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Could Gender Crossovers Change the Future of Men's and Women's Sports Leagues?

Entertainment News

Claressa Shields Instagram

The undefeated women's light middleweight boxing champion, Claressa Shields, challenged 6x men's champion, Keith Thurman to face her in the ring — and he accepted.

Considerably the best female boxer of all time, Shields currently dominates her class with a 14–0 record. She is also the only boxer, male or female in history, to hold four major boxing world titles in two weight classes simultaneously.

Keith Thurman maintains a record of 30–1, with a 70% knockout rate. He is relatively inactive in the sport, having fun only once in the last four years, despite, his records are more than enough credibility to surpass his absence. An initial exchange between the two boxers began on Twitter with Shields asserting she he is bigger and taller than Thurman, and willing to fight him even at 154 pounds.

“All the respect in the world to him too. I just think I can outbox him," she stated. Thurman responded to Shields boastful tweets further emphasizing he'd only be willing to fight for charity, moreover, limiting his physical advantages over Shields.

“If the fans were actually interested in something like this, for the people, for charity, I will make something like this happen,” Thurman told Sporting News.

“I would wear bigger gloves, I would let her wear smaller gloves. I would let her wear headgear too. I don’t really wanna punch a girl in the face.” Claressa is adamant that she can do just fine without the restrictions and gear modifications, making light of Thurman’s obvious caution.

“Aww, Keith you are hilarious. Yes, you are a man and champion, but you are not good enough to only use one hand on me,” she responded via Twitter.

Though the match is considered unprecedented, technically, it isn’t the first time a male and female have stepped in the ring together. In 1975, Jackie Tonawanda was the first woman to fight in Madison Square Garden with a KO against Larry Rodania.

In 1999, the highly publicized match between Margaret Macgregor and Loi Chow took place in Seattle’s Mercer Arena. Once women’s sports leagues became officially integrated, they were strictly separate from the men, mostly accounting for the biological difference between the two counterparts.

In addition, this gave women the honor to compete in their respective leagues, as well as showcasing their athletic talents and abilities. This long-standing boundary has typically swayed one gender from competing with the other — with the exception of co-ed sports. In time, this line has thinned as gender identification becomes a societal norm. In 2019, CeCe Telfer, a transgender woman, won the NCAA Division II 400 Meter Hurdle, competing against other cisgender females.

*Cisgender: a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex registered for them at birth; not transgender.

In 2022, Lia Thomas, also a transgender woman, would win the NCAA Division I Swimming 500-yard freestyle, while competing against cisgender females.


A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that transwomen still possess an athletic advantage over biological women even after one year of hormone therapy. One thing that CeCe Telfer, Lia Thomas, and Keith Thurman all have in common is the physical advantages associated with being a biological male. Keith Thurman was obviously hesitant in his acceptance of the callout from Claressa Shields, going as far as modifying the fight to level the competitive field. Though Shields rejected the restrictions [head gear, smaller gloves] what if there was no true implication of pity?

Thurman could also recognize his biological advancement combined with being a professionally trained boxer. Cece Telfer’s and Lia Thomas’ competitors weren’t given a “head start” in their races, nor did Telfer and Thomas wear extra weight during competition. All parties involved were expected to compete as equals even though they biologically are not.

Sports fans and analysts heavily advised against the charity match, seemingly for the sake of both fighters. In an excerpt from the Stephen A. Smith show, Smith chastised Thurman for even considering the potential fight.

"My brother it's a no-win situation," Smith said on his show. "You're either going hit her and have women's groups complaining about how you hit a woman; or she's going to kick your ass."

He continued, "You get a couple of fights, a couple of knockouts, and you'll be 32-1. "You tryna tell me you can't get a fight against men, who are real fighters?" Let’s say the Shields v Thurman bout becomes sanctioned, takes place, and Claressa Shields wins. Her recognition would be immense yet her success could affect future expectations or even perspectives for women competing against biological males regardless of their gender identity.

For example, after the World Rugby League became the first international sporting league to ban transgender women, 200 biologically female athletes including Candace Parker and Billie Jean King signed a friend-of-the-court brief, supporting the rights of transgender women to participate in female sports.

On the contrary, if Thurman wins he is likely to be shunned for even stepping in the ring, let alone put his gloves to a woman. However, he would also unsurprisingly prove the physical advancement men carry over women, and why that is a critical fact to be considered in sports competitions.

The dates and location of the charity match are currently to be determined.


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