Throughout the past 60 years, female boxers have fought as hard outside the ring as they have between the ropes. First for their chosen profession’s right to exist, then for mainstream acceptance.
Over the last decade, both causes have taken significant strides forward. The introduction of women’s boxing as an event at the London 2012 Olympics acted as the major catalyst. The Games acted as a platform for elite female fighters to showcase their skills.
Now, most large promotional outfits have female boxers on their books, Katie Taylor and Claressa Shields have both headlined televised cards on their respective sides of the Atlantic and Cecilia Braekhus topped the bill on the first legal boxing card held in Norway for 33 years.
While the sport has come a long way since the days of Jackie Tonawanda, Cathy Davis and Jane Couch, the fight is not over.
While the marquee names have found opportunities to be plentiful and have been able to command purses representative of their abilities, for most this has not been the case.
Ewa Piatkowska is acutely aware of this scenario.
The 35-year-old Pole is a former world champion, having captured the WBC super-welterweight title in 2016. The only blemish on her record is a disputed split decision defeat to compatriot, Ewa Brodnicka.
Despite her accomplishments, Piatkowska remains largely unknown to mainstream boxing fans.
During her reign as world champion, Piatkowska was only able to make two defences of her belt in three years. This ultimately led to the sanctioning body stripping her of the belt, allowing Shields and Ivana Habazin to contest the vacant strap earlier this year.
Piatkowska harboured no resentment towards the WBC when she explained the situation to Boxing Social.
“As a champion, I was supposed to have a title defence every six months and I wasn’t able to do it,” said Piatkowska. “We didn’t have enough money to organise such defences here in Poland and the offers I was getting abroad were not so attractive, so I didn’t go anywhere, and we didn’t organise it here. I understand the decision, I wasn’t surprised the WBC did it.
“Of course, I was disappointed because I know my promoter can really organise good fights. I was hoping for him to arrange some fights in the United States or in England, but I am more interested in the United States. I was telling him for two, three years that women’s boxing is just blossoming there, it is getting more and more popular and we can have some interesting fights and get good money.
“I know how much money other fighters who went to the United States were getting, but we never got any offers similar to what other boxers were getting, so I decided not to take the fights that were lower than my expectations.”
It is hardly surprising that Piatkowska (13-1, 4 KOs) was calm and measured while discussing the logistical issues that plague boxing, given her professional background as a flight co-ordinator at Warsaw Chopin Airport.
Despite the pressure of working in a safety-critical role in Poland’s busiest airport, Piatkowska thrives in that environment and returns to work at every available opportunity.
“Once in a while, I come back to the airport,” she said. “I just love this job. When I don’t have a fight, I just go there and do what I love. I make sure that everyone that prepares the flight for take-off work together so that everything works on time. I also do the weigh-in of the aircraft, where to put stuff and where to seat people to ensure everything is safe.”
Safety will be paramount when Piatkowska returns to the ring this Friday (June 12) against familiar foe, Karina Kopinska.
The pair previously fought over six rounds in 2015, with Piatkowska claiming a unanimous decision.
The card promoted by Wach Boxing Team at Palac w Konarach, Konary, will be the first professional boxing event held in Europe since the Covid-19 outbreak.
Due to lockdown restrictions put in place by the Polish government, Piatkowska’s preparations have been far from normal, but she remains confident that she will be victorious once again.
“Everything is difficult for all of us,” she said. “For us, it is difficult because a lot of fighters are not in training so we couldn’t invite anyone for sparring. I didn’t invite anyone from outside my city. I was sparring with the boys who were here in Warsaw.”
Piatkowska hopes that victory will be the first step towards making her American Dream a reality.
Now that she no longer has the super-welterweight title, she has returned to her natural weight of 140lbs. However, she would gladly move up to welterweight (a division where she has previously held the European title) for the opportunity to face a legend of the sport.
“Cecilia Braekhus is my dream opponent and has been since I can remember,” she said. “She’s my idol, she’s my favourite boxer so I would love to fight her. It is not easy because she’s in this mini-tournament right now, fighting Jessica McCaskill and the winner of this fight will fight the winner of Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano.
“It’s not easy to catch her this year, but there [are] other girls: Mary McGee [the] IBF [super-lightweight] champion from the United States, there’s Jessica McCaskill who has two belts at 140. I’d love to fight one of those three this year or at the beginning of next year. After this fight, we will either organise a big fight here in Poland or I’ll be going to fight abroad, in the United States.”