She used to be a corporate lawyer. Now she’s the star of women’s boxing.
Words Lydia Bigley
It’s a long way from the golden beaches of Australia to a small dingy boxing gym in East London and an even bigger jump from the glamorous world of corporate law to the blood and sweat of boxing, but 36-year-old professional boxer Laura Saperstein (aka ‘Boxergirl’) has never been one for convention. She won her third professional fight in convincing fashion in April and is trying to organise the next one.
Saperstein grew up on a farm in a small town near Byron Bay on the East coast of Australia. She describes her childhood as unusual, leading an outdoor,
tomboyish lifestyle, riding horses and surfing. After studying Communications she planned on becoming a journalist, before deciding to enrol on a law degree course. After graduating with first class honours she got a job in corporate law in Sydney before being headhunted by a major legal firm in London. Saperstein wasn’t too enthusiastic about moving. ‘I really thought I’d last just a year. I couldn’t fathom what could be enjoyable about England with its shitty weather, and having grown up being an outdoor person.’ Yet London inspired her and she stayed.
But Saperstein never really felt like she fitted in to the corporate lifestyle and didn’t plan on staying in it for the long haul. After a friend asked her to come along to a kick-boxing class for moral support in 2003, she was hooked. She then decided to switch to boxing, but wasn’t prepared for how difficult it would be. ‘It hadn’t occurred to me that boxing was considered less acceptable for women than kick-boxing. It was really hard to find somewhere to train.’ Despite the difficulties she was determined to stick with it.
She had ten fights as an amateur before leaving behind her career in corporate law and turning pro in 2006, but has struggled to find fights. ‘I had my professional licence for a whole year before I had my first fight because things kept falling through. The situation was diabolical in England. It’s improved a lot over the last year, but there are still huge barriers and no money in women’s boxing.’ She also received hate mail after her first fight.
But she remained resolute. ‘You’ve got to be extremely single-minded and determined and willing to have every door slammed in your face. Having watched other women train and not succeed and then give up has made me even more determined that this isn’t going to happen to me. I will not give up. Still there have been times when I’ve struggled, but that’s the way it is when you are trying to break down barriers.’
Saperstein did have a brief and unusual breakthrough when boxing promoter Frank Moloney signed her. Moloney is famous for his opposition to women’s boxing having once said, ‘the only reason for women to be in the ring is as ring card girls.’ However, he believed that Saperstein could make them both some money. In the end the experience wasn’t very enjoyable for either of them and they parted ways after just one fight. Saperstein is now looking for a new promoter.
So where does she want to go with her boxing? ‘I just want the opportunity to get better, to challenge for a title and to try to raise the profile of the sport and make it easier for the girls that come along after me. Having women’s Boxing in the Olympics would make a huge difference. There’s along way to go, but it can keep growing and younger girls might finally have the chance to be included alongside the guys at an amateur level.’
Published in Diva magazine, July 2008, issue 146