Women’s boxing great Marian ‘Lady Tyger’ Trimiar finally gets her due￼
Marian “Lady Tyger” Trimiar of the Bronx demonstrates her form at the Mulberry Street Boxing Festival in New York’s Little Italy, Sept. 2, 1974. For her debut, the lightweight boxer sparred with male boxers and hopes to convince amateur boxing officials that a ladies’ division should be included in the Olympics. (Ray Howard/AP)
On May 28, two days before Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano would put on a lightweight title fight for the ages, co-promoter and You Tube influencer Jake Paul thanked the pioneers of women’s boxing, mentioning Christy Martin and Laila Ali.
Wait … what?
Three women — Marian “Lady Tyger” Trimiar, the late Jackie Tonawanda and Cat Davis — were the first female fighters to get their boxing license after suing the New York State Athletic Commission in 1978.
What Paul also forgot to mention is that Trimiar sued the Commission first and was forgotten to the waste bin of sports history until she got the call last year.
She was inducted in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., over the weekend.
“I’m grateful and honored for the opportunity for the recognition,” says the graduate of Julia Richmond High School in Manhattan.
Due to COVID-19, the Hall combined three classes this year.
Some of the worthy inductees are Shane Mosley, Bernard Hopkins, Juan Manuel Marquez, Christy Martin, Lucia Rijker, Barbara Buttrick (Class of 2020); Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Wladimir Klitschko, Laila Ali, Andre Ward, Anne Wolfe, Trimiar (Class of 2021); and Roy Jones, Jr., Miguel Cotto, James Toney, Holly Holm, Regina Halmich (Class of 2022).
Manhattan resident Trimiar is pleased with the honor but wants to set the record straight about “receiving” her license. It should have been her proudest moment if it had been managed properly.
“When I got my license, they messed it up when they handed it to [Davis first],” recalls the 68-year-old Trimiar. This is where the Tyger comes out.
“Jackie and Cat had no interest in doing anything [to get the license]. They jumped on the bandwagon after I went to the state athletic commission. I was doing an exhibition with [former middleweight champ] Vito Antuofermo and got all of that publicity and that’s when they started jumping on the bandwagon,” she says.
“That really pissed me off.”
Then came the photo-op ceremony to actually receive the license.
“We were all standing together, and they could have issued our licenses at the same time, but they handed it to the white girl first, making it that she was the first to be licensed,” remembers Trimiar, still with that fighter’s spirit after all these years.
“I’ve been away and out of boxing for 30 years. I let it be the past of my life,” she says.
Her current life is more difficult from her active days as a fighter from 1975-85.
“I’m in a wheelchair and I have a lot of medical issues and I gained a lot of weight and don’t look the part. A lot of people wouldn’t recognize me now,” she acknowledges. She shaved her head early in her career (“People used to call me ‘Kojak,’” she says) to get noticed until her skills took over.
“Been in the wheelchair for approximately 20 years.”
She’s had her share of heartbreaks, but maintains her bubbly personality. Even when the topic isn’t pleasant.
“I lost my whole family … my mother, my father, my sister and my two brothers passed when my mother was alive,” she states.
She lost her son when he was 22. “I have no one but my home attendant and a couple of true friends.”
Trimiar’s attendant is with her Monday through Friday from 10-6. Then her voice perks up.
“On the weekends, I’m on my own,” she says with a little laugh. “I used to have a whole village that I could depend on and talk to. I enjoyed Christmas and Easter and the holidays, and I can cook.
“I enjoyed cooking for family and friends. Now that they’re all gone, there’s no need to cook a great big 20-pound turkey for myself.”
She suffers from lymphedema which causes a swelling in her legs, but that doesn’t keep her down.
“I can still stand and wash my dishes,” she says with that chuckle again.
As a fighter, Trimiar fought in and out of the ring. She battled opponents and the forces that tried to hold her back. She even did a 30-day hunger strike in 1987 (losing 30 pounds) to improve conditions for women’s boxing. She targeted promoter Don King who was guiding Christy Martin.
“A trainer in Gleason’s gym told me women will never, ever be licensed in the state of New York,” she recalls. “I said, you want to bet, and he said, OK. It was a $100 bet. We shook on it, and I got my license and he never paid up and I never saw him to pay up.”
Trimiar learned her craft by going up against men in the gym. She even spit out a cracked tooth once and kept on sparring.
She compiled a record of 18-4 with five KOs (never been stopped) and captured the Women’s World Lightweight title with a win over Sue “KO” Carlson in San Antonio, Texas, in 1979, but her reign didn’t last long.
“When I won the championship, I only got $1,000 for it,” she says. “I had my title taken away because I refused to fight for 10, 12 rounds for a thousand dollars [again]. It costs money to train, and I had to work not just work at a job, but working to promote women’s boxing, asking promoters and letter writing.”
The odd thing about her career is Trimiar has fought in Japan and St. Thomas USVI, even losing a bout to Iran Barkley’s sister Yvonne in Philadelphia in 1976. But she never fought in the Big Apple.
“Isn’t that something,” she says. “I fought to get my license in New York, but I never did fight in New York.”
Trimiar did fight the exhibition in New York, if you want to call it that.
“We weren’t even licensed as amateur boxers,” she notes. Who knows how many unlicensed “exhibitions” she’s fought?
Trimiar is indeed a pioneer that opened the ring to other female fighters. Of the 17 fighters going into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, eight are women.
When Taylor and Serrano put on their Fight of the Year candidate bout, both women got seven-figure purses. That made Trimiar proud. Remember, she only made a grand for her title fight.
“That’s part of the reward,” she says. “I’m happy to see that something I did helped women today.”
If fighting was Act One for “Lady Tyger” and Act Two is just surviving, then Act Three is unfolding under bright lights.
Raw TV of London has been filming a documentary on Trimiar for the last year and they will be at the induction ceremonies. The company produces “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy” Sunday’s on CNN.
Wheelchair or not, nothing will stop Trimiar from attending her induction and she promises to stand to give her acceptance speech.
She was told to keep it to three minutes.
“I just want to stand so people can see me,” she declares. “I don’t want the people to see me in a wheelchair.”
She’s asked whether she really can stand and give her speech in three minutes.
“Without a doubt,” she says.
Spoken like a true “Tyger.”