In the 1950's in America, women's boxing bouts were regarded as exhibitions. In that era a female from Yourkshire, England Barbara "
The Mighty Atom of the ring" Buttrick, was inspired by a boxer from the early 1900's named Polly Burns. Buttrick was only 4'11" and 98 lb but proclaimed herself, "small but mean." She purchased boxing gear, a book on the art of self-defense and headed to a boxing gym. There, her 118lb boxing coach Len Smith, who later became her husband, trained Buttrick for three hours a day.
Opponents were difficult to find because British officials refuse to recognized female boxing so Buttrick fought in other countries like France. The resourceful Buttrick took with her a portable ring that she would set up when she found someone willing to fight her.
Barbara fought for the sheer love of the sport and the passion of competition. In those days there was not the hype you see in women's boxing today. For Buttrick there was no glitter, no glamour, just the burning desire to prove herself against another woman in the ring. On occasions she would fight as many as 30 rounds a day. Buttrick said in an interview, "It was our job tt put up the show, fight all day and then pull it down again. Saturday nights, we would not go to bed, we would just get into the trucks and drive to the next city. It was a very hard life but good training.
Sports writers of the day reported Barbara Buttrick as being fast and skillful. Smith and Buttrick moved to the U.S. in 1952 where she won eight bouts in a row. In 1957 she moved to Dallas and on the 31st of August in San Antonio, Texas she knocked out the U.S. Bantamweight champion Phylis Kugler. This fight was significant in that it was the first time a license had been granted for women to box.
Buttrick had a remarkable record. She fought in over 1000 exhibitions with men and 18 pro fights with women with only one loss, that being to an opponent 30lbs heavier. Subsequenltly Buttrick and her husband
moved to Miami, Florida and trained at the 5th street gym. In 1959 in what was said to be the first recorded female fight in Florida, Buttrick fought Gloria Adams at the North Miami Armory.
In the 1960 Buttrick became pregnant with her first child and hung up the gloves with a record of 30-1. She remained active in boxing and in 1993 she fouded the Women's International Boxing Federation and continues to be very active in women's boxing today.
In 1990 Barbara Buttrick was elected to the International Boxing and Wrestling Hall of Fame. Buttrick admitted that she never thought women's boxing would advance as far as it has today. "it is not going to go way, it is here to stay." she said. Buttrick's photo appeard in a Nike ad with her hands wrapped and a towel around her head, the caption read: "In Barbara's day you had to fight just to be in the ring! If you believe in something, fight for it!
Barbara has said she would like further recognition of women's boxing and the purses to be inceased. She wants to see famale boxing in the Olympics and was disappointed that it was not sanctioned for the 2006 Olympics.
Today Barbara Buttrick is the mother of two children and a doting grandmother of four. She resides in Miami Beach, Florida. Barbara was, and is, a true pioneer of women's boxing.
Barbara has been inducted in the Florida's hall of Fame, the induction took place in June 2010.