“Just like the real thing – every bit as corrupt and tacky as professional boxing!”
If you’re not familiar with the Toughman concept, a brief summary: two amateur fighters, box it out for three one-minute rounds. The short duration means tactics are largely reduced to whaling away big-time, which makes a version of the sport suitable for the post-MTV generation. This pay-per-view special was a knockout tournament, with 16 female entrants from across the U.S…which naturally had me carping about the “world” in the title (clearly from the same parochial mind-set as “world series”).
Credit where credit is due, and that must go to the participants, who (mostly) carried themselves with a fair bit of dignity and grace; you could only admire their heart, tenacity and grit. It was gratifying to see that participants hadn’t been chosen on the basis of looks, though I do have to say that no-one weighing 275 lbs really deserves the nickname ‘Pretty Woman’. But that’s just my opinion, and I certainly wouldn’t argue the point with her. :-)
I said “mostly”; the sole exception was Leah Stuker, an arrogant ex-stripper. She didn’t even deserve to win her first-round bout – okay, one bad judging decision can be excused. She also got the decision in her next two bouts – let’s be charitable, and say they were close enough to be arguable. But in the final, against veteran Becki Levy (above, right), she barely landed a punch…and still triumphed. Perhaps her arrogance was because she knew all along she was going to win, providing she remained conscious. I wouldn’t have minded it being staged if, like the WWF, the other contestants had been in on it. They obviously weren’t, and were giving their all in the cause of a sham. Levy, Nicky Eplion, Cassandra Gieggar, even Paula ‘Pretty Woman’ Soap – they all deserved victory more than Stuker. I note with interest that Stuker had been the poster-girl on the Toughwoman site since before the contest took place. Just a coincidence, nothing to worry about…
It didn’t help that in-ring announcer (and Toughman owner) Art Dore and corner-interviewer Jimmy Smith both left trails of slime behind them in their interactions with the contestants. Outside, things were slightly better: Larry Michael was informative and non-patronising, but then, sitting next to Christie Martin would keep anyone in check. To Martin’s credit, she seemed to be seriously biting her tongue about the final result – I would personally have been delighted to pay a further $19.95, and see her give Stuker the serious kicking she deserved. It all left a bad, bad taste in the mouth, and pretty much guarantees I won’t buy any more of their PPV’s. Hey, if I want to see pre-arranged fights, Wrestlemania’s coming up…
From Leah ‘the Katz’ Stuker, 2nd May 2004
This is 2002 Toughwoman World Champion Leah Stuker – I was told how your site dogged me out. Well, why don’t you see it from my point of view. Yes, I had won and was very surprised that I won, until I watched the video after I got home. Then I saw how it was possible: if Becky deserved that fight, then she should have been doing some hitting, because the whole time, all she was trying to do was sit on me.
What’s really shitty is, I went in there to fight and win just like everyone else, and I had no-one sponsoring me, no-one training me, no-one but my family to back me. Then they decide to give me the name ‘stripper’ – something I did ten years before this, and the only reason they knew about that is because one of the corner men had seen me working a month before a fight I won in Montana. So all my family and friends got to see my name rubbed in the mud on national TV. I got 50 questions about that from my Dad, thanks to that asshole Art. If you read anything, my name was Leah ‘the Katz’ Stuker, not ‘the stripper’.
Needless to say everything I learned, I learned from the streets, books or even watching some TV bouts. How many girls can say they went in there with no formal training and no boxing coach whatsoever – just heart and strength! As for the pix on their website, I was told to get some done, because all the girls fighting were getting them posted on the site. I got some done, but they didn’t like the ones I sent – and since they paid the photographer, they picked which ones they liked.
If I knew I was going to win this thing, I sure would have gotten a lot less bruises and asked for a little more money, because 4 fights in 2 hours is not what I wanted to do. And if I was their “poster child” how come I never heard from Toughman or Art Dore ever again after this bout? Why did I get paid and never get any thing after this point, including this pro contract that I was supposed to get? Not one person from Toughman said they would ever have me go pro.
Since you were so sure I was on their side and so sure this fight was staged, then come to my house and tell my kids the 4 to 6 hours in the gym a day were for nothing; the learning I did on my own was for nothing; everything I did was for nothing. Leaving them for almost a week was for nothing since I am a very devoted mother and leaving them was the hardest thing I ever had to do!! Tell them that: because even if you assholes don’t think I deserved it, my boys think I am their biggest hero.
I cross a bunch of hurdles everyday and never look back to see if I knocked any down, only ahead to make sure the path is still there. Here’s to all who think I didn’t win – I won fair and square, have got the money, trophy and jacket to prove it, and am now back to being a single mother raising her boys on her own.
[With hindsight, it looks as if we were harsh on The Katz – though we still don’t feel she deserved to win, and suspect the organizers decided the winner beforehand (likely based on factors outside the ring), it seems that Stuker was trying every bit as hard as any other competitor and was an innocent victim – we apologise for suggesting otherwise. It sounds like she got screwed over too, and deserves sympathy for the treatment she received. Besides, any woman bringing up kids on their own is a heroine every single day…