USA boxing’s new transgender rule could ‘kill a woman,’ coach warns

(The Daily Signal) – USA Boxing has changed its rules to allow men who identify as women to compete in the female category, a change that coach Cary Williams warns could be deadly.

Even one…

(The Daily Signal) – USA Boxing has changed its rules to allow men who identify as women to compete in the female category, a change that coach Cary Williams warns could be deadly.

Even one man competing against women is “all it takes to do damage; that’s all it takes to kill a woman,” says Williams, a USA Olympic-level female boxing coach.

“I’m extremely scared for the safety of our girls and our women in boxing,” she told “The Daily Signal Podcast.” 

The new policy requires males to meet specific hormone levels and to have undergone surgery to “alter” their gender. But Williams says the new policy does not acknowledge that men have “larger hearts, larger lungs, bone density, strength.”

“You’re talking about muscle-fiber differences. Those are all something we’re born with,” she says. 

Williams, the founder of women’s fight-gear brand Tussle, joins the show to discuss USA Boxing’s rule change and what she thinks female boxers should do to stand up against the dangerous policy. 

Listen to the podcast or read the lightly edited transcript

Virginia Allen: It is my pleasure and joy today to be joined by USA Olympic Level 4 female boxing coach Cary Williams. Cary has a successful run in boxing herself, before becoming a coach. She is also the founder of the women’s fight gear brand Tussle and CEO of B&B Method, which is the certification company that certifies trainers around the globe in Cary’s specific gym method. Cary, thank you so much for being with us today.

Cary Williams: Thank you for having me. I’m super excited.

Allen: How did you first get into boxing?

Williams: Yeah, I know it’s a funny, funny way how we get into what we’re doing now, right? I actually, I graduated with an environmental science degree from college. So, you know, of course I’m using that. But you know, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and I wanted to do something that hadn’t been done before.

I had a friend at the time that was a boxer and I just remember them saying, “You know, I go to the gym, a lot of people want to learn how to box, but no trainers will train them unless they want to be fighters.”

So, I thought, well, why not open a gym where anybody and everybody can come in, they can learn boxing, maybe not get hit but learn the actual sport. And that was back in 1998. So, in actuality, I was a gym owner before I was a coach and I was a coach before I was a boxer.

Allen: OK, so you did it backward. What do you prefer, coaching or boxing yourself?

Williams: You know what? I love coaching. You know, boxing’s great because it’s one of those things where you’re strategic. A lot of people think it’s just us out there hitting each other, but there’s a lot of strategy involved and I do miss that about participating in the sport, but the opportunity to make changes in people, you know, whether they’re athletes or they’re not athletes, is pretty amazing, especially for youngsters.

So, I’ve been able to touch a lot of people over these 25 years of being in boxing. So I would say, for me, coaching is more rewarding.

Allen: So cool. Who are some of the athletes that you’ve coached?

Williams: You know, I wouldn’t say any big names per se. I did take a young lady, Marina Ramirez, to the Olympic trials, which was the very first Olympic Games that women were allowed to box in. So that wasn’t too long ago. It was 2012. So we’ve been fighting for our seat at the table for a long time as women in the sport. So yeah, we had a great little kind of Olympic trial tour just her and I and I’ll never forget it. It was pretty amazing.

Allen: That is really special. Are the rules different in female boxing versus male boxing?

Williams: Yeah, they are. It also depends on if you’re fighting professional, if you’re fighting amateur, you’re looking at, you know, two-minute rounds versus three-minute rounds. In the pros, you’re looking at, for a championship fight, 10 rounds instead of 12 rounds. So there are differences in the competition. And they’ve always been there for the safety of women.

Allen: Well, let’s talk about that, the safety of women within boxing. So, some of our listeners have probably heard the news that on Jan. 1, USA Boxing became the latest sport in America to implement new rules to allow men who identify as women to compete against women. Cary, when you heard this news, and you heard that USA Boxing was changing the rules, what were some of the first thoughts that ran through your head?

Williams: I couldn’t believe it. You know, I’ve seen it happening in other sports and in my mind I thought they will never do that in boxing because we hit each other in the face and the head and the body. So it never even crossed my mind that would happen. So I was completely shocked and then I was really upset.

You know, like I said, we’ve been fighting for a long time to get our seat at the table in the Olympics, and this is in amateur boxing, so USA Boxing is the body that basically all the amateurs go through that organization to make it to the Olympics.

So yeah, I was very upset about it and I felt like I had to speak out about it. I feel like a lot of folks are really nervous to speak out and whether that’s a platform like this or it’s on their social media. You know, even though I believe that the majority of women feel the same way I feel, and I think lots of guys feel the same way, and it’s just nobody’s coming out to say anything. I don’t say nobody, but there are very few.

Allen: Well, I really applaud you for your willingness to speak out and to be a voice on this issue, to be a voice for other female boxers. And explain, if you would, just a little bit of this rule, the context. There are specific benchmarks that these males have to hit in order to compete with women, correct?

Williams: Right. So there are certain testosterone levels they must meet, which is kind of crazy because we have anti-doping and so, you know, a hormone is a hormone, a replacement, it is what it is. But there’s also, they’re 18 and older, but the thing is that they are not required to have gone through their transition before puberty, and that is a big problem.

I mean, already, boys and girls are different. Men and women were born differently. You’re talking about larger hearts, larger lungs, bone density, strength. You’re talking about muscle fiber differences. Those are all something we’re born with. Like genetically, … we’re not just talking about going through puberty. But once you go through puberty, I mean, that’s just, it’s a whole other ballgame.

So with the rules, that’s not required. It’s, you know, “I identify as this, I’m at a certain level of hormones, and I have to be at that level for so many years and maintain that and get tested.” That’s pretty much what the rule is.

Allen: Have you ever personally boxed against a man?

Williams: I have an experience. When I was 30 and I was competing, I was sparring, we had a lot of teenage boys in our club and I was sparring with one of them and he was 16. And he was going very light on me, which, you know, it’s always a kind of a, we don’t talk about it, but we all know if you’re going against a woman in the ring, you go light on them and it’s unspoken rule.

So he was going light on me. He just threw in a body shot and it just hit me perfectly. He didn’t mean to hit me hard, flicked it in there, and gave me a hairline fracture on my rib. I’m 30 years old, he’s 17, and he’s cracking my rib.

And so, yeah, I have had that experience. … I understand firsthand what the difference is in that power. And again, that was a teenager.

Allen: When you’re talking with the female boxers that you work with, what are they saying?

Williams: Gosh. … The thing is, it’s not just in boxing. It’s in wrestling and MMA, you know, other combat sports, jujitsu. I’m getting stories told to me from young girls that are talking about [how] they got their nose broke and just in training with boys or men.

But yeah, the women in the boxing community, I don’t know one of them personally that has said, “Yeah, this is a great idea.” They are extremely upset about it. I do understand that, you know, we’re in Olympic Games in 2024. So a lot of our women have worked really hard for a lot of years to get where they’re at. Now, for them to step up and speak out against USA Boxing, it puts their Olympic dreams in jeopardy.

I think a lot of them are very nervous to really kind of step up and speak out and ruffle any feathers because of where they’re at. And the thing is, in 2024, I don’t believe there will be any transgenders boxing at the Olympics, at least in the USA, because this rule is kind of new.

Some people say, “Oh, there’s not that many trans, you know. What are you worried about?” There could be one, that’s all it takes to do damage, that’s all it takes to kill a woman, and that’s all it takes for it to grow steadily. And then there are more, and there are more, and there are more.

So what, just because there’s one it’s OK? I don’t understand that logic at all. So yeah, I’m extremely scared for the safety of our girls and our women in boxing.

Allen: Cary, I mean, there’s obviously a physical side to it that’s very obvious, concerns over safety. But then I also think about prepping to go into a match as a woman, knowing I am going to be fighting against a male, and just that psychological toll that would potentially take. Because as athletes, you prepare just as much psychologically as you do physically, right?

Williams: So true. I can tell you, you can lose the fight before you step into the ring. It is so much more mental than most people realize. And if you know you’re stepping in there with a person who is a man, yeah, you’re not gonna have that much confidence. You might even be a little bit more nervous. You might be scared for your life.

Yeah, I can’t imagine me personally still boxing and having to deal with that. I actually wouldn’t, quite frankly. I would step away. I wouldn’t really care where I was at in my boxing career. I would have to take a stand and get my girls together and my team together and say, “Look, we’ve got to walk from this because power is in numbers.” And if these women all step away from this, then whose going to be competing at the Olympics? You know?

Allen: Wow. That’s pretty bold. So you would tell Team USA Boxing, “Hey, walk away if you have a man coming in to compete against you guys”?

Williams: Oh yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Allen: OK. So what is your message to USA Boxing? What do you want to say to them? 

Williams: You know, what I want to say to them, I feel like they are doing women a disservice and they are jeopardizing their safety. And speaking of safety, USA Boxing, you were aware of a paper written by the Association of Ringside Physicians. They made it very clear that this is unsafe. Ringside Physicians. They’re the ones that are there at ringside to make sure every fighter is safe. So if you’re not listening to a recommendation that they have, what are you doing?

Allen: That’s huge, Cary, that you have the physicians who are on the sidelines who are raising concerns over this. What, if you would talk us through that, what are some of their key concerns related to safety and what are some of the injuries that they have voiced concern over seeing more of if you have men and women in rings together?

Williams: They are not being specific, but they are definitely stating that a man who is competing in the women’s category is dangerous because men and women are built differently. Once they go through puberty, it is just such a stark difference that it is completely unsafe and they recommend not to allow transgender people to compete in the women’s category.

And they also, you know, on the other side, they also talk about transgender people competing in the men’s. You know, it’s a safety issue as well on that end. But you’re not getting a lot of that.

Allen: Cary, are you concerned about getting canceled? As you mentioned, there’s some folks who are speaking out, but I think many are frightened to do so, and understandably so. From what we have seen, when people speak out on this issue, it often isn’t pretty. Why are you still choosing to speak out, even given the risk that you know you face?

Williams: You know, I don’t think about it. That’s the thing is, you know, I don’t live my life on having followers or getting likes or getting views. I’m not concerned about that. And the thing is that if somebody has a different view than me and they can’t just simply go, “OK, she thinks that way, I think this way. Let’s move forward and let’s live our lives,” then is that the person that I really want to be associated with?

I don’t mind people having other views, but to cancel somebody because you have another view, that just is idiocracy to me. So it’s fine if I lose followers or what have you.  

Allen: Well, Cary, go ahead, tell us, how can we keep up with your work if we want to follow what you’re doing?

Williams: For sure. So, Tussle is a, it’s an all-female fight gear company because we are built differently than men. So this isn’t a “shrink it and pink it” gear. It is, actually, we have custom molding for women’s hands, whether they’re wearing gloves or they’re holding punch mitts and they’re a coach or whatever. So, yeah,

And we have also, we do clinics, our brand partners, they do clinics around the nation. And whatever their specialty is—it could be jujitsu, it could be boxing, it could be whatever—they’re doing clinics in their cities offered to girls and women for free, you know, just to spend an hour getting a skill set or to be introduced to something. So we’ll be doing that in 2024. So that’s kind of what we’re doing with the Tussle brand.

Allen: Well, encourage all of our listeners, make sure that you’re checking out Cary Williams’ work, following her across social media platforms. And we’re going to be continuing to follow the situation with USA Boxing here at The Daily Signal and the “Problematic Women” podcast as well. So, Cary, thank you for your time today. We really appreciate it.

Williams: Yes, thank you so much.