Jackie Tonawanda was born in the boxing ring and dies at age 75.

Jackie Tonawanda TKO's male boxer!

Jackie Tonawanda TKO's male boxer!

Jackie Tonawanda, the popular boxer dubbed “The Female Ali,” died Tuesday at age 75 at Harlems  Mount Sinai Hospital.  The cause of death was the colon cancer she fought but could not seem to beat.

Jackie, always enamored with the art of boxing, could never figure out why the game had excluded women, so as a young girl, she set out to do something about it.

In 1975, she scored a big victory against the New York State Athletic Commission. Lady Ali went to court against then-boxing commissioner Edwin Dooley, who refused to grant her a license because state law had disqualified women from professional fighting.

The upshot was that the judge scolded the commission for “continuing attitudes espoused a century ago.”

He ruled for Jackie saying: “This court will not hold that women should be precluded from a profession exploiting whatever skills they may have in the sport of boxing merely because they are women.”

It was case closed, so Jackie donned her trunks, had her hands taped, put on a pair of gloves and went about her business in the ring, where she had 36 fights and lost only one.

Trained by Davey Vasquez, a former Daily News Golden Glover champ, Jackie was good enough to knock out two male fighters, one a kickboxer.

Who said girls can’t fight?

She trained steadily at Gleason’s Gym and was also tutored by the famed trainer Freddie Brown.

Jackie also worked for Muhammad Ali as a bodyguard at the former champ’s training camp in Deer Lake, Pa.

One time, while at Gleason’s, I asked this pioneer how she rated the women boxers of the time. “They’re good and improving steadily by the year,” she said.

I then asked where the future of women’s boxing was headed?

“I don’t approve of women ever fighting guys, if that’s what you’re asking,” said the gal who clocked two of them.

For years Jackie was a loyal member of “Ring 8,” a close-knit organization of retired fighters.

If you would like to read more about ring 8 click here:

Gerry Cooney, the “almost” heavyweight champion, is a fellow member who knew Tonawanda from her boxing beginnings. He had high praise for her yesterday. “I loved her for how honest she was and how proud she was of herself.

“And I always wanted to let her know how important a person she was.”

And with that, Gerry summed up the lady boxer and the high integrity she carried with her.

Funeral arrangements are not yet set, but you can bet all of Ring 8 plus those who love boxing will be at her wake.


1 Response to “Jackie Tonawanda was born in the boxing ring and dies at age 75.”

  1. 1 JOE
    2009/06/15 at 4:40

    What a shame. She was a national treasure and boxing pioneer.

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