Promoter Lou DiBella had some great news for female boxers Monday on International Women’s Day, when he announced a quarterly series of all-female boxing shows that will stream on UFC FightPass.
The first event will feature Heather Hardy in her lightweight debut on April 23 in Florida against Jessica Camara. Melissa St. Vil will face Olivia Gerula in the co-main event.
Women’s boxing hasn’t established a foothold with the fan base the way women’s mixed martial arts has, and so the athletes are paid less, put in more obscure spots and rarely get the media attention their male counterparts do.
DiBella has long been a champion of women’s boxing and tried mightily in 2020 to get an all-women’s card on FightPass that would have included pound-for-pound stars such as Claressa Shields and Amanda Serrano. It fell through late in the planning stages.
This series, DiBella hopes, will give female fighters the opportunity they need to develop and build fan bases.
“How can fans get interested in women’s boxing if they’re never exposed to it?” DiBella said. “Claressa is an incredible fighter and she’s heads and tails above the rest of the talent pool with a few exceptions. But you saw her fight [Marie Eve Dicaire] Friday. It was a terrific performance, but it wasn’t much of a fight. Part of the challenge is to put on the fights that will be compelling and will draw the audience.”
A source told Yahoo Sports that the pay-per-view headlined by Shields will come in around 25,000, though that is not official yet. It’s not a big number, but it’s more than many expected.
DiBella said women’s boxing has one advantage in terms of matchmaking. The top women are far more willing to fight each other, without asking for a massive payday, which is often the case among the men.
So DiBella believes the series will showcase some of the best female fighters in the world against each other.
“Quality women are willing to fight other quality women,” DiBella said. “So if we get this up and going, we’re going to have the platform to give them and we’ll be able to make some really high-quality fights, competitive fights, between the best in the world. There are a lot of excellent women boxers, but most of them are in the lower weight classes. Claressa is getting so much of the attention now, but most of the talent in the women’s game lies at a lower level and they’re not getting the exposure.”
Hardy has been a featherweight and hasn’t fought since losing to Serrano in the theater at Madison Square Garden in 2019. She’s excited about the opportunity to continue her career.
She’s wondered aloud during the coronavirus pandemic if she’d ever get back.
“I could never leave this game on a loss,” Hardy said. “I’m a bit bigger, but also older and wiser. Twenty twenty-one is the year of the comeback.”
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