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Sunday, November 22, 1998 Published at 17:24 GMT


Striking a blow for women

Jane Couch had to go to an industrial tribunal to win the right to fight

Britain's first fight between two women boxers takes place on Wednesday.

Jane Couch, otherwise known as The Fleetwood Assassin, takes on Germany's Simone Lukic at Caesar's nightclub in Streatham, south London.

Despite being the reigning Women's International Boxing Federation (WIBF) world welterweight champion, Couch has never fought professionally in the UK.

Earlier this year she took the British Boxing Board of Control to an industrial tribunal after they refused to grant her a licence to fight.

Sexually discriminated against

In August the tribunal found the board guilty of sexual discrimination and she was finally awarded a licence.

Four years ago, after watching a documentary about Irish boxer Deidre Gogarty, Couch set out to make her name in the tough world of women's boxing.

Couch, who admits having had her fair share of street fights in her native Fleetwood, Lancashire, had to go abroad to do it.

In her very first fight the former sweet factory worker beat Sandra Geiger of France to win the WIBF title in 1996.

Geiger ended up in hospital with a broken nose, a fractured hand and several broken ribs.

Disciplined way of life

Couch says the fighter's lifestyle suits her well and has changed her from a wild and unfocused drinker and drug-taker to a fit, clean-living and disciplined individual.

She hopes other British girls will follow her example but warns: "It's a very dangerous sport and if girls are going to do it, they're going to have to do it correctly."

The 30-year-old is trained on a farm outside Bristol by Tex Woodward.

He told BBC News Online: "She's in very good shape for this fight."

Woodward said: "Wherever she goes people know Jane. She's very popular, especially in the North West.

"If she fought up there she would fill the Blackpool Tower."

Non-title contest

Under WIBF rules both fighters must take pregnancy tests before Wednesday's fight and a positive result for either lady would force her to pull out.

Couch's title is not on the line - the pair will contest six two-minute rounds rather than the usual eight in a WIBF title bout - but she is fighting for a purse of £5,000.

It may be a paltry amount - Mike Tyson earns that much lacing up one glove - but it is a watershed.

Women's boxing is well developed in the US where the big-hitting Christy Martin earns hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting for Don King.

But Couch's problem is getting the big UK promoters - Frank Warren, Frank Maloney, Barry Hearn - to put her on their shows.

So far all have baulked. Maloney told BBC News Online: "Women should stay in the kitchen, or in the bedroom."

I bet he would not say that to Jane Couch.

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