Even after the 2022 Fight of the Year between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano, there continues to be the debate about equal pay and equal time for women’s boxing.
Last April, Taylor and Serrano main evented a fight inside Madison Square Garden. They made seven figures for the bout. Both were unheard of in women’s boxing at the time. The result was a historic fight that changed the game for women’s boxing.
It was the start of something that will hopefully continue down the line. However, the discourse over the topic carries on into 2023 as we head to Serrano’s fight against Erika Cruz for the status of undisputed featherweight champion on February 4.
Since Taylor vs. Serrano, women’s boxing has seen a huge boost in support. There have also been several fights that have main evented shows and blew the roof off the venue’s they were placed in. Claressa Shields vs. Savannah Marshall, Alycia Baumgardner vs. Mikaela Mayer, and Chantelle Cameron vs. Jessica McCaskill are just a few examples.
MORE: Join DAZN to watch Serrano vs. Cruz
Taylor, Serrano, Shields, and Baumgardner are helping lead the way, but one factor still in question is equal time. Women’s boxing is known for going ten, two-minute rounds, instead of the standard twelve, three-minute rounds the men compete in.
It is a topic that has caused debate among fighters, promotors, medical professionals, and commissions. That is especially true when female MMA fighters compete in five-minute rounds that can go up to 25 minutes.
Claressa Shields, the undisputed middleweight champion, has been a major advocate for three-minute rounds. Shields, has been attempting to convince the governing bodies and anyone who will listen that there needs to be a change.
“I care about the sport and I know for a fact that [round and fight length] is why we don’t get paid like the men and also why women’s boxing is not considered on the same level as men’s boxing,” Shields told Yahoo Sports. “We don’t even go three minutes. Like, forget the 12 rounds, but we don’t even box three-minute rounds. A lot of fans have said to me that they feel like they’re being cheated out of our fights because they’re two minutes. … They want to see their favorite fighter get knockouts, they want to see their favorite fighter look smart and have enough time to execute, and two minutes is not enough time.”
MORE: All you need to know about Amanda Serrano vs. Erika Cruz
Is there just cause for the women not getting a fair share of the time? Should there be an added minute to each female fight? The Sporting News looks into the debate and sees if there are conclusions that could make the case for or against three-minute rounds.
What science and research says about 2 vs 3-minute rounds in women’s boxing
The WBC, led by Mauricio Sulaiman, has been against three-minute rounds for women’s boxing. Research provided by his team states that women are at a greater risk compared to men. There are other studies out there that may explain why three-minute rounds should or should not be the norm.
The research is split.
In 2020, a study published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine concluded, per DAZN, “female athletes appear to sustain more severe concussions than male athletes, due in part to a lower biomechanical threshold tolerance for head impacts.”
However, a December 2021 case study examining 23 athletes found no such link. That study found that while head trauma impacted men and women differently, there was no significant difference in terms of impact magnitude.
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In a study by the Brain Injury Association of America, traumatic brain injury in women was handled differently compared to me. Women expressed greater intention to report sports-related concussions and are more frequent to report headaches and nausea/vomiting. Men, however, have a higher incidence rate of TBI compared to women through adulthood.
Dr. Patrick Hof, the Irving and Dorothy Regenstreif Research Professor of Neuroscience in the Nash Family Department of Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, was interviewed in 2015. A case in the 90s, titled “punch drunk,” showed that more research was needed to determine if the brains of females needed longer to heal to avoid CTE or other drastic post-concussion symptoms. However, there was not enough research on CTE and women in sports (at that time, at least).
What Taylor, Serrano, other fighters say about 2 vs. 3-minute rounds
Serrano has been an advocate for three-minute rounds in the past. She even asked Taylor about making their fight last spring three minutes during a press conference.
“We’re making the biggest payday, both of us,” Serrano stated, via Boxing Scene. “I think we should continue to make this fight iconic, make [changes] in this game. If Katie Taylor is willing, I’m ready and able to make this an equal fight: 12 rounds, three minutes… This is about equality and we should make the change right now. So, Katie, you up for it?”
Taylor, who fought in highly-contested bouts inside MSG before Serrano, stated it would not make a difference in their fight. It was a close bout, one that could have potentially ended in either the fifth or sixth thanks to Serrano’s clubbing blows that almost dropped Taylor. Taylor would win via split decision.
MORE: How much money will Amanda Serrano and Erika Cruz make for boxing fight?
Speaking with The Sporting News before the fight, Taylor went on to say, “I think the two-minute round is very high tempo and very fast-paced. That makes for a very exciting fight. With three-minute rounds, they say there will be a lot more knockouts. Sometimes I don’t think there will be. Look at the lighter weights in men’s boxing. There’s very few knockouts because you don’t punch hard enough.”
The idea has been tested before.
Seniesa Estrada fought Marlen Esparza in 2019 for the interim WBA flyweight title. They requested the fight be three-minute rounds, and Golden Boy complied. It was a great fight that brought awareness to the topic. Outside the WBC, the WBA and other sanctioning bodies are looking at other research regarding the timing of rounds.
Boxing Scene senior writer Jake Donovan told The Sporting News he agrees with Serrano’s sentiment and stated that the commissions need to talk to the sanctioning bodies which all need to be on board. The New York Athletic Commission in this case would have had to approve something like that for Taylor and Serrano.
The California State Athletic Commission found documents against the WBC’s position. CSAC’s Andy Foster was open to something between Estrada and Tenkai Tsunami in 2021 if the WBO and fighters approved it. Tsunami did not approve, so those rules never materialized for the bout.
Joining those on the quest for change is Mikaela Mayer.
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The former WBO, IBF, and The Ring super-featherweight champion told The Sporting News, “I do think we should do three-minute rounds. It is the next step. The talent pool and the level of skill are up there enough now that women should be granted three-minute rounds. It will separate the good from the great and allow us to showcase more of our skills. More knockouts and more excitement can come from it… Think about how fights can change in the second half. That’s when your discipline and conditioning sets in. I think women deserve that chance.
“What does it take? All of the governing bodies need to get on the same page. It just can’t be, ‘Hey girl, let’s make a statement, and let’s go three-minute rounds for this fight.’ No. We deserve to have it equal across the board, to be compensated properly for our work. We need everyone to be on the same page. That is up to the governing bodies.”
Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn is a true advocate for women in sports. He told The Sporting News that maybe three-minute rounds could be utilized for more established fighters. He was OK with a fast-paced style, which grabs people’s attention. Young prospect Skye Nicolson is on the fence with two vs. three-minute rounds but told The Sporting News it does not quite make sense as to why it has not been discussed further.
Will women’s boxing have three-minute rounds?
There are mixed reviews when it comes to two vs. three-minute rounds with compelling arguments on each side. While two-minute rounds can make for some entertaining moments. Three-minute rounds could be a true catalyst for change and bring in more viewers.
Can anything be done about it?
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Women’s boxing is as hot as it has ever been, with more opportunities for growth compared to what trailblazers like Christy Martin and Laila Ali dealt with in their day. Still, today’s fighters need support now more than ever, whether it be equal time or equal pay.
“We, as athletes, always knew how good it was at its highest level,” Natasha Jonas told ESPN. “We just needed the world to see it, the fans to see it, the platform to be on, the support financially in order to be committed.”
Only time will tell based on the commission, along with more research. With enough data out in the open, perhaps something can be done. Until then, fast-paced fights will continue to be the norm.