Boxing competions are the next step beyond training. But let me be realistic. Despite the fact that there are scores of female amateur and professional boxers, despite the fact that female boxers are now allowed to compete in the Olympics, it is still hard for females to find fights.
Finding opponents is not easy, for one thing. I thought not being able to find many women in my age range was a factor in me not getting many fights. Then I noticed that younger women didn't have it any easier. Also, many females in boxing gyms are there for the workout, but have no interest in entering tournaments. That cuts out a good number of potential opponents right there.
If there are other women willing to fight, matches still may not get made because there are too many discrepencies between the fighters. I missed out on having a fight once because I was way older and much heavier than the other person. There was concern that I might seriously hurt her and visa versa. For exhibition matches, a little leeway may be given if fighters aren't quiet evenly matched on height and weight. But that won't happen at sanctioned matches like the Golden Gloves.
If you want to participate in boxing competitions, be prepared to wait awhile before getting a chance. Don't give up, however, if you really want it.
Types of Tournaments
There are various types of boxing competions. Sanctioned tournaments, unsanctioned fights, exhibition matches, and show fights are all designed for fighters to show off what they learned in boxing training.
Sanctioned tournaments are usually run by USA Boxing, a national organization. The Golden Gloves, which takes place around the country each year, is such a tournament. All boxers must have amateur licenses to compete, and wins and losses are recorded in their passbooks. Rules for boxers to participate are strictly followed.
Other amateur boxing shows, such as those put on by municipal park districts for example, are usually not sanctioned because wins and losses are not counted towards amateur boxers' records. They are purely for the boxers to show off their skills and get some ring experience. However, there are referees and judges on hand to monitor the fights. Trophies may or may not be awarded, depending on how the boxing show has been set up.
Show fights are usually held by private groups, and a lot are done for fundraising purposes. Some are held to provide entertainment during an event, like at a convention, for example. When I first began boxing, I attended a lot of these type shows. Several were held at country clubs, some were at bars, some were in hotels and casinos. The difference between show fights and the other boxing shows and tournaments is that the fighters and the coaches get paid. It's not a lot of money, but it's something. Trophies are not usually given out at these fights. The only thing, other than the money the fighters take home, is bragging rights if they win. Boxers are usually required to have their amateur boxing licenses in order to participate in show fights.
Some boxers end up picking up extra money at the show fights from the people in the crowd who have bet on them to win. Of course, gambling in that situation is not legal, but it happens. I was at a show fight with a boxer who was approached by a guy with a huge bankroll. "You're gonna win tonight, brother? I'm betting on you!" the guy said. Neither the boxer or I knew what to say or what to make of the situation. The boxer won his match. The guy who made the bet was so glad that he won big among his buddies that he gave the boxer some tens and twenties.
White collar boxing shows are mainly exhibition fights. The fighters are all adults, mostly professionals (hence, the "white collar" title) who box for fun and fitness. There are no winners or losers declared at the end of the matches. Everybody is rewarded for being brave enough to step into the ring. Some people in boxing circles have a problem with this because it appears the "everbody is a winner" mentality is designed not to bruise the egos of the fighters, most of whom are professionals such as doctors, attorneys, stock brokers, etc.
Smokers are amateur fights that are held in boxing gyms, martial arts dojos, and private clubs. The fights are unsanctioned, and are set up to give young amateur fighters experience. Spectators are charged to view the fights. But beware. Regardless of the fact that they may be publicly advertised, smokers are often illegal. There are concerns from boxing commissions that trainers and promoters involved with the smokers may not have safety precautions in place, there may be mismatches, and on-site medical personnel may not be there. I have known of smokers that went fine without any trouble. However, there have been reports of the police shutting down smokers, and some fighters being seriously hurt.
Leading Up To The Fight
Take boxing competions seriously. Step up your regular boxing training routine, and plan it out. Unless there's been an agreement to take a fight on short notice, there should be at least a few weeks available before the fight takes place. Set up a workout schedule, and build in time to focus on areas that might need some extra practice.
Plan your meals. Talk to the coach, for he or she may have some advice about what to eat, especially if weight has to be cut (lost) before the bout takes place. Don't fall prey to outlandish weight loss methods, because most of them don't work well, and messing up one's health to lose weight quickly is not worth it.
Get as much rest as possible. I know this can be a challenge, depending on what else you have to do with your time, like going to a job, for example.
If you can, and especially if one has to be done anyway, see the doctor for a checkup.
Amateur boxing licences
For most unsanctioned amateur boxing shows, fighters won't need an amateur boxing license. But for all sanctioned tournaments and most show fights, a license has to be obtained via USA Boxing. The officials record on a boxer's license, or "book", the boxer's wins and losses. There are no draws in amateur boxing.
The application is straight forward. After filling out your contact information, questions will be asked about height and weight (remember ladies, you can't be shy about divulging the amount of pounds, and please, don't fudge about it). There will be a place to check off indicating that the application is for applying for an amateur boxing license.
Questions about health will be asked, most notably whether or not a female fighter is pregnant. Also note the other health concerns which may prevent a fighter from competing in sanctioned matches, including high blood pressure and diabetes.
Once the application is finished, include a check or money order for the current license fee, and mail it off to the address indicated. The coach or local boxing council may see to it that it gets to USA Boxing for you if they have several fighters applying for licenses at the same time.
Unsanctioned boxing shows and tournaments
Unsanctioned boxing shows run a little differently. People are pre-matched for most sanctioned shows, but not often for the unsanctioned shows. Boxers show up in the hopes they will get a fight. The officials running the show announce the time boxers have to be on the premises to get weighed in. I've seen some exceptions here and there, but usually that time is set in stone (even more so for sanctioned fights). If a boxer shows up late, they won't be allowed to get on the scale, and they won't be able to get on the list of those wanting to fight. Once the scale is closed down, the officials huddle together to put together the matches. They try to match boxers as closely as they can based on the number of fights they've had, their age, and their weight and height.
Regarding getting on the scale, unless it is an all-female fight card, women may be asked to leave the room in the event the guys have to strip down to their underwear to step on the scale. Often there is only one room set aside to do the weigh-ins. This is true very often when the boxing show is featuring boxers of all ages, and the majority of the boxers are kids. It's done to spare the kids -- usually the little guys and the teenage boys -- embarrassment. I've not been in a boxing show where I had to strip down to my unmentionables. Most times, I just take my shoes off before getting on the scale. Some officials may not announce your weight to the whole room, but be prepared, because some will.
Trophies are often given out after each bout, but in some cases, they are not. Right before I stepped into the ring during one of my last fights, the announcer told the crowd that mine would be an exhibition match. Basically, that's a fight that has no competitive value. It's done for the fun of it, for the entertainment value. Either the only trophy is a pat on the back or both participants receive trophies. There are no winners or losers. I never found out why my fight was designated as an exhibition match among all of the other ones where people fought for trophies. But I have a suspicion that it might have been due to the wide age gap between me and the other boxer.
Before The Fight
Boxers are not allowed to use their own headgear or gloves at amateur matches. I believe the main reason for this is to cut down on any tricks like someone slipping rocks into a pair of gloves. Headgear and gloves will be provided. Keep in mind that several other boxers may have used that equipment before it was time for your bout.
The coach may wrap your hands with gauze and tape. If you're participating in a sanctioned match, an official must check your hands to make sure they are wrapped properly before the gloves go on. If it's an unsanctioned match, you can probably use your own handwraps, and an official won't do a check.
The coach may put petroleum jelly on your face. This is so the punches that connect may slide off. No guarantee that all will slide off, but some may.
A warm up should be done. The coach, their assistant, or another boxer in your gym can hold punch mitts so you can get this done for a few minutes. Afterwards, the coach will give a pep talk and some last minute pointers.
During the Fight
There's going to be a lot of cheering and shouting, and perhaps some jeering coming from the audience. Keep your focus on the person in the ring in front of you, and rely on your boxing training. Also, follow whatever directions and warnings the referee gives.
I slipped in the ring during a fight and rolled over like a ball. Quickly, I got on my feet. The referee gave me an eight-count that I didn't think I deserved. I didn't fall because I was hit! I could hear my coach grumbling from outside the ropes because he knew it had been a slip as well. I wasn't happy, but it would have been a waste of my energy to argue with the referee. Most times, it's just better to keep it moving and put the focus back on using your boxing training for competing purposes.
When you're in the corner in between rounds, the only person to listen to is the coach. The fighter shouldn't talk, but listen. The other people in the corner should not speak and let the coach do all the talking. It's too confusing taking directions from several people at once. Sit on the stool or chair if one is provided, and take deep breaths. Keep your hands in front of you, preferably down in-between your knees.
After the Fight
Always, always show good sportsmanship. Yeah, the other fighter may have done some illegal moves that the referee and judges didn't catch. The referee may have made some calls that were not in your favor. There may have been some real beef between your opponent and yourself before the actual match. But hug the other fighter and/or shake hands. Give a fist bump to the people in their corner. Acknowledge the referee and the judges.
Accept the judges' decision, whatever that may be. I've seen coaches curse out judges when their fighter didn't win. Don't get in the middle of that argument. Don't start something up with the other fighter, either. Their corner will come to their defense, and that situation may escalate unnecessarily. Complain to the coach in the locker room. Grumble to friends and family who came to the match after you all have left the building.
If you win, take all of the compliments graciously. There may be a temptation to gloat, especially if the win was due to a TKO or a knockout where the paramedics had to step in to make sure the other person was okay. Don't do it, at least not in the ring. I'd like to win, but I don't want to come off like a bully. Once again, good sportsmanship must be shown. Wherever you're going to celebrate that win later, like at the bar or at home, brag about it there.
Depending on what damage was taken during the fight, it may be a good idea to take a break from boxing training for a few days. Got Epsom salt at home? A long soak in the tub to soothe the muscles would be a good idea after the fight. Don't do what I did after my third fight. I took a beating, yet I was back in the gym doing hard sparring. Because of that, it took longer for me to heal up. It won't hurt to give the body a rest for a little while.
Want to know what weight class you're in?