Unorthodoxx is pleased to present the final pioneer of women’s boxing: Jane Couch. A Lancashire born fighter, Couch paved the way for many young women to box their way to world championship titles. A true icon for women’s boxing, we explore her journey to the history books.
From a Troubled Girl to her First Gloves
Jane Couch, born on 14th August 1968, is a former boxer and world title winner from Lancashire. Couch was expelled from her school which lead to a life of drinking and street fighting. After watching a boxing documentary about Christy Martin and Deirdre Gogarty, she decided to pursue her love of fighting with dreams of becoming a professional boxer.
In 1994 Couch first started boxing in a local gym in Fleetwood, she learned quickly that women's boxing was actually illegal in the UK. Couch found this ridiculous and said, “This is the 90s, how can women’s boxing be illegal, it’s so stupid”. However, others in the boxing community did not feel the same and she faced heavy resistance, forcing her to train in secret. She soon found an opportunity to train in Bristol where she set down new roots.
Her first official fight was a Muay Thai match, in which she proudly emerged victorious against a policewoman named Kalpna Shah. Most of her early fights were against male rivals as there were not many women boxers at the time. She continued on with an astounding professional record of 4-0 by 1996, before facing off for a world title against France’s Sandra Geiger in Copenhagen. Geiger was already an established icon holding a record of 29 wins by knockout. Couch went on to win after going ten rounds with Geiger, gaining her the WIBF light welterweight title.
Boxing in the USA
After winning the world title in Copenhagen, she started a title defence campaign in the USA. In 1997, she defended her title against Andrea DeShong in New Orleans on a TKO win. Couch’s next challenger was Leah Mellinger, she retained her title once again with a unanimous decision win at the Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut.
At this point, Couch was 7-0 in women's boxing with her name heard across the world, inspiring many young boxers. Couch’s first ever defeat came in Mississippi against Dora Webber, who along with her twin sister Cora, became famous for their joint participation in USA boxing. This defeat came as a shock for Jane Couch and of course stripped her of her title on a split decision which proposed there would be a rematch.
The rematch unfortunately ended in another defeat for Couch on a points decision in New Jersey. These two defeats ended her spell in the USA and she returned to the UK to protest against the boxing authorities.
From the Boxing Ring to the Courts
Whilst taking the world of boxing by storm Couch was also fighting in the courts. She spent nearly 3 years attempting to take the British Boxing Board of Control to court in a bid to legalise women in boxing. Despite her being a world title holder, the Board would still not recognise women boxers and held the defence that women are too unstable to fight while suffering from PMS.
In 1998, after a 4 year long boxing career she was finally awarded the right to box after she won her ground-breaking case, becoming the first licenced female boxer in the UK. Yet, she still found herself unwanted by the British boxing community. Many promoters and coaches were opposed to her trailblazing and she still struggled to find her footing in the UK despite having her licence.
Inspiring A New Generation of Women Boxers
Her first licenced fight in the UK was against Simona Lukic at Caesars Nightclub in Streatham, London. Jane would go on to win by TKO in the second round which set her up for another title bout.
In 1999, Couch won the WIBF light welterweight title for the second time against Marischa Sjauw on UD in the tenth round, this was her first title win in the UK. She went on to defend this title four times before losing against Elizabeth Mueller in the USA on unanimous decision at the start of the 21st century.
The next few years were promising for Couch, by 2005 she was a very prestigious fighter with a record of 25-6 and 10 world titles to her name. Jane Couch began boxing as a lightweight and found herself setting up to fight for the vacant women’s WBC lightweight title Jessica Rakoczy. Rakoczy was also a very formidable opponent and a world title winner herself with over 30 wins in her total career. This bout ended in an upset for Jane in a TKO defeat in the 6th round.
Following this defeat, Jane returned to Bristol for a bout against Oksana Cernikova. This fight was won by Jane on a points decision. This win sparked another title fight for her which she gladly accepted. This time in France, she was fighting for two titles which were the WIBF and WBA light welterweight titles. Unfortunately, Couch did not defeat Myriam Lamare and lost on TKO in the third round.
Returning to England, Couch secured two wins against Galina Gumliiska and Viktoria Oliynyk, respectively. A year later in 2007, Jane Couch was once again challenged by Jaimie Clampitt who she defeated back in 2004 for her IWBF light welterweight title. This rematch promised a great match up from two exceptional fighters with stellar careers.
The rematch against Clampitt was unfortunately another loss for Jane with the vacant IWBF light welterweight title on the line. At the end of 2007, Couch geared up for her 39th and final fight against Anne Sophie Mathis in France. After being defeated she retired in 2008 with 28 wins under her belt and an MBE for services to boxing.
Retiring from professional womens boxing
Following her retirement from women’s boxing there was understandably a great deal of attention for Couch and many offers to come out of retirement for ‘superfights’. This only tells us the impact which she had on the sport over her career.
Jane Couch did in fact compete in the reincarnation of Superstars, an elite sports competition for great athletes and personalities. Following this she began promoting boxing, in 2008 she co-promoted with Ricky Hatton and signed with Hatton Promotions as a boxing coordinator.
As well as boxing promoting, Couch also supported the inclusion of women's boxing at the Olympics for many years. Not long after her retirement women’s boxing was included in the 2012 Olympics for the first time. Jane has continued her involvement in boxing with her own YouTube channel interviewing athletes and people involved in boxing.
In 2019 she released her autobiography ‘The Final Round’ which details her life before, during and after boxing. In an interview about her book Couch spoke about how she did a signing and there were ‘So many young girls… just to see them have that confidence’. It is clear that, Jane Couch has truly shaped the world of womens boxing, inspiring a whole new generation of athletes.
We at Unorthodoxx would like to thank you for reading our latest blog, we hope that you enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed writing it. Another great piece surrounding one of the amazing characters from women's boxing. If you would like to see more stories around the world of womens boxing, be sure to check out our social media and keep an eye out for some more blogs on the pioneers of the sport.
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