When 83-year-old Barbara Buttrick took the microphone in the Excel Centre yesterday, the world tilted just a little. She told us how she’d fought about one thousand exhibition bouts against men in 1940s England because there weren’t any women fighters.
And when she reminded us the Daily Mirror apologized for what they’d written about her 60 years ago, we got the first sign this would be a noisy afternoon at London2012.
Mixed in with those screaming fans, were so many boxers. I talked to women with Golden Gloves experience, women who’d trained through injuries, women who could hardly talk for emotion. Finally, the Olympic stage was theirs.
And then it was 5-time World Champion Mary Kom’s. It was simply incredible to finally see her fight live. She’s even stronger in person than you might think, and so, so comfortable inside the ropes. Maroua Rahali (Tunisia) tried her best but the third round score of six points to one says it all.
For me it was Katie Taylor and Natasha Jonas’ fight that really showed women’s boxing deserves to be in the Olympics. The floor shook under thousands of feet, the air split into roars of ‘Katie, Katie’ or “Team GB’ and dozens of Irish tricolours danced on the energy in the arena.
Jonas (GB) brought her A-game, all the fans and all the glitz but somehow, she couldn’t bring the power.
The speed, the tactics, the strength and the pure joy of winning. That was Taylor yesterday.
It was magnificent, probably one of the most exciting fights I’ve ever been at. And, yes, there were tears, hugging of strangers and an overwhelming sense that just for that moment, for that one tiny moment, all was right in the world.