Reclaiming Fitspo: Jackie Tonawanda
Born in New York in 1933, “The Female Ali” was a pioneer in women’s heavyweight boxing.
Originally named Jackie Garrett, the Female Ali took on her mother’s maiden name around the same time that she sued the state of New York to be granted a boxing license, all in 1975. She eventually won this legal battle, becoming the first woman to be granted a license to box in New York state (alongside Cathy Davis and Marian Trimiar).
She’s known to have only one officially documented fight: In 1979, she went against Diane Clark in Madison Square Garden. She lasted six rounds before eventually losing. Yet despite her poor official record, Tonawanda was well-known in the boxing and martial arts communities. The majority of her career took place in underground, unsanctioned fights.
Tonawanda was the first female boxer to become a member of Ring 8 (the Veterans Boxing Association) and to be inducted into their Hall of Fame, as well as the Madison Square Garden’s Hall of Fame. She has even been honored outside of the ring, thanks to her wide support for such charitable causes as Athletes Against Drunk Driving.
Tonawanda passed away in 2009 after a long battle with colon cancer.
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