,” Sue explained. “It did not take long though to be contacted by many of the current professional female boxers,” she continued, “with them telling me many issues going on, especially mismatches that were more prevalent in the past.”
Further pushing her goal, Sue tackled the lack of women’s boxing news. “Also I saw at that time that there was little coverage of female boxing,” she said, “and it gave me a mission to not only have an in depth website on the history of the sport, but to help female boxers who had the same love for the sport as myself when I was young---to try and provide exposure and coverage for the fighters, whether they had one fight or 50 plus fights.”
Still intent on recognizing those who fought in the ring and behind the lines of women’s boxing, Sue once again created another important outlet, the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame (IWBHF).
During her years of covering women’s boxing, Sue saw little or no celebration of the sport. “After covering the sport for over 16 years, I saw that few women in the sport were being inducted into hall of fame(s) and decided to have a history first for the sport by creating the organization,” Sue said, and the goal of the IWBHF is simple, she revealed. “Our mission is to seek and recognize the outstanding athletic achievements and contributions of the many gifted and dedicated athletes who have participated in the sport, along with those individuals (male or female) who have advocated, supported and promoted the sport of female boxing.”
Looking back over her years as a pioneer of women’s boxing in the 1970’s Sue has seen some changes as the sport continues to grow, and changes for the better. “I believe that when Christy Martin fought Dierdre Gogarty, was the first of what I saw a heightened interest in women’s boxing,” Sue said. “Then the daughter’s of famous male boxers came into the scene and fighters like Laila Ali, Jacqui Frazier and more of the daughters brought another peak of interest at the time.” But, Sue continued, high level amateur competitors began to attract attention. “Ultimately, I felt that when the elite amateur female boxers received the opportunity to fight in the 2012 Olympics, that it even gave the sport more public awareness and acceptance of female boxing in the sport, for amateurs and pros.”
Eyeing the future of women’s boxing, Sue is both optimistic and realistic. “I see some promising things going on currently in the sport that we did not see before,” she said. “We have great fighters in the sport who have benefited from their hard work in the amateurs, and also we have some top female boxers that are currently fighting and the pool of fighters are getting larger, and that is very promising.” “I can’t predict the future,” she admitted, “and only hope that these elite female athletes are going to be paid adequately when they are taking these huge fights on television, etc. I personally feel the future is promising for some--and unfortunately still struggling for others.”
Fast forward from 1976 to 2019. Gas is nearly $3 per gallon in some places, Apple Corporation has phones smarter than they need to be, Sylvester Stallone made Rocky a national hero, and Sue Fox is a lot wiser for the rocky road she traveled in her boxing career.
She offers straightforward advice to anyone embarking on a boxing career: “My advice would be to take time to learn the craft. Get as much amateur experience as possible, and do not get talked into turning pro quickly. Get a trainer that has your best interests at heart.”