Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Dana Johannsen: Tawdry boxing bout insult to performance of real female athletes

New Zealand celebrities Jaime Ridge and Rosanna Arkle fight. Photo / AP.
New Zealand celebrities Jaime Ridge and Rosanna Arkle fight. Photo / AP.

What another great landmark for women's sport this week.

As two Kiwi sides prepare to contest the transtasman league netball finals, a "celebrity" fight between reality TV personalities Jaime Ridge and Rosanna Arkle captured the headlines.

Forget whether key defender Anna Harrison is going to take the court for the Northern Mystics this week - will Rosie's boobs be adequately protected?

It would be a terrible shame if one of those puppies were to come a cropper, right?

The issue of breast protection was the subject of much concern for television host Howard Dobson, or perhaps he just liked the sound of the word. Dobbo bombarded Ridge with a series of probing questions about her opponent - or "component" as our Jaime referred to her.

"What was your reaction when she was still putting breast protectors in seconds before the fight? I mean, that was crazy stuff!" Dobbo gushed.

He continued: "What did you think of her whole campaign? It seemed like a bit of a stunt because she was threatening to wear a bikini top - all you had to do was hit her on the breast and I tell you, it would have been all over in five seconds."

And again: "We've got to ask - were you instructed by Monty to hit her breast? Were you thinking about hitting her in the breasts?"

He then went on to cover other important issues such as when Ridge's new reality show was coming out (is it too much to hope the answer was never?), and whether she had heard from her former boyfriend Sonny Bill Williams, with whom she had a serious one-month relationship.

Other sections of the media yesterday treated us to a misdirected blow-by-blow account of the fight as they would for professional boxers.

Who won? Who cares? Women's sport is the loser.

Tawdry events like this only undermine efforts by real female athletes to achieve recognition for their performance, rather than their appearance and body shape.

It's one thing for promoters to bill the match-up as a proper fight, but for the media, including this newspaper, to embrace it as a genuine sports event only serves to show what little regard they have for the nation's true female sports stars.

Aware of the controversy surrounding the fight, Arkle attempted to defend her role in it.

"There's two ways you can look at it: You can say it's a shame on women's boxing as I've seen some people say. But then it's also bringing women's boxing into the limelight and getting it more noticed, isn't it?"

Um, no. The only thing in the limelight this week was Arkle's rack.

Ridge, too, tried to claim she was doing it for the sisterhood.

When she signed up to fight on the undercard, she said her motivation was to inspire women. Bouncing around the boxing ring before the main bout between Shane Cameron and Monte Barrett, Ridge hoped, would help women to feel empowered.

"I want to do something outside my comfort zone. And I want to inspire girls if I can - I want them to feel empowered, too."

Right, Mum?

Looking around the room on Thursday night, there didn't appear to be a great many women inspired. Except for maybe the ring girls, who were possibly thinking: "A brief fling with an All Black and a racy magazine shoot and that could be me one day."

The men however, were inspired - many were brimming with ideas on how the event could be improved in the future.

"It needs jelly and nudity," said one.

"It needs to be rebranded as erotic combat," added another.

Asked after the fight if she felt she had achieved her goal of empowering women, Ridge said: "Um yeah, I mean I do, I've had a few tweets tonight actually that have said like, 'I'm really, really proud of you'."

Like, yeah, keep fighting the good fight, sister.

- NZ Herald

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Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Dana has more than a decade's experience in sports journalism, joining the Herald in 2007 following stints with TVNZ and RadioSport. Over that time Dana has covered several major events including the 2011 Netball World Cup in Singapore, 2011 Rugby World Cup, 2012-13 Volvo Ocean Race, and the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco. A multi-award winning journalist, Dana was named New Zealand Sports Journalist of the Year in 2012 after scooping both the news and feature categories at the TP McLean Awards. The previous year she picked up the prize for best news break. She was also an inaugural recipient of the Sir John Wells scholarship at the 2009 NZSJA awards. Dana also writes a weekly sports column for the NZ Herald.

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