South African junior welterweight female boxing champion, Hedda Wolmarans, hardly lets her guard down because in her sport, one wrong move could result in a TKO.

Nicknamed Shredder, Wolmarans is no walkover in the ring. Her first fight as an amateur boxer nine years ago resulted in her opponent only lasting 8 seconds in the ring and has since become the best local female boxer.

It is unfortunate, however, that despite Wolmarans’ success, she has been forced to find work outside of the ring to pay her monthly expenses and fund her passion. A tale too familiar among female athletes in South Africa.

She has joined the unrelenting and resolute call for sponsors to step up and support women’s sport, with hopes that one day South African sport will be on the same level as the rest of the world.

As she fights for equality in the ring, find out more about her journey.

Hedda, welcome to gsport! Please tell us where your passion for boxing comes from.

My brother took me to a boxercise gym when I was about 18. I just messed around on the bags with no idea what I was really doing. All I knew was that it was really tough to keep on throwing punches for 3 minutes! And, it felt really good throwing those punches. It’s empowering. Even more challenging was sparring; to get hit and hit back for 3 minutes. I wanted to conquer the toughness. I fell in love with the dedication and commitment the sport required. Boxing is hard, training is always hard. It never gets easier, you just become better.

“When I just started boxing, I wanted to figure out how to be able to handle those gruelling rounds, to maintain a good work rate and be able to recover in the rest periods in between. This led me to eventually study Sport Management and, later on, Sport Science.” – South African Junior Welterweight Champion, Hedda Wolmarans.

A lot of my time was, and still is, spent problem solving. When I just started boxing, I wanted to figure out how to be able to handle those gruelling rounds, to maintain a good work rate and be able to recover in the rest periods in between. This led me to eventually study Sport Management and, later on, Sport Science.

Were you always into sports growing up?

I have always loved sports. Growing up I played soccer, cricket, netball and tennis. As a teenager I took up tennis quite seriously but realised it wasn’t for me at about 18 years old.

I’m sure you got a jaw dropping response (no pun intended) each time you told someone that this young woman is an aspirant boxer . What would you say ultimately made you decide on boxing?

I can’t remember it ever being a decision. It was more something that just happened. A dream that I have decided to continue chasing. Boxing is the centre of my life. It’s hard to call it a career because it doesn’t pay the bills at all. But I work to be able to fund this dream.

What was the initial response from your family when you told them about your interest in the sport?

I can’t say that they were thrilled initially. Continuous blows to the head don’t sound thrilling to any parent I’m sure. But I am lucky that they have been supportive and understand how much I love this sport. They always come and watch my fights and I sometimes feel that they get more nervous than I do.

When was your first fight and what was that experience like?

Amateur: March 2011. It lasted about 8 seconds. I don’t remember much of it. It was pure adrenaline that took over. I knocked my opponent down and she did not beat the count to get back up.  

“After the first couple of punches I started to loosen up and I started landing and stunning my opponent. I knocked her down about halfway through the second round and she did not get back up.” – Wolmarans speaks on her first match after turning pro.

Professional: December 2015. New to the pro game. The gloves are smaller. Your hands get wrapped much differently. You have a nickname, your own special outfit, your own song to walk out to. Bliss! The nerves were insane. The ring felt tiny, the only choice you have is to fight. But after the first couple of punches I started to loosen up and I started landing and stunning my opponent. I knocked her down about halfway through the second round and she did not get back up.

What are your thoughts on the current state of female boxing in the country?

Not enough is being done to develop female boxing in the country. Promoters often shy away from promoting female fighters. Only during women’s month do they try and pull us all out of the woodwork, and praise us, it is insulting! During all of the other months we don’t exist. Maybe only a fortunate handful.

How do you think it can be improved?

Female fighters need more opportunities to showcase their skills, only then can the sport grow. Young girls need to see that women can box. Gender stereotypes need to be smashed to pieces. We need our fights to be televised. We need to be seen, and we need more opportunities to fight. If I could have it my way, bills would be evenly split between male and female fights. Equality!

Female fighters also need sponsorship. If there is talent, it needs to be given the opportunity to develop. I am fortunate to have some sponsorship, but I still work every day to pay the bills. Overseas the situation is much different. If you have the right sponsors, boxing becomes your full-time job and all your energy can be poured into your passion.

“When we look at Europe and the US, female fighters are active, they are able to call boxing a career and make a decent living out of it. Women are headlining major fight cards. That is not the case here.” – Wolmarans highlights the difference between boxing in other countries as compared to South Africa.

When we look at Europe and the US, female fighters are active, they are able to call boxing a career and make a decent living out of it. Women are headlining major fight cards. That is not the case here.

What would you say is the biggest misconception about female boxers?

I’m not really sure. Maybe that we’re all gay? (laughter). But I guess that goes for any sport in which you are required to do anything vaguely “unlady-like”. Women are pretty tough, regardless of whether they do a sport or not. It’s okay to show the world just how tough you are.

What have been your biggest achievements so far?

Becoming the South African Junior Welterweight Champion.

Which female boxers inspire you and why?

Katie Taylor – she is quick, powerful, clever, and could outbox a lot of men I am sure. She is also very humble. A fine example of what a champion should be.

Cecilia Braekhaus – she is the first woman to unify all four world titles and she still holds all those titles. She is nearly 40 years old and still winning. She has shown the world that age is really only a number .

 What are you still hoping to achieve in your career?

My one and only goal is to become a world champion.

 

 

Photo 1 Caption: South African junior welterweight female boxing champion, Hedda Wolmarans, hardly lets her guard down because in her sport, one wrong move could result in a TKO. Photo: Supplied

Photo 2 Caption: Nicknamed Shredder, Wolmarans is no walkover in the ring. Her first fight as an amateur boxer nine years ago resulted in her opponent only lasting 8 seconds in the ring and has since become the best local female boxer. Photo: Supplied

Photo 3 Caption: It is unfortunate, however, that despite Wolmarans’ success, she has been forced to find work outside of the ring to pay her monthly expenses and fund her passion. A tale too familiar among female athletes in South Africa. Photo: Supplied

Photo 4 Caption: She has joined the unrelenting and resolute call for sponsors to step up and support women’s sport, with hopes that one day South African sport will be on the same level as the rest of the world. Photo: Supplied

Photo 5 Caption: As she fights for equality in the ring, find out more about her journey. Photo: Supplied