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Women's boxing pioneer honored

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Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 06:25 AM

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TAMPA -

With each measured step Barbara Buttrick took, ascending the dais inside the Crowne Plaza hotel, history followed.

Buttrick, who was born in Yorkshire, England, and later lived in Miami Beach, became the sport's first women's champion in 1957. Dubbed the "Mighty Atom," Buttrick's 12-year boxing career, as well as the careers of 19 others, was celebrated Sunday as the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame inducted its second class.

Honored were fighters Muhammad Ali, Yama Bahama, Gomeo Brennan, Bobby Dykes, Eddie Flynn, Tommy Gomez, Frank Otero, Willie Pep, Elmer Ray and Buttrick; trainer Dan Birmingham and manager Al Bonanni; promoters Phil Alessi and Don King; historian Enrique Encinosa; Don Hazelton in the official/commission category; nonparticipants Bob Alexander, Jay Edson, James "Smitty" Smith and Lou Viscusi. Special awards were given to Ramiro Ortiz, Steve Yerrid and the late Mike Birmingham.

"I read about a woman named Holly Burns, she used to box around 1918 in the boxing booths (carnivals), and I decided that I would like to box," Buttrick said of her entry into the sport in 1948. "Of course the promoters wouldn't hear of it, so I went on the boxing booths and I traveled England, France and the United States."

She went 30-1 during her professional career, in which she became the first woman to receive a boxing license in Texas, and some say the first in the nation to have that distinction. Buttrick, who is the president of the Women's International Boxing Federation, fought in the first televised women's bout in 1954.

"Back then, the promoters wouldn't allow you (to fight)," Buttrick said, standing next to WIBF flyweight champion Anastasia Toktaulova, now training in Tampa. "Today, the girls fights are exciting, even more so than the men's fights. They get accepted a lot in the halls. ... So today, it's opening up for a lot of the girls and a lot of them will follow me into halls of fame in the future."

There was no mistaking the joy that filled trainer Dan Birmingham. Having been voted as the 2004 and 2005 Trainer of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America, he's tasted honor at a high level. He's also helped lead Winky Wright and Jeff Lacy to titles from his St. Petersburg-based gym.

But Sunday's tribute may be the peak.

"This stands as one of the happiest days of my life," he said. "Usually when a fighter or a trainer starts out, they become a hero locally. I got my accolades nationally and then locally. But the local accolades are fantastic."

The moment was tinged with sorrow as his younger brother, Mike Birmingham, was honored. Mike Birmingham succumbed to a heart attack in August 2009.

"He would have just loved this, to be recognized in the sport," Dan Birmingham said. "He was always one step behind me wherever I went. I feel kind of lost without him."

Reporter Eddie Daniels

can be reached at


(813) 259-7066.

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