She has been active in the martial arts for
more than twenty years, displaying her dedication to the world of sports and fitness as a judo and
a boxing competitor, and as a martial arts instructor, and a freelance writer.
Dee got a B.A. in architecture from Yale and intended to become an architect
before her interest in competitive sports diverted her from this path. This
began with judo, where she was a national collegiate champion and the
1990 Empire State Games champion. As a Canadian
citizen she was ineligible to compete in judo at the USA national or
international levels in the USA, and the association in her native Canada
wasn't happy with her living in the USA and competing as a Canadian. Dee became
an American citizen in 1997 and won the 1998 US National judo title at 45 kg.
She also began
to seek another outlet for her competitive instincts. She first tried
karate, telling WBAN's Roaming Reporter in 1998: "I tried karate, and
enjoyed the workouts, but was double end bag, speed bag and shadow boxing
in the ring. I was the only woman in the gym, but the guys were supportive
Her transition to boxing began in 1993 when a notice for the New York Daily
News Golden Gloves appeared in the gym where Dee was training. As she
told WBAN, "The notice for the Gloves was taped to the wall, and
most of the boxers in the gym were gearing up for that tournament. I
asked if women were allowed to enter and was told, "No." But I knew that USA
Boxing had been recently forced to accept females as members, and that there
could be no discrimination with regard to gender in amateur sport according to
NY State law (I had taken a fair housing seminar). So I sent
in an entry just using my first initial. Unfortunately, the Daily News sent me
my notice for my physical exam too late. My appointment was for Jan 16th, 1994,
and I received the notice on Jan 18th. I called the Daily News the next
morning, but was told that the last physical was given the night before. So I
was out of luck. I decided to pursue it further, and wrote a letter to
the News asking them to consider giving me another date for the physical,
especially since they sent me my notice too late. They responded that I should
have known to just show up on Jan 18th. I suspected that the Daily News
just wanted me to go away once they realized I was a female. That just
made me more determined to force them to let me enter, since I knew it was my
As the Daily News stated in an "Ladies night with a punch," on April 7, 1995, a year after
she made history, "Dee Hamaguchi is the reason why women were here at the Daily News Golden Gloves in the first place.
It had never happened in the 68 years of the country's oldest and largest amateur boxing competition. Last year as
application was submitted with the name D. Hamaguchi. Nobody knew D. was Dee, and that Dee was a woman from Harlem. Even
though she didn't end up competing last year, the seed was in the ground, and it started growing, so there we were last
night looking at Jill Matthews' mascara and at the Golden Gloves dangling from Christine Bruno SanGallo's neck."
Dee lost her 1995 Golden Gloves final to southpaw Jill Matthews, who went on to become
the IWBF and IFBA junior
flyweight professional world champion.
Dee told WBAN: "It was probably the
toughest loss I have ever endured because there was so much media hype before
the match. I realized afterwards that I let it take away from where my focus
should have been - on training (a more experienced boxer would know how
to use the attention to his/her benefit). Also, I felt terrible since it seemed
that everyone and their dog knew I lost that fight. The real cruel irony
was that there were never any television cameras around over the 20+
years I'd been doing judo, and now for my first boxing match ever, there were
print and electronic media from around the globe! Where were they when I
won the Empire State Games?? The only good thing about losing
is that you learn who's real and who only wants to associate with you when you
win. I forced myself to go into the gym the next day - and I was surprised at
how supportive the other boxers were. I also got a lot of support from my
friends. So I felt a lot better after that."
But Dee wasn't satisfied with achieving
that ice-breaking goal. She decided that she would turn pro, and aim to
box as a
straw-weight, with Matthews above her at junior flyweight.
She saw the potential of women's pro boxing after witnessing the media
attention gathered by the first female contests at the Golden Gloves ... "In
'95 when the Daily News decided to 'let' women enter the Gloves, they
milked it for all the media coverage it was worth. I'm sure promoters took note
of the unprecedented amount of coverage and the increase in ticket sales.
Money talks, so it wasn't long before Don King was hyping Christy Martin.
Thanks to King's PR /business machine (not to Martin's boxing skills), it is
now a 'known' fact that women can box. Once people have seen or
heard about something, or it's touted as the latest trend, they tend to give
you less grief about it. So their reaction when they find out that I box is
"Oh, cool!" whereas before they would express disbelief or try to
convince me that it wasn't in my best interest to pursue it or worse yet,
try to make me feel like a human aberration for wanting to box."
She entered the world of professional boxing competition on October, 11, 2000
in Yonkers, New York. She weighed in at 108 lbs and fought to a draw over four
rounds with Gracie Joe Roca (108 lbs).
On March 14, 2001 at Yonkers Raceway in Yonkers, New York, Yolanda Gonzalez of Newark, New Jersey
advanced to 3-0 (2 KO's) with a third-round TKO over Dee.
On February 16, 2002 at
the Hilton in Las Vegas, Nevada,
Vaia Zaganas (105 lbs) of Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
won a four-round unanimous (40-36,40-36,39-37) decision over Dee (103 lbs).
Zaganas, the 2001 Canadian National 45-kg champion, improved to
3-1-0 (2 KO) while Hamaguchi fell to 0-2-1.
May 15, 2002 at Treasure Chest Casino in Kenner, Louisiana, Vaia Zaganas, now based in Las Vegas, advanced to 4-1-0 (2 KO)
with a hard-fought six-round unanimous (60-54,60-54,58-56) decision over Dee,
who fell to 0-3-1 (0 KO).
Zaganas had a clear edge on the scorecards in this rematch but ended the bout showing Hamaguchi's handiwork
on her face.
On April 12, 2003 at Caesars in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, Dee (103 lbs) fought Stephanie Dobbs (102 lbs) of Moore, Oklahoma to an exciting four-round
(39-37 Hamaguchi,38-38,38-38) majority draw in a non-stop action-packed slugfest. Dobbs
was now 5-7-2 (4 KO)
while Hamaguchi was 0-3-2 (0 KO).
May 17, 2003 at City Center Pavilion in Reno, Nevada, Tracey Stevens (105 lbs) of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada won a
four-round unanimous decision over Dee (also 105 lbs) and improved her own
record to 5-4-0 (1 KO)
while dropping Hamaguchi to 0-4-2.
June 7, 2003 at the Flamingo in Laughlin, Nevada, USA, Dee (103¾ lbs) finally got her
first win as a professional boxer, scoring a clear four-round unanimous
decision in a rematch with Stephanie Dobbs (103½ lbs). Dobbs, who
had been one of the busiest female boxers on the circuit in 2003, fell to 7-8-2 (5 KO)
with this loss while Hamaguchi advanced to 1-4-2 (0 KO).
November 4, 2003 at Martin's West in Woodlawn, Maryland, IFBA strawweight champion
Vaia Zaganas (104½ lbs) won a six-round unanimous
decision over Dee (106½ lbs). Zaganas improves to 13-2-0 (6 KO)
while dropping Hamaguchi to 1-5-2 (0 KO).
Carina Moreno backs Dee into a corner
© Copyrighted photo taken by Jesus Sanchez
On July 3, 2004 at the Hyatt Regency in Monterey, California,
Carina Moreno of
Watsonville, California won a six-round unanimous (60-54,60-54,60-53) decision
over Dee at 106
lbs. Carina dominated the tough but outgunned Hamaguchi, using her
jab to set up her right hand. By the fourth round Hamaguchi’s nose was badly bloodied. Carina appeared to be going for a knockout with
straight rights in the final round, but Deidre gamely hung on to force a decision. Hamaguchi took this fight at less than a week's notice.
For more on this bout, see the
report by Jesus Sanchez and WBAN
Photo Gallery #188 on the WBAN Records Member Site.
On July 31, 2004, at Saith Park
Indoor Arena in Chaguanas, Trinidad,
1,500 fans saw Ria Ramnarine (105 lbs) of
Carapichaima, Trinidad win an eight-round unanimous (79-75,79-73,
78-74) decision over Dee (105
lbs) for the WIBA Iberian-American Mini Flyweight title. There were no knockdowns but both
traded hard punches throughout an exciting bout and left the arena with
lacerations under their right eyes. Ramnarine went toe to toe with
Hamaguchi, and told local reporters after the fight "I did not fight
normally, I like to hit and move. I can't say why I did but I tried to
adjust to her style and it worked out in the end."
Hamaguchi, who fought much of the bout with a grin on her face, said "I really wanted to
win the title but Ria fought well. I would have been happy for a draw, but
then you can't win them all. I was grinning because I was enjoying the
fight, I love to fight."
that she was hurt in the fourth by a stinging combination from Hamaguchi,
but she stayed on her feet and came back to win the bout, urged on
by shouts of "Ria, Ria, Ria" from her supporters and scoring freely with
combinations to Hamaguchi's head. "I am trained to take hard
punches because I train with guys and get hit pretty hard. I have
conditioned myself to overcome the really tough shots", she said,
adding. "Diedre is strong and really came to fight. I am happy to win
this bout in front of my supporters." Ramnarine improved to 7-4-0 (1 KO).
Dee lands one on Stephanie Dobbs, June 2006
© Copyrighted photo take by Stacy Goodson
On June 18 2006 at Remington Park, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Stephanie Dobbs
of Moore, Oklahoma and Dee Hamaguchi fought to an eight round
majority draw (78-74 Dobbs, 76-76,76-76) for the vacant WIBA
Intercontinental Mini Flyweight title. The fight took place in the
afternoon, outdoors in blistering heat and humidity but this did not
hamper their non-stop action. Stacy Goodson who was at ringside told WBAN
that the fight was very competitive with both boxers going back and forth,
and that the fight could be a contender for "Fight of the Year."
Hamaguchi moved her record to
1-7-3 (0 KO), Dobbs was all even at 21-21-4 (13 KOs).
On September 21, 2006 at the Ameristar Casino in St.
Charles, Missouri, Hollie Dunaway (101½ lbs) of
Van Buren, Arkansas won by retirement at the end of the seventh round over
Dee (102 lbs). According to Dee, "I touched
canvas twice in the first round, and Hollie won every round. I got a cut on
the bridge of my nose and my nose was bleeding pretty steadily (first time
for everything). I couldn't get off effectively, so my corner stopped it.
All I can say is Hollie hits harder than anyone I fought; about the same as
someone weighing in the 120's I would say.
Dunaway was defending her WIBA Minimumweight World title. Hollie Dunaway
improved to 16-4-0 (10 KO's) while the veteran Hamaguchi fell to a deceptive
Asked for her
advice to female boxers, Dee Hamaguchi says:
"Boxing is not for
everyone. Man or woman. It is one of the most demanding
sports in terms of conditioning. And it is even tougher
mentally because you have to deal with someone hitting
you. And no matter how good you are, you will get
hit. There is only one way to know if boxing is
for you, and that is to step in the ring. But first you have
1) be in proper condition and acquire basic
skills. Footwork and head movement are your defense, but
often overlooked because everyone wants to learn offense, i.e.
to hit, first.
2) spar. This is a whole different ball
game. Everything you do on the heavy bag or on mitts is much
more difficult to do against a live opponent. You have to spar
in different levels of intensity also. Sometimes, you have to
spar with someone who is much better and agrees to pull their
punches so you can practice the skills your trainer has
taught you. And sometimes, you have to spar with someone
closer to your skill level where neither one of you is holding
back. Otherwise, you will be unpleasantly surprised when you
step in the ring to fight - there's no nicey-nicey in there.
You have to get used to bad intentions of your opponent and
"If you then want to take it to the next
level," says Dee, "then make sure you have a trainer who has
experience in the corner. There's a lot more to it than wiping the sweat off your brow, giving you a sip of water, a
quick pep talk, and a slap on the back . Preparing for a
fight involves proper tapering of you training routine, proper
dieting if you have to lose weight, warming up properly before
you match and bring in the right mental state to kick some
"The most important thing is to find a trainer
you trust. You may have to hunt around for a trainer who 1)
really knows their stuff and 2) works well with your personality
in the corner. Just because a trainer has achieved success
with other boxers does not mean they are the best trainer for
"Last but not least, if you are under the age of 34,
then definitely start out as an amateur, not as a pro.
This will give you a chance to test your skills for
three two-minute rounds with headgear before you decide if
this is for you. The rules in amateur boxing are
different than pro and designed to protect the boxer, not to
please a blood-thirsty audience."
Asked where female boxing in
going, she said "I
think this time around, women's boxing is here to stay. Mainly
because now it is a bona fide amateur sport. This gives
the sport depth. Females have the opportunity to develop
as athletes before they turn pro. And the USA is to host
the first womens' amateur boxing world championships, which is
an important step in getting it into the Olympic
Games. I think it is inevitable that women's
boxing will become an Olympic sport. Mainly because it
is growing so quickly in terms of participation around
the globe (a sport must show that it is practiced all
over the world in order to be considered for inclusion
in the Olympic Games) , and because it definitely draws
an audience. And right or wrong, that is what the IOC is
interested in - sports which can draw a television
audience. Becoming an Olympic sport is key
for the growth of womens' boxing. The sport will gain
credibility with sports fans, funding will become available
around the globe for development of female amateur
boxing (its harder to find funding for non-Olympic
sports), and the gap between overall skill level of
female boxers and male counterparts will start to close."
importantly, from an athlete's perspective, inclusion of womens' boxing in the Olympics will provide motivation,
inspiration and a goal for female boxers to aim
for! There have been female pro boxers here and
there over the years, but not organized groups of female
boxers. The timing is right for women in sport (WNBA,
women's world cup soccer, etc). Plus with the internet, it
makes it easier for us to keep up with news about
women's boxing all over the world. So we are less
isolated. I think that as the number of female boxers
increases, we will start to see progressive changes in the
sport. (Can you say union?) When women have a "beef,"
we tend to bond and take collective action about it. Men don't
seem to do this. Most male boxers see themselves as lone
rangers, and don't think collectively. So, yes, we are
here to stay. And we will take the sport to another
She founded and manages Hamaguchi Martial Arts, her own judo, self-defense, fitness, and nutrition school in Harlem,
NY. She earned a first-degree black belt at Tokyo’s Kodokan Judo Institute, and teaches women and children in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Other Dee Hamaguchi links
To check out fight reports, complete up-to-date boxing records, with huge digital photos you can go to
the WBAN Records Member Site
Page last updated:
Saturday December 15, 2012