IT was perhaps only a matter of time before a female boxer said enough is enough and asked for more. More time in which to work. More time at work. More time, full stop.
It was perhaps inevitable, too, that the woman involved in altering the length of rounds in women’s boxing would be Amanda Serrano, one of the longest-reigning champions and stars. Now 34, Serrano, 45-2-1 (30), has been a pro since 2009 and in that time has never boxed a three-minute round. However, and much to her relief, this will all change when she defends her WBA, IBF and WBO featherweight belts against Danila Ramos, 12-2 (1), on October 27 in Orlando, Florida.
It is on that night Serrano will get 12 of them – if, that is, the fight lasts that long – and will hope that this will provide ample time for her to add to the 30 stoppages she has accumulated so far in her professional career. Ramos, likewise, will presumably be liberated by this newfound freedom and opportunity to settle into the fight, something typically all-important when a challenger is facing a champion with the odds stacked against them.
That this change comes about now, in 2023, is interesting. It is interesting if only because it coincides with the imminent departures of various big-name stars in the women’s game, as well as a recent run of fights that have gone the distance and failed to do much to stir the imagination. Which of course is not to say the move to 12 three-minute rounds will, for women’s boxing, be an idea predicated solely on increasing the entertainment value of female fights, but still, one would be naïve to think boxing, as an industry, doesn’t always have marketing at the forefront of its thinking. Even just declaring this bout between Serrano and Ramos as the first-ever unified title fight in the women’s game to be contested over 12 three-minute rounds delivers it a shine and level of interest it would, alas, otherwise be without. For on paper the fight with Ramos is no more compelling than some of the other title defences Serrano has had over the years; just another fight against a mandatory challenger she must complete in order to move towards fights against bigger names.
Not only that, by leading the way with this announcement, there is now every chance other boxers in the women’s game will follow suit. Already, for example, Chantelle Cameron has called for her November 25 rematch against Katie Taylor to also take place over 12 three-minute rounds and, frankly, who wouldn’t want to see that rematch with an extra minute in each of its rounds? That extra minute could, after all, prove to be the difference; the difference in either Taylor figuring out all she was unable to figure out when they first met in May, or Cameron finding the time to put her foot down and beat the Irish legend more emphatically this time.
Either way, the prospect of three-minute rounds will certainly appeal to those who struggle to get on board with the predictable element and lack of tangible peril in the women’s game. Because, like it or not, knockouts, the gnarlier the better, have always been the beating heart of this divisive sport, and in the women’s game, whether that’s due to them running out of time or simply not possessing the natural strength and power of their male counterparts, the absence of knockouts, or indeed even the ever-present threat of them, does in turn reduce the need to sit on the edge of your seat and ensure your eyes remain peeled at all times.
That doesn’t mean women’s boxing fails to produce entertainment or action. Far from it, in fact. Often some of the best fights of recent years have involved female boxers who, combined, produced no small amount of drama and excitement. Yet, even so, what cannot be denied is that a fight in which a decision is deemed an inevitability rather than the worst-case scenario is a fight few beyond the hardcore fans of the sport will be interested in watching to its natural conclusion. (This despite the fact it will be quicker to reach its natural conclusion than most fights in the men’s game.)
Right or wrong, this isn’t a view shared by World Boxing Council (WBC) president Mauricio Sulaiman, however. Back in July, when speaking with Chris Mannix on his podcast, Sulaiman expressed his resistance to women boxing three-minute rounds and, in fairness to Sulaiman, has since stuck to his guns, meaning the WBC’s featherweight belt, which Serrano holds, will not be on the line when Serrano and Ramos meet at the Caribe Royale Resort next month.
“The WBC has done thorough research and at this point, unless there is absolute medical, scientific clearance, we will never allow women to fight three-minute rounds,” said Sulaiman. “This is medically and scientifically (based), but if we go to the facts and the reality, why would you change if women’s boxing is so exciting and so great at two minutes? It’s a different pace. Everybody loves watching women’s boxing and I’m certain that the two minutes has a lot to do with it. You don’t need three minutes to knock somebody out.”
In all likelihood, the problem, once again, is an issue of competition rather than merely time-keeping. Because the truth is, at the top level of the women’s game, where each of the women can handle themselves and maybe just need one more minute in each round to produce the result that can elevate them to superstardom, the difference between two-minute rounds and three-minute rounds is probably negligible. But it is of course beneath that level, or in the context of mismatches, of which in the women’s game there are plenty, that Sulaiman’s fears could be well founded. After all, the last thing anybody should want to see in boxing is a mismatch prolonged unnecessarily and yet, so new is the women’s game and so shallow is the talent pool, it cannot be guaranteed that every fight which takes place over 12 three-minute rounds should be taking place at all, much less stretched out until one of the two fighters is in a similar position on the canvas.
In that case, then, what’s the answer? Well, maybe in the end we are right to highlight the importance of giving things more time, only, in this instance, we must also concede that it will take not minutes but years for women’s boxing to find itself where it needs and ultimately deserves to be.