Right to Fight (2023) Movie Script

I had a long,
very fast left jab.
Not so fast these days.
Throw the left hand,
and then come-
because they're looking at this one,
and then I would hit them
with this one.
They said
I had dynamite in both hands.
It never occurred to me
that I was doing something
so outrageous.
We were challenging the norm,
and that was frightening people.
MAN: A woman is not made
to be a fighter.
It should not be tolerated.
Nobody in the whole United States
wanted women in the ring, period.
ALI: Fighters are made
to the punched.
Women ain't made to be
hit in the breast.
It was unbelievable. They had
rules to stop women from boxing.
A woman could never be a boxer,
just by the fact that a woman's role
is of being a subordinate.
LYDIA: What the fuck, man?
I'm gonna kick some ass, you know,
I wanna fuck somebody up.
Bam, bam, bam!
All the rage, the hate,
the (ROARS)
you guys are not gonna stop me.
This is something I want.
But nobody ever told the story.
The history of women's boxing
is an amazing story,
but it has been totally erased.
After I left the sport,
I went on the Internet, thinking,
"Well, there's gotta be a lot
of things about the pioneer
female boxers," and to my dismay,
there's virtually nothing.
We disappeared.
There was Cat Davis,
Lavonne Ludian, Pat Pineda,
Lady Tyger.
Women are wonderful and great.
Lady Tyger, champion of the world.
Where are these fighters now?
What happened to them?
And why have they been
erased from history?
CAT: Well,
it all started with fencing.
When I saw the '72 Olympics,
I got so inspired.
I decided to be a fencer.
I wanted to be up there
winning an Olympic medal
because I was the best.
So, I signed up to a fencing club
at Louisiana University.
I turned out to be very gifted
at it.
My trainer, he said,
"You need to move to New York
to study with Csaba Elthes."
He was the best coach in the world
at the time.
But I knew my mom wouldn't approve.
My dad died before I was born,
so I was raised by my mom, and...
when my mother and I interacted,
it was a lot about
the old south stuff.
She wanted me to stay a little doll.
I just couldn't do the girl thing.
I just wasn't-
I wasn't cut out for it.
My fencing was a big disappointment
to her, I think.
But I thought, you know, "Fuck it."
I packed up, headed to New York
on a bus,
with 100 bucks in my pocket.
I was pumped.
I was very excited to meet Csaba.
I was gonna meet the pope.
Csaba came in, and I asked him
if he would teach me sabre.
And he said to me,
in a very stern voice,
"Young lady,
I don't teach women
or cripples sabre."
And he actually hit me across my leg
with his weapon,
and drew blood.
Sliced me up. I was heart-broken.
It was just because I was a woman.
Well, by 1972,
the women's movement had made
some progress in the courts.
We will make real the promise
of equality for all.
But in the real world, we were still
treated as second-class citizens.
Don't get me wrong,
I'm totally in favour of women.
I mean, I think every man
should own one.(AUDIENCE LAUGHS)
There have been 73 astronauts
in our space programme,
but never any woman.
A real woman don't wanna
be equal to a man,
a real man don't want no woman
being his equal.
And if she don't like it,
put her out, find another one.
I went back to my apartment,
I only had a few dollars left,
but I said to myself,
"I am not going back home.
I have to make it work here."
So, I got some newspapers
and I started looking for a job,
and I was going through and circling
the ones I was interested in,
and then I came upon this one
that says,
'Wanted: woman boxers'.
It sounded like assembly line,
boxing up things.
I said, "Ah, that sounds
like something I can do."
This guy answered the phone.
MAN: We need somebody real bad.
His name was Sal.
You're not a fighter, are you?
It turned out it wasn't boxing
goods, it was the sport of boxing.
I never heard of women boxing.
I was a little bit taken aback,
you know, this naive southern girl.
He was a larger-than-life
Italian-American boxing trainer.
So, we arranged to meet.
When I first saw you
walking out the door,
that I thought you were gonna be
some kind of an animal.
She opens the door, here comes
this good-looking blonde,
and I say, "Oh hell, man,
this is our girl."(LAUGHTER)
I thought he was really dumb,
because he just sat there
with his mouth open and
he wouldn't say anything.
And I started to say, "Did I-
Did I say something wrong?"
Finally he shut his mouth, says,
"Get in. We're going back
to the gym."
The first thing he wanted me
to do was hit the bag.
It felt pretty good.
I mean, it works just like fencing.
To be a good fencer, you have
to have the head of a chess player,
the arms of an orangutan,
and the footwork of a ballet artist.
So, I had the arms of an orangutan.
Sal said he was gonna make
woman's boxing the next big thing.
He got the idea form a woman
named Lady Tyger,
after seeing her in the gym
and training.
I was born in New York, Harlem.
Growing up in the projects
wasn't all bad.
We played jump rope,
we played double Dutch.
Used to get into little
street fights, little scraps.
When I fought, I would scratch,
and they called it tiger marks,
so I got the name "Tiger".
My father was an alcoholic.
He sometimes would get drunk
and he would lie down in the lobby
of the building.
People would actually rob him
of the money for our rent,
food, and everything,
and it was all gone.
I loved my father, but that made it
a little difficult for me.
One day, I came home and I saw
my father watching Muhammad Ali.
He was going through the motions,
as if he was in the ring.
I looked at my father
and his enthusiasm,
and I felt that energy myself.
We would actually shadowbox
together in the apartment.
I said, "You know what?
I think this is something
that I wanna do."
And when I told my father
that I was interested in boxing,
he didn't say,
"Oh no, that's not for girls."
No, he didn't have
that attitude at all.
So, I went looking
for somewhere to train.
I went from gym to gym,
but they would laugh at me and say,
"This is not a sport for women."
No-one would take me in.
Women's boxing
in the early '70s was...
It really was more or less
When I started reading
boxing magazines,
along with the Charles Atlas ads
to get bigger muscles,
were ads for apartment boxing,
and they were selling
these eight-millimetre films
of women boxing,
sometimes topless,
and that was the extent
of women boxing
in the '60s and early '70s.
I was determined to be a boxer,
so I made business cards.
On the card it said
I was the first female boxer.
Eventually, a trainer accepted me,
and he brought me into his gym.
It was old-fashioned.
They initiated me
with beating me up.
Busted lip, a black eye,
bloody nose.
They were like trophies to me.
The first time I saw
Lady Tyger in the gym, I thought,
"That's odd, I hope she has
her own dressing room."
There was no bathroom for women.
They had to tell
the fellas to get out.
I started to take a shower there.
Then I noticed that they had
a peephole.
Oh my goodness.
But I kept coming back.
I started getting better and better.
I eventually earned their respect.
But one day,
someone at the gym told me,
"The State Athletic Commission
has a rule.
No woman can be
licenced as a boxer."
So, legally I can't box.
I said, "What?"
I said, "What are you talking about?
And what the hell is
a boxing commission?"
100- no. 189...
188 lbs. 188 lbs.
The purpose of a boxing commission
is to supervise the sport.
A boxer has to be licenced
by the State Athletic Commission.
The manager has to be licenced.
Even the announcer.
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen,
I have an announcement here.
A boxing licence
represents everything,
because without a licence,
you can't box professionally.
You wouldn't get paid,
so you can't make money.
In those days,
the most powerful boxing commission
was New York State.
It was home
to Madison Square Garden,
the most famous arena in the world.
It had more famous boxers
than any other state,
so it was logical that
the headquarters for boxing
should be New York City.
Because New York was the leader,
other states followed.
They copied their book.
It was almost word for word.
Pennsylvania, Illinois, California.
They all thought that women
did not belong in a boxing ring.
It's as simple as that.
PAT: Prospects for women
back then was, like,
raising the babies,
I was 16 when I got married
and I got pregnant,
and I was 17
when I had a second kid.
I was caged.
There was no freedom.
When I was 18,
I thought I was gonna have
a nervous breakdown.
I really wanted to commit suicide,
to be honest with you.
My best friend and my cousin
came and they said,
"We're taking you to the gym.
Let's get you out of the house."
So, we went
to the San Pedro Locker Club.
I didn't have any money,
so they snuck me in.
My best friend, she said,
"Yeah, come on downstairs,
they got a boxing ring down there."
I said, "Wow, really?
Let's go check it out."
So, I started hitting the bag.
I could feel, like, all the madness,
the chaos...
..the evil thoughts,
they all came out of my hands.
So many years of pain that
I didn't realise was gonna come out.
My childhood, even though
everything was wonderful,
bad things happen to little kids,
and it did.
I think I was four, the latest five.
Oh yeah, oh yeah,
somebody in the family.
Oh yeah.
And everybody hid it.
It was a dirty little secret.
Dirty little lies.
"Oh, you can't be
telling the truth."
I'm a little girl.
You don't make this shit up.
When I met that heavy bag,
that became my best friend by far.
Hitting something, hitting somebody,
was an outlet.
I liked that part.
And lo and behold, here comes
this big woman down the stairs.
I thought, "Shit, man,
that bitch is gonna turn round
and start telling me shit,"
cos I hadn't paid.
But she'd seen us box,
and she liked what she'd seen.
She said she wanted to be
the first female boxing manager,
and wanted me
to be a pro female boxer.
That was the first time
I met Dee Knuckles,
the manager
of San Pedro Locker Club.
Dee also told me that it was against
the law to box in California.
"And you want me to do this?"
She said, "You'll go ahead and
start boxing, and I'll start doing
what I need to do to find out
where we're gonna go from here."
I didn't have nothing else going on
in my life, so I said,
"Fuck it, why not?"
New York State
wasn't letting us box,
but I thought that I could change
their minds,
so I decided to put on
an exhibition
to show what real female boxers
could do.
An exhibition is just
a sparring match,
and you don't need al licence.
It should never be mistaken
for a real fight.
I needed an opponent, and I
immediately thought of Killer Diane.
I met her when I was a teenager.
You know what? I really
don't wanna talk about that.
No, let me stop.
That was just a joke.
Lady Tyger, she called me
Killer Diane, and it stuck.
I had several fights under my belt,
but they were all street fighting.
Eventually, I found a venue
that might accept us.
I was so, so happy.
Tyger and I were the first to try
to put on an exhibition like that.
It was on an all-male card,
and we were the only females.
We were on the under-undercard,
That was like- We were just,
kind of, pencilled in.
So, I get to the venue.
My father's with me.
Next thing I know, I was told
that we would have to wait
until all the men fight
before we fight.
Oh my goodness.
So, it's eight o'clock,
then nine o'clock.
I thought it would never happen.
But I see the people coming in
more and more,
and they're hyped, because
they wanted to see female boxers.
"Oh, woman boxers?
Oh, I got to see this."
And about 12 o'clock,
they allowed women to go on.
We put on a good exhibition.
I realised that
I had a dynamite hook.
You know, I was a legitimate hooker.
But, out of the blue, a man says,
"Those women should be shot."
They considered female boxers
fourth-class citizens.
They... degraded you.
My father went berserk.
Started to fight the guy.
And it became a disaster.
It was distracting.
I couldn't concentrate.
It made me feel very angry.
They had not taken it serious.
That's when I realised that
women need to get a boxing licence.
The licence would make us
So, I decided to go
to the State Athletic Commission,
to apply for a boxing licence.
New York was a mecca of boxing.
That was where it was so important
to be licenced in that state.
I saw another female boxer
called Jackie Tonawanda.
She was applying for a licence also.
It was a relief.
"I have someone else
that's interesting in boxing."
Me and Tyger, you see,
we'd like to get the licence.
I'd like to very much fight
at Madison Square Garden.
I had an interest in getting me
and my family out of the ghetto,
and I thought that boxing
would be the vehicle for that.
So, I wish
I was there at that meeting.
Would they accept it?
Would they give me a licence?
I don't know what they thought.
I had been coming along well
with the training,
and I felt confident that
I could box very well.
Sal was very anxious for me
to get in the ring.
Come here. You're doing the same
thing you did the other night.
Your head is way up. Get the
shoulder into it, man.
That's how you-
So, the next thing,
he's organising an exhibition.
I guess it's time to get in
and find out what I can do.
If you're knocked down and the bell
rings, the count continues.
You have to get up.
Cannot be saved by the bell.
You can't be saved by the bell,
except for the last round.
I get in the dressing room,
and that's when I started thinking,
"I'm an educated woman, and I'm
gonna go try to beat somebody up?"
I was having a complete
existential meltdown by that time.
So, it's time to go fight.
We get in the ring.
We started boxing, boom, boom, boom.
She came up with a hard right
and hit me in the nose,
and it hurt!
So, we went back
to the dressing room,
and I had a talk to myself,
in the mirror,
blood running down my lips,
and I said,
"This is never gonna happen again,
or you're gonna get out of this."
We went back to the gym.
Sal said, "If you keep that arm in
their face, you'll never get hit."
Plus, she can't even see
where she's going.
And you throw your left hook
to her face.
Sal was gonna make sure
I didn't get hit,
because he wanted to sell this face.
Come on, get the elbow down, OK?
He made me a deal.
He was gonna be the promotor,
I was gonna be the product.
"Sell me, baby. Make me some money."
Well, I'm looking at the notes
of the Athletic Commission.
You have two women who apply.
They call practically every day.
Well, they were persistent.
"The women have had no experience,
and they are in different weights.
Who are they going to fight?
You can't have them fight with men."
And I see Frank Morris is
the commissioner, said this.
I had a lot of respect for Frank
Morris. He's old-school boxing.
"I don't think women should be
referees, judges, or boxers.
Boxing is for men."
Oh, boy.
The doctors on the commission
are not in favour of it.
"The impact of a blow
could hurt the women physically."
Oh, well I gotta take
a deep breath on that one.
OK, this is what they said.
"If you get hit in the stomach,
you won't be able to have children."
Oh, please. Give me a break.
They were turned down.
I couldn't believe
what I was hearing.
You know, I want this opportunity,
I wanna fight.
Then, in September 1975,
everything changed.
The first professional fight
between women was sanctioned
by the State Boxing Commission,
after pressure from women's
rights groups.
Caroline Svendsen says she learned
her trade settling fights
when she was a bartender.
I was like, "Women boxing?
Are you kidding me?" (LAUGHS)
It was the first women to ever
fight in the state of Nevada.
This was a serious thing.
I was so happy, you know,
I was thinking that
this is a step forward.
I was training, and Dee comes.
She says, "I want you to hear this,"
because this woman in Nevada
had been licenced.
"Oh shit, I'm not alone.
Thank you, Jesus."
Nobody's beat my record,
nobody's knocked me out.
INTERVIEWER: How many fights?
I've had one. (LAUGHS)
But Nevada has always been
an anything goes kind of place.
Everything's legal.
Because we couldn't get licenced
in the state of New York,
what we needed was a real big state,
like California.
So, Dee and I agreed,
the gameplan is to go to Nevada,
to get a licence.
Come back to California.
Once you go pro,
you can't go amateur no more.
So, then I would say,
"I want my licence in California."
So, they had to let me
get my licence.
Dee Knuckles found an opponent
for me, and her name was Kim Maybee.
I was happy, I was excited.
But the public,
they don't want woman boxing.
Women boxing?
Ah, it's like a comedy thing.
I mean, it's very embarrassing.
Women ain't made to be hit
in the breast or the face like that.
Their body's not made to be punched.
A woman could never be a good boxer.
How could any woman who, just by
her daily existence, waits on men,
how could they possibly go in
the ring and start throwing punches?
Women think that they can really be
doing the things that men can do.
I don't really think so.
I don't think
it's a sport for women,
cos they're not physically
constituted to be boxers.
It's just not a sport for 'em.
The morning the day before
the fight, I get a call from Dee.
She said that the gym...
had been burned.
They didn't burn the whole gym.
It was the area
where my stuff was at.
And the policemen had to come.
Dee told them,
"She's had a lot of death threats."
And I was like,
"What death threats?"
"They wanna hurt you, Pat."
She hands me the letters.
They're predominantly males
being vicious and mean.
Things they would like to do.
And who sends all these letters,
Who wants to hurt me and my children
when I didn't do anything to nobody?
All I wanted to do was box.
For crying out loud, what the fuck?
Can somebody give me a break?
Dee kept the letters from me,
because she thought that
if I had any inclination
of this stuff, I would stop boxing.
But, you know what, all the rage,
the hate, the (ROARS)
you guys are not gonna stop me.
You can't. You can't.
This is something I want.
I'm ready for it.
REPORTER: For the first time
in California boxing history,
two women squared off in the ring
There was 10,000 people there.
The had the police escort me
into the ring,
because they were afraid that
somebody was gonna shoot me.
You get in the ring
and you got the crowd...
..that doesn't like
what you're doing,
so you really heard that hate.
You actually really heard it
from more of the women.
You know, "These fucking broads.
Check them out,
they think they can fucking fight,
and they're nothing
but a bunch of little bitches."
I'm only 20 years old.
Scared shitless.
And if things weren't already
complicated enough,
I was carrying a secret
that nobody knew.
I got a routine physical
from my physician,
who gave me
a clean bill of health.
But indicated that I was pregnant.
And then he said,
"So, you can't box."
I don't want the baby to get hurt,
but, at the same time,
I know that I have to do this.
It was about becoming somebody.
So, I said, "You have to change
this. I wanna fight."
Poor guy, he didn't know
whether to trust me or not.
But he said, "OK."
I told Dee that I was pregnant.
Dee was like,
"So, are you gonna fight?"
I said, "Well, hell yeah,
I'm gonna fight."
There's Kim Maybee. Oh, my god.
I was 5'4", she was 6'1".
I'm, like, little,
looking up at her like,
"Oh shit, I'm gonna get killed."
It's a mismatch,
but I wasn't gonna let it stop me.
Then, all of a sudden,
I started hearing the different,
you know, the changing of the minds,
the tone in their voices, you know.
Like, "Wow, I think
they enjoyed it."
But, all of a sudden,
she went for my stomach.
The reality kicked in, the baby,
and it was like, "Oh shit."
So, then I start covering up more.
She clocked me.
And it was like, "Whoa."
And then the referee's in front of
me like going like this, "Pat, Pat."
The fight was over.
She ended up winning,
but I didn't care, because I did it,
and I was ecstatic.
I accomplished what I wanted.
Which was?
Which was being the first female
licenced in California,
and the first fight in California.
And I became
California's first pro female boxer.
And the baby that I had nine months
later was...
healthy as can be.
Tonight's fight
did make boxing history.
Fighter and audience agree, there is
a place for women in the ring.
Once Pat Pineda was licenced
in the state of California,
it was like a domino effect.
Other states started
issuing licences.
Oregon, Washington, Utah,
Connecticut, and the list goes on.
REPORTER: How much does she weigh,
130 lbs. Fine, very good.
Sharon Oldbury
at the beauty parlour.
At the same time,
21-year-old Zenda Foster
was finishing her day at work.
That night, the two women met.
The first professional fight
between women in Washington.
Women are beautiful and great.
I left New York and I did a tour,
and I was the first to fight in
Canada, Pennsylvania,
We're gonna see a film clip
of the first female boxing match
in the history of Connecticut.
Observers say there was
no question the fighters
were of professional calibre.
They said, you know,
they thought that I was crazy.
A woman wanting to box?
I showed them my sincerity,
and they saw what I could do.
There were other women
in smaller states
that were getting licences to fight,
so Sal and I decided to just go down
and apply for a licence
in New York.
We marched down
to the commissioner's office,
filled out an application,
and I gave it to the New York
Athletic Commissioner at the time,
and he looked me straight
in the eye
and he tore it up in front of me
and put it in the trashcan.
What a "fuck you" moment.
So you don't think they should grant
women their licence in New York?
Definitely not. Not as fighters.
They wanna do it as wrestlers,
which is an exhibition, that's fine.
But as fighters,
where they can actually get hurt,
I'm very much against it.
Without New York on board,
the sport wasn't going to go
Women needed to be able
to have a licence in that state.
I wanted to be
the first to fight in New York,
but I wouldn't have that
opportunity without a licence.
And then I got a call from a lady
by the name of Dee Knuckles,
who said that she would manage me
in California.
My family was very sceptical
about it.
They were saying,
"You don't know this lady.
How do you know it's not a set-up?"
But I took a chance.
I took a gamble.
I left and went to California.
Dee Knuckles had a gym
and I met Pat Pineda there.
When I first met Tyger, I thought,
"This bitch is crazy,"
but I liked her, because I knew
her heart was in the right place
and she was the real deal.
Dee Knuckles wanted California to be
the centre of boxing for women.
I was at the after-school programme
for troubled kids,
and Dee Knuckles came in and said,
"Are you girls interested
in doing any fighting?"
"Sure, I am."
Lydia, she was the leader
of a gang at 15.
She actually had a killer instinct.
Bottom line.
I had the power.
Boxing, it sparked something in me.
It felt good to punch
somebody legally, like,
you're not gonna go to jail.
You'd have to right to do it.
The women are just
kind of popping up everywhere.
There was Diane Syverson,
Princess Redstar,
and Lavonne Ludian.
The grandmother.
They asked my name and I thought,
"Oh boy,
will I be able to pass an EEG?"
Or EKG. Which is the one
that checks the heart?
But anyway, I passed it.
I just told 'em I was 29,
but I had to be closer to 40.
They didn't guess that
I was an old lady. (LAUGHS)
And then there was me.
I wanted to be a police officer,
but they said
I was one half-inch too short.
I used to do exercises every day
trying to get up to that height.
But, instead,
I got into women's boxing.
I wanted to be part of history.
We had the same goal in life:
to be taken seriously
as professional fighters
or professional athletes.
We saw the importance
that we needed federations
that would rank the women,
just like the males.
So, on the West Coast, they set up
the WBB, the Women's Boxing Board.
And Lady Tyger was
ranked on the top.
There was nobody
that could compete with her.
ANNOUNCER: Lady Tyger Trimiar!
Blows kisses to the audience,
and shows that
she's definitely a showman.
I sparred with her
quite a few times.
She was hard to hit.
She's a pro, and she's special.
It's because she always kept
her head down.
She had strategy about her.
I'm not one to brag,
but I have to admit
that I was pretty good.
Then I heard about a fighter
on the East Coast.
ANNOUNCER: I see Cat Davis
making her way into the ring.
In the East Coast, Sal had
set up another federation,
the WBF,
or the Women's Boxing Federation.
CAT DAVIES: Sal and I decided
to go around the country,
to these other states,
outside New York.
ANNOUNCER: Cathy "Cat" Davis!
I was winning all my fights.
The winner, by knockout,
Cathy "Cat" Davis!
So, on the East Coast, with the WBF,
we had Cat at the top.
On the West Coast, with the
WBB, Tyger was ranked at the top.
There was a rivalry there, and
Tyger, she wanted to beat her ass.
I really, really
wanted to fight Cat Davis,
because she was in my weight class.
But I never heard from her
or any of those people
that was working with her.
Sal was involved with all
the business of it.
He found out who I was gonna fight.
So, I don't know exactly
what was going on there.
But we were focused on New York.
Without the New York
Athletic Commission on board,
women's boxing was going
nowhere fast.
I had to get that New York licence.
So, we decided to do this
protest exhibition.
We'd get a lot of publicity.
The athletic commission was livid.
WOMAN: I think she should do what
she wants. She has her rights.
What difference does it make?
If she wants to fight,
she should be able to fight.
They don't have any
jurisdiction over us,
because we don't have a licence.
So, I don't think
they can do anything but lock us up
for a misdemeanour, maybe
disturbing the peace or something.
So, they couldn't arrest HIM,
because he's a guy,
and it's perfect legal for him.
But for me, they would have
to arrest me for being a woman.
Which was silly.
Why did the commission call
the police the other day
and stop the exhibition?
Well, simply because it's not legal.
It's not legal for a woman to box.
In California, I was really
struggling to make a living.
It's a wonder I wasn't
on the boulevard with a tin cup.
We couldn't make
as much money as men.
I realised that we needed
a big boxing promoter
to get the sport going.
REPORTER: What does a boxing
promoter do? He hustles and sells.
He convinces the boxers to fight,
the money men
and television executives to invest,
and the public to watch.
In the mid-'70s,
there were two major promoters,
and that was Don King...
Today I'm standing
in the glory of the lord,
again being blessed by him
who sits high and looks low.
..and Bob Arum.
My name is Bob Arum,
I'm the attorney for Muhammad Ali.
Both promoters
operated from New York,
and basically
they monopolised the sport.
We've taken on all
the big institutions,
such as Madison Square Garden, and
all the major ones across the world.
Boxing is closer to showbusiness
than it is
to any other professional sport.
If the fighter is good and he has
charisma, you've got a goldmine.
They have to pay me
8 million that night.
What they pay him is their business,
but they have to pay me 8.
We had to think about how women
should market themselves.
We realised how important
setting our image was.
Boxing was a man's sport.
It is aggressive. It's not pretty.
But in the media,
women were expected to, like,
just be prim and proper.
So, I made sure everywhere
I showed up,
I got make-up on,
hair done, everything.
Or the men would've felt threatened.
You have to ask yourself,
what are you willing to compromise
to get where you wanna go?
Dee Knuckles, she tried
to make me like a showgirl,
and someone tried to pick me up
because he thought I was a hooker.
I didn't understand it,
because I didn't really
know what a hooker was.
I was innocent. (LAUGHS)
You know?
One fighter that didn't compromise
with anything?
Definitely Tyger.
No, I didn't shave
my head for boxing,
but now it's considered a trademark.
I like to be unique.
I like to be different.
That's one of the reasons
I have the shaved head.
People might think
that it was a masculine move,
but you don't have
to have hair to be a woman.
For me, it was important
to be an individual.
She was ahead of her time,
where we were all tunnel-visioned.
There was never any doubt in my mind
who was gonna be the poster girl.
She's a 23-year-old, 5'10, 135-lbs
blonde named Cathy "Cat" Davis.
And, of course,
the logical question is,
what's a girl like you
doing in a sport like boxing?
She was a beautiful-looking blonde.
Really easy on the eye.
She was in the magazines,
I was the first woman
on the cover of Ring Magazine.
It created such a controversy,
and the people who still didn't want
us to have a licence were incensed.
When I saw Cat Davis on the cover
of Ring Magazine,
I thought, "OK...
how low can Ring Magazine go?"
Cat Davis set the benchmark
for how other women should
market themselves in the sport.
Sal wanted me to be more feminine,
and he said he didn't want
to be associated with feminists,
with those kind of women, he said,
so that it would be more acceptable
to a wider range of people.
How many men have you hit?
Never hit a man in my life.
You're kidding!
No. I'm not a fighter
outside of the ring.
Outside the ring you're a...
I'm a pussycat.
Sal moved us into an apartment,
and we lived together,
just the two of us.
The arrangement was
we were still manager and boxer.
But he was trying to create
a... relationship
other than just boxing.
He actually put the rumours out
that we were engaged
and going to get married.
But it was a lie.
And I would debunk that.
I would say,
"No, we're not engaged."
But after a while,
everybody took it as the truth.
Well, there's always a lot
of the boxing trainers
that wanna have sex with you,
and if you didn't go with them,
they would say that you were gay,
you know.
Dating was a little difficult.
One day a guy was walking me home
and then a lady in the building said
"Tyger, when is your next fight?"
and he said,
"Fight? Oh you're a boxer"
and I never saw him again.
I really wanted to be married
and have maybe two or three kids.
But boxing was my priority.
You know, and I had to do it
while I was young.
That was the sacrifice
that I made to box.
Women should be able to participate
in all walks of life.
This is America and everything
should be open to everybody.
Tyger was a one-woman
campaigning machine.
She was like nonstop 24/7, out
for any female that wanted to box.
Most of my fight
was outside of the ring.
Going on hunger strike.
Picketing, commission meetings,
I wrote letters, petitions,
all of these things to promote
female fighters.
Lady Tyger did everything
to change the minds
about women's boxing.
I had my doubts
about women boxing, but hey,
it looks sensational to me.
I mean,
if they got the guts to do it
and the determination,
I think they should try.
Every time Don King
came to California,
I would be right there to ask him
to promote women's boxing.
Eventually he said that he would.
Don King, he said he promises
to use women boxers, so I want
everybody to put pressure on him
because he made that promise to.
MAN: Alright!
Suddenly I'm hearing from Don King,
Bob Arum, big promoters,
and they wanna put me
in Madison Square Garden,
the biggest venue in town
which was a big deal.
I would be making
hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Time for a party baby! (LAUGHS)
That's a good question.
Finally we were on the verge
of getting legitimacy.
But the one caveat
was we had to have
a licence in New York,
which we hadn't gotten yet.
We needed help with the fight.
I graduated in 1974
and the first time I went to court
the judge looked at me and said,
"When's the lawyer coming here?"
and I said "Judge, I AM the lawyer."
I met Cat and Sal
and they told me
women were prohibited from getting
a licence to box in New York
and I said,
"Well that doesn't sound right."
The New York State Athletic
Commission said that
women's boxing would possibly
be too pornography,
seeing two women box is,
you know, everybody's fantasy.
"This could cause irreparable
harm to the image of the sport
and ultimately add to the
financial detriment of those
whose livelihoods depend
upon this activity." Meaning men.
I felt the denial
of licences to women
was a violation of the
14th Amendment of Constitution
which prohibits discrimination
on the basis of being a woman.
They can sue.
REPORTER: The attractive blond
boxer served papers on the
New York State Athletic Commission
requiring the Commission
to show cause
why she's being refused a licence
to box in this state.
Beautiful, alright.
Now, you're gonna step in under
and bring the uppercut up, right.
Maybe we were moving toward
getting a boxing licence,
but behind the scenes it was-
it was getting more tense.
Alright, get ready.
Work. Go ahead now.
That's it.
Sal was putting more pressure on me
to be his wife.
He was very insistent.
Now he would kiss me and hold me,
I realised how controlled I felt.
I needed an escape from that.
So I enrolled in university.
I was teaching women's studies,
I walked into class,
and there, halfway back,
was this really striking woman.
I was immediately curious about her.
I had a woman's studies professor,
she would talk about
different things in her life
that she was doing;
rock climbing and- and travelling,
and I started noticing
I was envious of her.
Her freedom was very alluring to me.
I didn't know women boxed.
She told me about the relationship
between manager and athlete.
This sounds like pimp
and prostitute.
No wonder this woman is
You know, every month we would
get together and do something.
And, one afternoon,
we were hanging out...
and she leaned over and kissed me.
It changed my whole life.
I knew I had been denying something.
Only half of me...
Being gay was a horrible thing.
It was...
I- It's hard to explain,
the gravity of what happened to you
if you came out as being gay.
It's so senseless.
You love a person,
and you have to pay for it
in such a dire way.
A gay is not a creation of God.
There is hope
for the homosexuals that,
if they're willing to turn from sin
they can be ex-homosexuals, the same
as there can be an ex-murderer,
an ex-thief or ex-anybody.
A lot of people,
male and female, are homophobic.
And people think, "Oh,
are they this or are they that?"
Instead of, we're just women
that are interested in boxing.
Beverley and I, we couldn't see
each other very often,
so we started exchanging letters.
One day Sal found a love letter
that she had sent me.
And he- he blew up.
Sal said it was gonna tear
women's boxing apart.
We were doing something that upset
the roles we have in society.
If we were exposed as gay,
it would confirm
all of the nay-sayers
that it was just a gay thing.
Sal gave her an ultimatum;
him or me.
Foolish move on his part,
cos it's pretty clear to me
what she's gonna choose here.
It was the best thing for the sport,
for me to be straight.
So I decided
to break it off.
It felt like a huge disappointment.
Dare I say, almost betrayal.
It was such a sacrifice.
But I had to make it to get
the licence and change history.
I was 27 and three years out of law
school, with very little experience,
suing New York state,
you know,
a division of New York state.
What the hell was I thinking?
Then, I discovered Cat's licence
was denied
on the recommendation
of the Medical Advisory Board.
But I subsequently learned
that the Medical Advisory Board
had never met.
Gotcha. (LAUGHS)
How stupid are you?
If you're gonna do something,
at least do it right
so you don't get caught. (LAUGHS)
Then, I received a call,
and they told me that the court
agreed that prohibiting women
from being licenced to box
in New York state was
unconstitutional and discriminatory
and that I could call Cat and say,
"You're getting a licence."
And it just- it was wonderful.
Wow, yes!
A recent State Supreme Court
decision allowing women
the right to fight professionally.
Things were really rolling
so I flew out to New York.
The day finally comes.
And I go right down
to the State Athletic Commission.
Can't believe
we finally got this form.
Fingerprints, pictures,
and they're gonna accept it all.
They're gonna give out the boxing
licence to Jackie Tonawanda,
Cat Davis and myself.
We have three women
with us today
who are among the first to apply
for licences within this state.
They gave us our licence,
the little piece of paper
that we had fought so hard for.
And we got it.
Oh my god, it was a big thing.
The money was gonna come,
everything was gonna come with it.
The New York licence wasn't
just a piece of paper,
it was a symbol of achievement.
New York was the final piece
of the puzzle.
This was a massive deal.
After waiting all that time
I should've been happy.
But what they did was
they handed Cat Davis
the licence first,
even though Jackie and I
were the first to apply.
You know. Everybody knew getting
the licence first means a lot.
Lady Tyger wasn't happy,
and she was grumbling a bit,
because she and Jackie had been
trying for a licence before me.
And they were a bit annoyed that
the cracker got the licence first.
I felt hurt for Tyger.
It's like they shouldn't have
done it that way to her.
Cat was white, the great white hope.
And in boxing that was a big thing.
Although all three of them
got the licence,
it was clear that it was
all about one of 'em.
Our guest's name is Cat Davis.
Cat Davis was on this TV show.
When are you gonna fight in Madison
Square Garden and could you fill it?
Yes, definitely I could.
And that TV show.
The financial independence
I have now is-
is mainly through boxing,
from boxing.
And good management.
And good management,
and good publicity, and what else
did you tell me to say?
So now that we've got the licence,
the deal at Madison Square Garden
was gonna come through.
I got an offer of $150,000.
I'm a native New Yorker and I wanted
to fight at Madison Square Garden.
And I wanted to fight Cat Davis.
But that didn't happen.
I never- never had an opportunity
to fight in New York.
I got my licence,
and I was never able to use it.
I had no other choice
but to go back to California.
I was in really bad shape
And a friend of mine told me
about another way of making money.
Apartment boxing.
Oh, my goodness.
It was women that
would box businessmen
who got off on it sexually.
That's what they wanted
to spend their money on,
was getting their ass kicked,
they loved it.
You don't get naked,
you don't take off your clothes,
nothing like that.
But some people might call it
a form of prostitution.
It meant that I was able
to pay my rent and pay my bills
so that I could continue
with my career.
But, with women's boxing,
you don't know what to expect.
A couple of weeks
after Lady Tyger and Cat Davis
got their boxing licences,
an article came out
in The Village Voice;
it dropped a bomb in the sport.
"Cat Davies is a kinky
media phenomenon,
a product of the
Great American Hype Machine.
Cat is a lady boxer who is white,
blonde and pretty."
"White, pretty
and not what she appears to be.
Her manager, Sal Algieri,
is a tank artist
and accused of fight fixing."
Sal and Cat were known
for being a little underhanded,
I'm sorry, I- I shouldn't say
bad things about people
when they offered a fight to me,
I told 'em that I was out of shape,
that I hadn't been working out
so I told 'em I don't think
I should do it, they said,
"Oh don't worry about it,
it's just an exhibition".
I got in the ring with Cat Davis,
and, boy, I'm telling you,
she came on like gang busters.
My trainer says,
"They're serious about this fight,
they're gonna beat you up".
My trainer, he saw how defeated
I felt over the whole scenario,
it caused me to quit
and that made me sad.
Sal Algieri and Cat Davis,
they just were not good
for the boxing picture.
It was really shocking
when this article came out.
I don't know if she knew
or had any kind of idea
that Sal was fixing her fights.
I don't know.
I really can't remember...
any fights that look like
they were fake.
COMMENTATOR: Cat Davis, who in 16
fights has won 15 by knockouts...
When somebody hits the ground
with a thud,
that's a real knockout.
Nobody could say I was a fake.
Maybe she knew and was in on it
or maybe she had no idea,
and truly believed
she was a great fighter.
REPORTER: I'm standing on the
business end of a punching bag...
with Women's Lightweight Boxing
Champion of the World,
so certified
by The Women's Boxing Federation.
Have you ever been hurt,
knocked out?No.
What happens when you do?
I don't think that'll ever happen.
When do you defend your title next?
Well, my next fight is a non-title
fight in Atlanta, Georgia.
Ernestine was like my daughter,
she was such a sweetheart
and she'd come down to the gym
and sit there and watch the guys
and I started teaching her
how to box a little bit,
she just wanted to stay in it
and wanted to be a boxer.
So I took her to Georgia,
and she met Cat Davis.
I heard that Sal
talked with Ernestine's manager
before the fight and said,
"Your girl got to lose,
she has got to lose because
a black girl has no market value".
I thought that was just,
that was just mean but it's-
it's reality here. It's reality.
Sal Algieri's under the impression
that Ernestine Jones
was gonna get beat up,
but they didn't know that
Ernestine wasn't coming out there
to play around.
We start boxing,
everything is going alright,
and I kept that left jab out.
Everybody was all around, they were
waiting for Cathy to lower the boom.
The jab is something that everybody
think that nobody can get away from.
Ernestine threw a right hand
over the top of it,
and she just stifled up like a board
and fell down, flat out,
just lay there
like a canoe or something,
it looked like she was
gonna float away.
I thought it was over with.
It was the first time
I got knocked out.
The referee's counting,
I went to the corner,
and I told Sal,
"I can't feel my feet".
They stood Cathy up and Ernestine
threw the same smart punch
and Cathy, she was laid out,
looked dead.
Algieri came up there and told me
to get out the ring,
I don't know what for,
but she hurt bad,
and they put the ammonium nitrate
underneath her nose,
that wakes people up
if they get knocked out.
I must've been in
and out of consciousness.
They started the fight back up
and this time Cathy
didn't even throw a punch.
She's laying there a third time,
I said,
"That's it, the fight's over."
I said, "This girl is gonna have
brain damage,
you can't knock a person out
three times in one night".
Yeah, she was out cold.
They carried her out,
took her to a hospital.
Ernestine had a purpose,
and it wasn't to make the money,
it was knock the air out
of Sal Algieri's dream
and that's what happened.
But Sal called it a no contest,
there was nothing we could do.
Well, I kind of struggle with memory
because my brain
isn't quite together,
I had a stroke seven years ago
but I'm not stupid,
I can still carry on. (CHUCKLES)
it's just that I can't...
you know, there are blank spaces.
The article on this fight
was devastating for Cat
and for the sport of women's boxing.
This boxer was supposed to be the
great white hope of women's boxing,
but... you know, all the...
the potential deals dried up.
The corruption didn't just end
there, it was also in California.
In the boxing world there were those
that took it really seriously
and there was those that just did it
for the money, you know?
Dee Knuckles scheduled for me
the fight with Cora Webber,
I had to be on my Ps and Qs
with her ass because
that white girl was tough,
believe me.
But before the fight
Dee Knuckles says,
"You don't have to do
anything but drop."
I didn't even understand
what the word drop meant
until I finally realised that means
for me to hit the canvas.
You know, and Dee Knuckles
is sitting there, she goes,
"It's just, all you gotta do
is just drop, Lydia,
we'll pay you a little extra."
Cora Webber!(CHEERING)
Very hard for me to understand
why would they do something
like that to me when I put all my
heart and soul into what I'm doing?
You know, they wanted
to build up a white girl.
I don't think Cora Webber,
I don't think she knew,
but Dee Knuckles,
I was pissed off at that bitch.
Pfft. I said, "I'm not dropping".
And boy, did I fuckin' go nuts.
I'm not dropping, I'm not dropping.
And we had a draw.
A draw! (APPLAUSE)
I didn't know the business
was so crooked like that, pfft,
it's not gonna get anywhere
because if women are doing that
let it be and I'm out,
you know I'm out of it so...
At my first fight, I thought
maybe I could trust Dee,
but I later found out that she had
bet against me at the fight.
She did, bitch, she did,
she bet against me
cos she knew I was pregnant,
and she knew that
I wasn't gonna win
and she did get a new car
and so it, it pissed me off so bad
when I turned around and I just
said, "You know what? Fuck you Dee".
After that I was done.
If Dee was here today,
shit, I'd call her on everything,
I said,
"You know you fucked up, you know
you screwed us all."
But I would also tell her thank you
because I wouldn't be Pat Pineda,
California's first
pro female fighter,
if it wasn't for Dee Knuckles.
We were trying to build up the sport
and the phony fights and all,
all, all the things
was letting us down,
but I couldn't let that bother me.
Then someone put on
an all-female fight card,
that's the first time
that happened anywhere.
All females fighting.
I was honoured to be amongst
female boxing greats,
and making history.
And I was crowned World Champion.
But I don't even have
a trophy to prove it.
Once you work hard enough to get
to the top of your profession,
the top of your sport, that you win
a certain kind of respect, Tyger won
the World Lightweight Championship
for women, how much did you make?
Err, about $1,500,
you see it's so embarrassing
that I, I really don't like to,
you know, mention it when Hadler's
making 3 million
and it's just a shame that
Miss Piggy gets more publicity
than we do, you know? Really.
We'll be right back.
And around this time
I'm getting a little older,
I would like to have a nice husband.
So there was a guy
that would come to the gym,
he'd keep himself in shape
and he was part of a motorcycle gang
called The Chosen Few.
they wore leather and
they kind of were rough necks,
but I enjoyed them.
I rode on the back of the bike, and
it was a, it was a whole lot of fun.
It was really a cool relationship.
One day we drove to Las Vegas.
In Vegas they have
a lot of chapels there,
this marriage chapel,
that marriage chapel,
and we got married just like that.
Sal wanted me to continue to box
but I was denying this part of me
that had been...
repressed for so many years
and I had to,
had to start living an authentic
life or I was just gonna,
I was done with living,
it was, it was my, it was my time.
So I packed up at night
so Sal wouldn't know anything
about it and headed west.
I drove three nights to get
across country to California
and I met Beverly
on my birthday
in Yosemite.
Oh, it was such an incredible
feeling of freedom.
Finally I could be me.
After I got married, it got
a little bit more complicated,
he thought that he owned me,
it became a disaster,
he started being abusive.
One day I was at my apartment,
I got out of the shower,
had a bath robe on,
and he said, "You're coming with me"
and I said, "No, I'm not going"
and he was pulling me,
and he had a pistol,
he hit me in the stomach
and everywhere,
it was pretty bad.
Everybody expects Tyger
to be a Tyger,
you know...
being strong in most situations,
it's very difficult to- to uphold
that, you know that type of thing.
So I went to the hospital, they
said, "You know, you're pregnant,
you know, you're- you're pregnant"
and I was like, "Wow".
If I had stayed there in California,
I knew I would've either killed him
or he would've killed me,
it was, it was no, nothing else,
no ands, ifs or buts
so I had to get out.
I decided to leave California
which also meant
that was the end of my boxing career
and I had to start a life
all over with my son.
I thought that through boxing
I would be able to buy a house
for my family and get out of the
but it didn't work for me.
I'm ready to leave, let me put
everything in place for you.Mm-mm.
Let me put this. A-ha. Oh yeah.
Get out this.
My eyedrops.
I put the eyedrops on the afternoon,
Don't worry for this.
Yeah. OK. So (KISSES).OK.
OK, thank you so much, Carmen!
See you tomorrow, Big Mama.
Have a good night!
I'm gonna lock the door.
How you doing, Cat?
Is this the Tyger?
Oh my god!
Here! Give me a hug.
I want a hug! I want a hug.Oh!
Oh you're in a wheelchair too?
I'm in a chair.
Oh gosh I, I walk like I should be.
Mwah.How are you, sweetheart?
Oh how are you, how are you?
We looking pretty good
for old girls!
Oh my god, we are old, aren't we?
Yeah, yeah.
I want you to have a seat.
When you think about those days,
I still can't believe how badly
we were hated and how much
we were- how badly we were treated.
Oh. Yeah, yeah.
It's so mixed up in my mind.
What happened.
Yeah, so, why did Sal, you know,
did you know that Sal was doing
all this crooked stuff?
No clue.Wow.
I, I was-
You were innocent in all this?
I was just this golden girl.
Right, right.
And I think that was the whole
pitch that he put forward
and I just, I didn't like it
because it was a lie.
And he wasn't a bad man.
He was just a hustler
so that was what he was.
Was he your boyfriend or what?
But he was-
He wanted to be my boyfriend.
And he wanted to be married-
Get out of here!
Yeah! (LAUGHS) But also,
I was trying to figure out
who I was sexually,
I ended up being gay.
But that was a big turmoil for me,
yeah, I was...
Yeah, it must've been hard being gay
and not being able to express
that part of your life.
Well, it was but at that point I
wasn't even admitting it to myself.
Wow, but let me ask you something,
I wanna know, OK, when,
when we were all licenced
you were given your licence first.
Did you think it was fair,
I would like to know-
I didn't actually know this,
I, I wasn't that in tune,
I wasn't that...
politicised at that time...
But it didn't dawn on you
that you were getting
a lot of publicity then?
Oh yeah, that dawned on me
because it was obvious.
Mm-mm, yeah it was obvious.
That was obvious.
I heard a lot, then it was
because it was so unfair-
And it was so unjust.
OK.I'm so sorry we didn't get
a chance to get to know each other.
You were my adversary, you know
Sal made you out to be,
you know, this person I didn't
wanna have any contact with...
Wow...so, he wouldn't let me
interact with you,
or any of the other gals.
That's not nice.
I didn't, I didn't know any of them.
I think we would have
been great friends.
I think so too.Yeah.
Look who's coming,
that looks like Pat, Pat Pineda!
Oh my god, Tyger!
No, hug honey, hug.
I wanna hug. Oh my god.
Oh, she is wonderful to hug.
How are you? You look skinny,
how d'you do that?
You don't wanna know.
Cat, oh my God, nice to meet you.
Oh yeah, I don't think
I've ever met you, have I?
No, you've never met me.
Oh gosh...
Oh my god.No!
Sue, Sue Fox.
How you doing, Sue?
Wait a minute,
I don't think I've ever met you,
but I've talked to you on the phone,
haven't I?Yes, you have.
Oh, my God, it's awesome.
And me and Sue go way back.
How are you?I'm so angry
we never became friends.
You know, I know we've maybe had
horror stories and everything.
I know I've had my share.
And it was hard.
The suffering was unbearable,
I mean, come on, I had two kids,
I was getting out of the marriage.
You had it tough.
Trying to get babysitters,
trying to get to the gym.
You know, it took me years
to understand what we had done.
I, I didn't realise it at the time.
I just thought
we were something everybody hated.
Well, we didn't get accepted.
We need this documented.
This is our story.
When I look back at the sport,
we were not erased from the record
books because of controversy
or corruption,
or because no-one cares
about women's boxing.
We were written out of history
because it's men who have always
written the history of boxing
and they didn't think our story
was worth telling.
Well, we're determined
to set the record straight.
They can't take that away from us.
Yeah.And we were erased.
We're not erased now.
This is why I'm getting emotional.
I'm gonna start crying, I'm so happy
to be with all you guys.Exactly!
It's wonderful.It is healing,
it's, um, it's amazing.
We're all here.
Let's make a circle of power.
You better believe it, and I love
all you guys; I really do.
Nobody can take what we did,
in history, away.
We're free again.
We're actually free at last.
At last.Yeah.
While none of us made millions or
fought at Madison Square Garden,
we were the spark that started a
fire, that's burning brightly today.
Lady Tyger!
In September 1978, she was one
of the first women granted licences,
tireless advocate for women
in the sport,
Marian "Lady Tyger" Trimiar.
I love you, love you, love you.
It was always Lady Tyger's goal
to have a belt.
She was a trailblazer.
Lady Tyger now has a belt.
Oh, thank you! Thank you!
Thank you! Oh!
Oh, thank you!
Thank you all!
Bless you all!
Thank you! Oh!
Oh, my God.
Oh, thank you!