Women boxers want 12-round title bout option

More than two dozen female fighters joined together in a statement Tuesday calling for the option to fight 12 rounds and three-minute rounds if they choose to do so for championship fights.

The statement comes weeks before Amanda Serrano and Danila Ramos fight on Oct. 27 for Serrano’s IBF, WBO and WBA featherweight championships in 12 three-minute rounds, the first time a unified title will be fought by women at those specifications.

The majority of women’s title fights are currently contested in 10 two-minute rounds.

Beyond Serrano and Ramos, many of the top names in the sport — past and present — supported the statement, including undisputed junior welterweight champion Chantelle Cameron, WBA and WBC strawweight champion Seniesa Estrada, IBF welterweight champion Natasha Jonas, Mikaela Mayer, Franchon Crews-Dezurn, Holly Holm, Heather Hardy, Christy Martin, Ann Wolfe, Shadasia Green, Laila Ali and Ramla Ali.

“As women, we have had to fight inch by inch to earn the same equity and respect freely awarded to men. In our sport, we have made progress, but there is still far to go,” the statement read. “For too long, we have been underpromoted and undercompensated. This has finally started to change as all of us have proven that women’s boxing captures the attention of sports fans and creates moments the world will never forget — and we create these moments despite how rarely we are afforded the same time and opportunity to showcase our skill as our male counterparts.

“That is why today, we stand 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. We have earned the CHOICE to build a more equal future for fighters everywhere. We hope boxing stakeholders support us just as we have supported them throughout our careers. This is our time, our right and our CHOICE. We are boxing.”

In a sport without a union, and very often without fighter coordination to support causes, having more than two dozen fighters calling for these options is notable. Serrano and her promoter, Most Valuable Promotions, helped organize the statement in advance of the Serrano-Ramos fight later this month.

“I want to thank all of the boxers who are supporting this message of CHOICE,” Serrano said in a statement. “We are advocating for the ability to choose. Female boxers compete in MMA with five-minute rounds, the same as their male counterparts. Even in bare knuckle boxing, women and men compete with the same rules.

“Danila and I, on Friday, October 27th, are proud to make history and compete under the same rules as male boxers. This is a fight for women everywhere to be treated the same.”

Layla McCarter, who supported the statement, fought in the last known major 12-round, three-minute round fight in 2007, when she beat Donna Biggers and Melissa Hernandez, although neither fight went the distance.

Women in the sport have pushed for three-minute rounds over the past half-decade, and the Seniesa Estrada-Marlen Esparza WBA interim flyweight title fight in 2019 was scheduled for 10 three-minute rounds, although Estrada won the fight by technical decision after it was stopped following a cut from a head-butt.

In 2021, the WBO, IBF and WBA all told ESPN it would support three-minute round fights, as did the California and Nevada athletic commissions. The Serrano-Ramos fight is sanctioned in Florida, which also has agreed to do three-minute round fights.

The WBC is the main holdout among the major organizations that provide titles. WBC president Mauricio Sulaimán told ESPN in 2021 he would decline to sanction any women’s three-minute round fights, because he deems it a safety issue — Serrano’s WBC belt is not on the line in October. Sulaimán said he would not change his opinion until “there is clear medical research clearance to do any changes.”

Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN in 2021 if women’s fights were contested at three-minute rounds he believed it would increase excitement in the fights and that he “would sign a number of women.” Currently there are two on his roster: Mayer and Estrada, both of whom signed the statement. Former Golden Boy matchmaker Robert Diaz told ESPN in 2021 that women’s world title fights should be three-minute rounds.

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