Rest assured that among those in attendance at this week’s Texas State Golden Gloves tournament will be the spirit of “Texas Mamie," undoubtedly pleased that for the first time in the event’s history women will have a place on the fight card.
She also probably will wonder what took so long.
Long before Laila Ali, Mia St. John, or even Ronda Rousey or Holly Holm, there was Texas Mamie Dunamon [her last name might have been Donovan; no one seemed to be quite clear of her last name], ahead of her time by any standard.
More than 100 years ahead of time.
Born and raised in Dallas, “it was there that I learned the manly, and if I may say it, the womanlike art of self-defense,” Texas Mamie said.
Far better, she said, “a left hook correctly delivered to the point of the jaw than a recourse to the feminine and often unsatisfactory hairpin.”
However, Texas Mamie was far more than someone who could defend herself against the ill-will of another. In her time, she was considered one of, if not the, greatest woman boxer in the world – the "lady champion scientific boxer of the world.” And, who knows, out of the Texas Golden Gloves program might come the next great woman’s boxer.
Alexis Mones, Jazmin Lopez and Allana Huggins will make a little history this week. They will be the first boxers from the Fort Worth region to compete in the state tournament, which begins Wednesday at Will Rogers’ Watt Arena. The fights start at 7 p.m. each night through Saturday’s finals.
That is no small distinction considering Fort Worth’s boxing history, which has included some of the best fighters in the world.
It is hoped that with the inclusion of women at state, and more opportunity generally in the sport, many women aspiring to box will come to the gyms. It goes without saying – or apparently not – that without the opportunities, many young girls are denied the values instilled through team and individual sports, such as work ethic, discipline, self-respect and respect of others, and dealing with adversity, just to name a few.
“It’s going to definitely open doors for people to see more women fighters,” said Lopez, 27. “Girls can’t get further because they can’t compete or get our name out there. You have to drive far to get bouts.
“A lot more girls are getting into it. It takes a lot of effort and money and energy, and then self-will and discipline to keep doing it when you aren’t getting fighters. A lot of girls are just used to that. Some will move up weight to compete or drop weight to get in the ring.”
As evidence of that, none of the Fort Worth region women had fights in the regional tournament last week. Lopez at 152 had one fight scheduled, the championship bout, but advanced by default. Alexis Mones (125) and Allana Huggins (201-plus) never had a chance to step into the ring, advancing to state by walk-through.
Lopez actually left the sport a decade ago. Her first bout this week will be her first in 10 years.
Winners of each weight class at state will advance to the national tournament in Omaha, Neb., in May. The women will fight in age divisions 18-40.
The Golden Gloves has had a women’s national tournament in Florida for several years, but it wasn’t merit based. Anyone could fight there if you made a registration deadline.
“I wanted to do it when I was younger, but my parents didn’t let me,” said Mones, 27. “As I got older I decided to try it and I loved it. My parents now regret not letting me do it. It helped me out as a person. When I was younger, I had quite the temper, but boxing calmed me down.
“Of course, age helped a lot,” she added tongue-in-cheek.
The decision to add women to the state and national stage was unanimously approved at a meeting of the Golden Gloves of America Franchise Delegate Assembly in Lafayette, La., earlier this year. It was done in cooperation with the United States Amateur Boxing Inc., the national governing body for amateur boxing in the U.S.
What took so long? To no surprise, there had been resistance through the years to accepting that females are entitled to box, said David Packer, president of the Golden Gloves of America.
The resistance obviously had never heard of Texas Mamie, who punched through the glass ceiling more than 100 years ago. Or, so she thought. It probably didn’t help that in Texas boxing was made illegal in 1895 during a special Texas Legislative session called by Gov. Charles Culberson, his final resting place coincidentally in the ground at Fort Worth’s Oakwood Cemetery.
Culberson’s real concern were prize fighters and their promoters.
Those concerns haven’t changed much, but some things have, including women putting on the gloves.
When the fighters take the stage this week, Mones, Lopez and Huggins will take a giant leap as pioneers paving the way to the next generations, with the spirit of Texas Mamie no doubt emitting loud “attagirls.”
They are here, they’ve been here and they’re planning to stay here, Mones said.
“It’s pretty exciting for women’s boxers,” Lopez said. “I’m glad to be a part of it, and glad I stepped back in when I did.”