Boxing used to be male-dominated. Now women coaches are getting their hooks in

By Ashley Madrigal
Published: Monday, December 12, 2022 - 4:05am
Updated: Monday, December 12, 2022 - 11:37am

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Stevie Finedore demonstrates punches at Rumble Boxing in Tempe
Ashley Madrigal/KJZZ
Stevie Finedore demonstrates punches at Rumble Boxing in Tempe.

As class is about to start, Rumble Tempe’s head boxing coach Stevie Finedore walks around the room and punches a bag in preparation to coach her class.

The gym doors open, allowing clients to get a punching bag. They wrap their hands and glove up before finding themselves setting the mood with a boxer’s bounce. Finedore demonstrates the punches, dims the lights and begins coaching round 1.

“We are going to go into our jab here. I want you to reach in and rotate that arm out just at the last moment here and turn those thumbs like you’re pouring coffee out. Step forward with that front foot, open up in the hip,” Findore said as the class begins.

Men and women follow her instructions through every step, punch, and round in class.

In most sports, men have dominated by playing and coaching, and this is true within the boxing realm.

But 11 women have made history by coaching men’s sports at a high level, and two were local to Arizona. Jennifer Welter joined the Arizona Cardinals in 2015 as the NFL’s first female coach, and Dawn Braid was the NHL’s first full-time female coach for the Arizona Coyotes.

Stevie Finedore and Cameron Countryman at Rumble Boxing in Tempe.
Ashley Madrigal/KJZZ
Stevie Finedore and Cameron Countryman at Rumble Boxing in Tempe.

“In all honesty, I believe women in sports is only going to help sports,” said Cameron Countryman, a Rumble trainer. “Especially from a coaching standpoint.”

He played football at University of Pennsylvania and has coached boxing for about four years. He said women coaching brings a balance to the sport.

“I see women as more organized, a little more detail oriented just across the board, so if you can bring that in with knowledge of the sport that you are coaching, I don’t see how that cannot be a plus for any team,” he said.

He added that when you have many men around each other for long periods of time, egos can get in the way and there’s an intimidation factor. But he says boxing is empowering and shouldn’t be subject to just one gender.

“When you are training to box, it is some of the most intense training you can kind of go through. So just being able to be mentally tough enough and physically tough enough to get through that aspect of it, I think it’s incredible,” Countryman said.

With an increase in female boxing coaches, more women are comfortable participating in the class and learning. According to Janae Lucero, a woman coach is what she needed.

“I actually feel a connection,” she said. “Where at the male boxing gyms, I never got any sort of sympathy or emotion from them. Where in here, I can feel that you guys either really want to be here or you don’t want to be here. It's just the best feeling in the world.”

Lucero, who is 33, has been boxing since she was 12 years old. Throughout her journey, she emphasized that she wants to be equal to the men in this sport and that having a women coach helps her.

“I don’t want to be sheltered and nurtured away from them,” she said. “I’m their equal.”

Rumble Boxing Tempe
Ashley Madrigal/KJZZ
A class poses at Rumble Tempe.

To her, connection plays a big part, and she doesn’t get that feeling with a male-dominated coaching staff. She says the insight from female coaches pushes her to where she wants to be physically and mentally.

“It just changed my entire perspective. Once again, back to the instructors, they create that vibe and energy and that connection with you and are able to make it easier for you so just jump in,” she said.

The sport is constantly adding new demographics, and according to David Schlais, the popularity of women fighters in the UFC is a key reason.

“You’re starting to see more women fighters get more main card slots, so I think it’s cool that it starts from the top, you know, the women coaches are bringing in more women, which brings in just more people into the sport," he said.

Schlais has been boxing for about five years and in that time, he has trained at many gyms with former professional female boxers. He says one in particular would guide him through proper form and was extremely disciplined.

“Definitely a different perspective, than you know, the men. It really benefited me learning boxing,” said Schlais.

He says he sees no difference from a male coach and female coach and likes that gyms are making it the new normal.

As a female coach at Rumble, Finedore explains her experience.

“I got into boxing because I started off doing it as a workout when I was modeling,” she said, “and then I just fell in love with the cardio aspect then the strength and resistance that came along with it.”

When asked if she ever felt unwelcomed in the sport, she explained, “I think there’s kind of a stigma of if you’re not sparring, you’re not really boxing, but I don’t think that's the case because having a skill set to do bag work or being able to lead a class and be able to teach the fundamentals of boxing is just as important.”

Recently, sports are seeing change, and women are making themselves known. Schlais has some advice for men who are be hesitant to learn a barbaric sport from a woman: “100% do it. It’s awesome. Zero hesitation.”

While a man and a woman may not fight each other in the ring, they can fight together to help this sport grow and motivate more people to glove up.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Ashley Madrigal works as a trainer at Rumble Boxing Tempe.

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