Last year women's boxing got a huge PR boost with Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby. Folks clamored to see the sweet Hilary Swank don a mouthpiece and gloves and TKO her opponents. But after the Oscars were handed out, the hype around women's boxing faded. Now Houston photographer Delilah Montoya is bringing it back with her exhibit "Women Boxers: The New Warriors."
The new show at Project Row Houses is taken from Montoya's book of the same name. Her images of 12 of the featured boxers are, pun intended, striking. Muscles flex and fists blur as the women pummel each other in the face. Their hair is frizzed. Sweat flies from their bodies. It's brutal. And it's a little sexy, too. From ring level, a leggy round-card model poses while a boxer recovers in her corner.
The women are depicted both in and out of the ring. Pro boxers like Houston's Akondaye Fountain --who was the No. 1 light middleweight female boxer on the WBAN chart in 2005 -- look warm, friendly and feminine. That is, until they're in the ring.
Montoya's book and images illustrate the story of female boxers the same way that Million Dollar Baby did. The women in her images are working-class. They work day jobs to support themselves. Some are single moms. Most will never get a sniff of an endorsement or big-time deal. But there's no questioning their motivation to be regarded the same way as male boxers. In her artist's statement, Montoya calls these women misfits, or malcriadas. "Women boxers certainly fit the definition of malcriada," she says. "By crossing the ropes and getting into the ring, they enter into the bastions of manliness to confront a brutal sport." And these "warriors" are beautiful in a way that their male counterparts will never be.
Montoya, Teresa Marquez (who wrote Warriors' foreword) and boxers Fountain and Yolanda Swindell will host a book-signing event and reception from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. In conjunction with the event, women's boxing sparring matches will be projected onto the El Dorado Ballroom (2310 Elgin) until 8:30 p.m. Exhibit runs through April 23. 2521 Holman. For information, call 713-526-7662 or visit www.projectrowhouses.org. Free.
Wednesdays-Sundays, 12-5 p.m.; Sat., March 25, 4-6 p.m. Starts: March 10. Continues through April 23