They have been one of society’s great distractions since time immemorial and never truer is this than today. Capable of distracting human beings from rational thought, sensible decisions, daily plans, and all that is both important and terrifying in the world, these parts of the female body serve an array of purposes beyond the obvious and vital. Covered up, they spark imagination. Revealed, they cause the weak to lose their grip on reality; on occasion, their minds.
Weapons, then, in many ways, the power of a pair of breasts is either a pain for someone who wants to go unseen and be left alone, or necessary to wield in the eyes of others. Moreover, today, when certain platforms have left them harder to avoid than to see, their power to distract has never been greater and, frankly, perhaps never more lucrative.
Even in boxing, a sport of topless competitors, the challenge of being more naked than a rival has become a very real one. Not only that, it is a financially beneficial ambition, one that has secured for some female boxers the attention and cashflow they believe is imperative to their overall boxing success. Some, those who loudly and proudly promote their OnlyFans account via social media, have embraced their femininity and have no problem flaunting it to attract the kind of interest in their career it would be hard to obtain were they to simply stay covered up. Good for them, too, you might say, as many people do. Exploit the pay pigs should they be willing to supplement your career in this way. Use what you have got and flog it to the maximum. View it no differently than you would an advantage in speed or power or endurance. It is surely an attribute, after all, especially in these current times.
Others, of course, will argue that rather than it being an empowering act of feminism, or a reclamation of power and agency, all this behaviour represents is an example of morally bankrupt capitalism, with the regard in which material goods and attention are these days held the trump card in any argument pertaining to what is right and wrong. There may be credence to this view, too, and Andrea Dworkin may indeed be turning in her grave. But who am I to say?
All I will say is that when earlier this month a female boxer showed up at a weigh-in wearing body paint promoting OnlyFans it was a most startling and strangely welcome sight. It was startling, on the one hand, because of the sheer audacity of it and how, as expected, it quickly alerted people to a boxer effectively unknown before her exploits on the scales. It was welcome, on the other hand, not so much from a personal point of view but more from the point of view of boxing, for it served to distract, as is customary with any display of exhibitionism. It distracted, for instance, from the fact that the people promoting this particular event were in the background working even harder to promote a botched boob job of a fight in the Middle East between two men: Conor Benn, currently suspended by UK Anti-Doping, and Chris Eubank Jnr, stopped inside four rounds in his last fight. It also distracted from myriad other issues in boxing, if just for a few hours, and suddenly all anybody was worried about were a pair of breasts and some body paint, about as harmless a threat as one could possibly imagine.
Whether in the end it was appropriate or not is neither here nor there. In a sport like boxing, a sport in which half-naked men and women punch each other in the head, any attempt to take a moral stance in relation to too much flesh being on display is about as ludicrous an idea as a boxing commentator apologising for bad language at close to midnight. As advocates of this sport, we have willingly surrendered an opinion on what is right and wrong, as well as any sense of control. By now I’m afraid that horse has bolted. Not only has it bolted, it has recently grown wings and taken flight, fuelled as it is by a lethal concoction of nandrolone, clenbuterol, clomiphene, and various other performance-enhancing drugs we thought we could get away with feeding it to keep it happy.
The only question to ask, I suppose, regarding the appropriateness of too much flesh at a weigh-in, is this: How, in that situation, does it feel for the opponent? Certainly, in the case of Cherneka Johnson, it was uncomfortable to watch Ellie Scotney, her opponent, process all that was going on during the weigh-in, what with their fight all of a sudden reduced in an instant from being a battle of skills and wits to a battle of looks and sexuality. In that sense, then, stunts like Johnson’s, although maybe beneficial for the woman blessed with the confidence and physique to get ahead in this way, do very little for the drive to have women’s boxing accepted as something more than just a curiosity enjoyed, in the main, by men. It stoops, that is, rather than climbs.
Still, such occurrences are rare and for the most part female boxers are today doing a fine job of showcasing their quality in the ring; often one-upping their male counterparts when it comes to making the best fights and entertaining the fans. Of the two, in fact, it is typically still the boys who are the ones misbehaving at the back of the classroom.
What’s more, if you want to talk greed and the degradation of self in order to get paid, it wasn’t all that long ago numerous male boxers in Germany, including former super-middleweight champion Sven Ottke, were going about their business with the logos of condom companies, like Condomi, temporarily tattooed on their back. These were not poor fighters, either, financially speaking, and therefore this trend, which was later outlawed, could only ever be viewed, both then and now, as a way of raking in yet more money – not unlike the approach taken by female boxers in 2023.
Always moving, and with his back constantly on display, the elusive Ottke had the kind of impregnable defence that made a partnership with Condomi perfectly natural; clever, even. The same could also be said for today’s female boxers and their relationship with OnlyFans. At best, it is an arrangement that brings them in money and, in turn, shatters the illusion that powerful men in boxing have embraced the women’s game as something other than a convenient and comparatively cheap event-filler. At worst, it just distracts. Which, in the dystopian world of professional boxing, is not necessarily a bad thing.