Times Are Changing: Shannon Ryan On The Rise of Women’s Boxing

"Don’t give up," says a motivated Shannon Ryan, as she passionately outlines her advice for women getting into boxing. "If there are doors you can’t knock down, one day you will be able to knock them down. Keep pushing through what you’re doing."

It’s 3pm on another dull day in London, as Shannon sits down to speak about the rise of women’s boxing and reflect on her pathway into the sport that she can now call a profession.

Shannon Ryan is one of the top prospects in a thriving era of women's boxing.

"I couldn’t imagine my life without boxing," she admits with a reminiscent smile, just hours after going ten rounds of sparring in the gym and finishing with strength and conditioning work.

"It gives you routine, structure, discipline and it just helps with your overall life. Whichever step you want to go down, I think boxing as a whole can transfer into different avenues of your life. So, I really can’t imagine my life without it."

The Journey

The journey to a life centred around boxing began at six years old, when Shannon first started kickboxing at her dad’s gym.

From kickboxing to Taekwondo and a brief stint with MMA, it wasn’t until a defining move into amateur boxing during 2018 that she was finally able to settle on a genuine passion.

A short but successful amateur career was followed by a promising push into the professional game, with the help of a management deal under former Finchley ABC teammate Anthony Joshua.

Within the few years since opening her own boxing story, many historic new chapters of women’s boxing have already been written.

Boxing is becoming hugely popular among women for health and wellbeing.

Growing to new heights, the leading fighters of today have decisively unshackled past restraints and banished former stigmas surrounding the sport.

"I think we’re not quite there yet but it is rising. And to be a part of that rise – I'm blessed," continued Shannon.

"Because even when I started in 2018, even though that was only a few years ago, it was nowhere near what it is now."

So, why has the audience been growing so swiftly of late?

"I think the pool of women is so small, we don’t have so many journeywomen that we can box. So, you’re seeing a lot more big fights being made early on.

"And just how the females are boxing, people are taking an interest in it. Because they’re not just shying away from the punches. There is a skillset there and good boxing skills being shown."

Reaching Historic Heights

Throughout boxing history, women have tirelessly fought in and out of the ring to overcome the limitations imposed on them and gain their respect.

While women’s boxing traces back to the 1700s, that exhaustive battle for equal opportunities continues centuries later today. But’s it’s one Shannon is hopeful will pay off over time.

"I think it’s super important for it to keep going the way it is. And I think it will just keep getting stronger.

"Because what we’ll see is more people, whether it’s more young girls looking to start a career or others just doing it for recreational purposes, there will be floods more coming through these gyms.

"And then there will be more support and more eyes on the sport, which brings more people into the gyms in turn. Which is just fantastic."

While talented and highly-driven pro fighters, such as Shannon, continue to lead the way at the pinnacle of the sport, the rise in popularity among women boxing recreationally has been another key factor.

The names of Katie Taylor and Alycia Baumgardner will resonate with many women today, with Laila Ali, Christy Martin and Lucia Rijker standing out as trailblazing names for older generations too.

Seeing these women establish themselves as prominent figures in a previously male-dominated sport has a ripple effect and has evidently opened doors for many more to put on their gloves – even if it’s just for health and wellbeing.

"While the recreational women may not want to box, they’re watching women box and they would like to do that but just not at the same level," added Shannon.

The Times Are Changing

"I’ve seen so many young girls and a big mixture of ages at the gym, just come through and they’re happy and they’re smiling. And when they do see us professionals come in, it just gives them that more inspiration to keep doing what they’re doing.

"If they’re not competing then it gives you structure and routine. They may go to work then they may be stressful for some reason for something going on in their life.

"And it’s a nice kind of release for them. I think it just helps with lifestyle, a healthy balance between their work and their boxing."

And what about three-minute rounds for women competing? It’s a debate that has raged on for years, regarding whether the sport should follow the men’s length of round times. (women currently compete in two-minute rounds).

Shannon Ryan is hopeful about the rise of women's boxing further down the line.

"I’m definitely an advocate for three-minute rounds," admits Shannon. "Whether that’s ten or twelve, for me the rounds don’t matter, it’s that extra minute that makes such a difference.

"I think if it goes to three minutes then there will be mixed views from the female professional boxers. Some people, their style is built for twos. Some are built for threes. But I think it would have a positive impact."

Positive change has been a theme with women’s boxing in recent years. There was a time when an all-female event seemed inconceivable.

Or two women’s fighters headlining Madison Square Garden would’ve been deemed an impossibility. Especially considering women were only permitted to compete at the Olympics again just over a decade ago.

But the old roadblocks that were in place are rapidly ageing and the previous order fading, with boxing welcomingly progressing as the times are changing.