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5'3" 126-pound "Battling" Beverly Szymanski was born on August 1 1963.

She commuted 100 miles a day, five days a week from her home in Marine City, Michigan to train at Detroit's Kronk Gym since 1994. She took up karate and kickboxing to get in shape and to kick a 2-pack a-day cigarette habit, and became the IWBF featherweight champion in January 1998.

This mother of two children has a band of bear claws and feathers tattooed on her upper right arm. "The bear claws are for strength and the feathers are for bravery," Szymanski told the Detroit News; "Now all I have to do is find some wisdom."

Beverly's pro boxing career got off to a tough start.

Her first opponent, at the palace of Auburn Hills, Michigan on October 15, 1993, was Christy Martin, who knocked her out in the first round.

After kayoing veteran Gail Grandchamp in the second round on June 10, 1994, Szymanski went against Christy Martin a second time, in Las Vegas Nevada on April 1, 1995. The result was the same, except that this time the KO came in the fourth round.

Beverly earned a four round majority decision over Sue Chase of Ohio in Lansing, Michigan in February 1996, and went on to two consecutive second-round KO's of Tina Speakman of Atlanta, Georgia on November 29, 1996 and in Doraville, Georgia on 31 January 1997. After knocking Speakman out in the first women's bout promoted by Forum Boxing, Beverly reportedly said: "I'm not used to my opponents slapping like this. She fought like a girl..." In the Kronk Gym, Szymanski regularly spars with teenage boys.

Her next opponent was much more formidable! On August 2, 1997 in Biloxi, Mississippi, she fought for the inaugural IFBA featherweight title against Florida's veteran Bonnie Canino. Early on this ten-round fight looked like a runaway victory for Canino, as the the southpaw dominated Rounds One and Two with her jab and ring movement. But "Battling Beverly" closed the gap in the next three rounds. She got in closer on Canino and pounded away at her ribs, setting up good head shots. In Round Five, she landed two left hooks that had Bonnie wobbly. Round Six started well for Szymanski as she landed a hard right hand early, but Bonnie dominated the late going with her speed. Beverly occasionally got inside again during the last four rounds but Canino's jab controlled the action and the veteran took a 98-92, 98-93, 97-92 decision that dropped Szymanski's record to 4-3 with 3 KO's.

Szymanski was definitely considered the underdog when she weighed in at 125 lbs to fight Irish-born star Deirdre Gogarty (126 lbs) in Atlantic City on January 10, 1998 for the IWBF world Featherweight title. Gogarty had stripped Canino of the WIBF super-featherweight title in New Orleans on March 2, 1997, and had fought a memorable losing, battle with Christy Martin on March 16, 1996. Like Canino, Gogarty used her jab and good ring movement to keep Szymanski away from her throughout the first three rounds. But Gogarty, who was hampered by an injury to her rotator cuff, tired and Szymanski was able to take control of the bout. She used hooks to the body and jabs to the head to control Round Four, then never looked back to earn a unanimous points decision for the IWBF title belt at the end of ten. 

On November 6, 1998 at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan, Beverly moved her pro record to 6-3 by TKO'ing Gina Davis of Erie, Pennsylvania at 0:55 of the first round. Beverly quickly hurt Davis with two left hooks to the ribs and a right to the face, then went on mixing body shots and rights to the head before the referee called a standing 8-count, then stopped the fight.

On April 30, 1999 at the Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana, Beverly (at 125 lbs) lost a six-round unanimous decision to Swedish-born Lena Åkesson (125 lbs), who fights out of Hollywood, California. Lena moved her record to a perfect 12-0 with the win.

On June 3, 1999 at the Soaring Eagle Casino in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, she rebounded by defeating Angela Woolum by a unanimous (39-37, 39-37, 40-37) four-round decision. A correspondent told me that "Angela won a moral victory in that she could punch just as hard as Beverly, and the first two rounds were extremely close. However, Beverly's body work began to take its toll, and left Angela gasping for breath at the end of rounds two, three and four."

On July 16, 1999 at Twin Lakes Golf Club in Oakland, Michigan, Beverly (125 lbs) won a decision over Shakurah Witherspoon (126 lbs) of Williamsport, Pennyslvania who fell to 4-12-1 with the loss. Szymanski was leading Witherspoon on points when she sustained a severely split lip from a clash of heads in the fourth round. The doctor stopped the bout and the scheduled six-rounder went to the scorecards. Judge Glenn Hirsch had it 40-36, judge Rosemary Grable 40-36 and judge Brad Wright 39-37, all for Szymanski. Szymanski was treated by a plastic surgeon that evening and 30 to 40 stitches were required to close the wound.

On September 10, 1999 again at the Soaring Eagle in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, Beverley weighed in at 128½ lbs against another tough opponent ... WIBF European Welterweight champion Marischa Sjauw of Holland, who had come down to 130 lbs for this fight. Sjauw won a six-round unanimous decision and moved to 11-4-1 with the win.  ESPN2's Friday Night Fights carried part of this card live, but passed up an opportunity to showcase two well-schooled female fighters.

On November 30, 1999 at the L.A. Globe in Lansing, Michigan, Beverly won a first-round TKO over Christina Miller of Ashtabula, Ohio, who fell to 0-3.

On April 26, 2000 at Treasure Chest Casino in Kenner, Louisiana, Beverly challenged for the IFBA Featherweight title against champion Sandra Yard of Coachella, California. Yard tried to use her height and reach advantages to keep this fight at a distance, while Szymanski worked to get inside and press the action at shorter range. Both had some success in the early rounds but Yard began to unload in the eighth and drove Szymanski to the ropes and into a corner. Szymanski began to tie Yard up but Yard's left was free and she nailed Szymanski with a left hook just as the referee came in to separate them after yelling "break". Beverly was counted out but her trainer Dale Grable filed a protest with the Associated Boxing Commissioners over what they believed was a late hit resulting in the KO. The protest was to no avail as it was ruled that the referee had not intervened at the moment that the KO punch was thrown. Yard improved to 10-2-2 while Szymanski slipped to 9-6.

With her only losses coming to the best known names in the sport, Beverly Szymanski had a career that helped to pave the way for the next generation of female boxers in the Detroit area.

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Page last updated: Saturday, 15 December 2012


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