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A Knock Out

Distributed by Women Make Movies, 462 Broadway, New York, NY 10013; 212-925-0606
Produced by Valerie Schuit for Viewpoint Productions
Directed by Tessa Boerman & Samuel Reiziger
VHS, color, 53 min.
Jr. High - Adult
Gay and Lesbian Studies, Gender Studies, Multicultural Studies, Sports, Women's Studies

Reviewed by Patricia B. McGee, Coordinator of Media Services, Volpe Library & Media Center, Tennessee Technological University

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
Date Entered: 3/2/2006

Michele Aboro, a mixed race lesbian from the tough streets of South London, is the subject of this fascinating examination of the world of women’s boxing. As a teenager she took up kickboxing as a way to channel her anger and to stay out of trouble. Her impressive record of five British, one European and three world championships brought her to the attention of the Vos Gym Association in the Netherlands. Under their tutelage she earned a 42-1-1 record and, with no competition left, she switched to boxing. Under contract with Universum Box Promotions and ZDF Television, she complied an impressive 21-0 record to win and subsequently defend the Women’s International Boxing Federation’s super bantamweight championship.

In 2001 after defending her title against Nadia Debras, Aboro’s career came to a crashing halt. She ran out of opponents, and her promoters dumped her like a hot rock, saying she was unmarketable. Unfortunately key elements in marketing women’s sport are sex and glamour. While Aboro was willing to go along with blond hair, blue eye shadow, and pink lipstick, color tones that are far more suited to Caucasian women, she drew the line at nudity and softcore porn. She refused “to be naked,” to provide “titillation for middle-aged men,” and insist that she can’t hide that she’s gay any more than that she’s black. As she flatly declared, “I never stopped my career; promoters, managers stopped my career.”

A Knock Out weaves together a compelling mix of news footage, highlights of boxing matches, along with interviews with this articulate and extraordinarily gifted athlete, her family, friends, as well as her fellow boxers, and the movers and shakers within the European boxing world. The double meaning of the title captures perfectly the message of this film¬- while physical ability wins matches, it’s the woman who is a ‘knock out,’ who weighs in before a match wearing a bra and thong, and who poses for fashion shots who gets the sweet, lucrative deals. It wasn’t enough for Aboro to be one of the best, if not the best woman boxer; her peers acknowledge her extraordinary skill and athleticism in the ring. In the end what mattered was not sport but marketing and promotion.