These women excel working in boxing, a male-dominated sport

The two fighters circled each other, probing, pawing, waiting to strike.

Outside the ring, several women were watching intently.

One held a pen and a piece of paper. Another had her eye on a clock. A third was in one of the corners, checking to see that both combatants were physically OK.

Boxing, a sport dominated by men, has had a noticeable female presence in recent years, and not just in the ring.

Women are taking a more active role in the organization and operation of the sport. They don't just fight and train other fighters. They run gyms, judge bouts, manage, promote and set policy.

In Las Vegas, pro boxing has a healthy dose of estrogen mixed in with the abundance of testosterone. Women do more than carry a numbered sign in the ring between rounds.

Much more.

"It's really like any other job, only it's male-dominated," said Dawn Barry, who owns and runs Barry's Boxing, a gym on South Highland Avenue. "I never let my gender get in the way of what I do."

Dena duBoef, vice president for marketing and special events at Bob Arum's Top Rank, said: "I'm not a boxing connoisseur by any means. But you don't have to be an expert to be successful in boxing. You have to work hard, and the reality is women have had to work extra hard to get ahead, not just in boxing."

Still, it might mean women show a harder exterior to make sure they don't get pushed around. Barry said she is tough, but fair, with the hundreds of men at her gym.

"You can get their respect and still be a woman if you know what you're talking about," she said. "But that's true with any business."

Adalaide Byrd has been judging fights for 28 years, the past seven in Nevada, and has worked 45 world title fights. Byrd said being a woman forces her to prove herself constantly.

"I believe it took me longer to earn credibility than it would had I been a man," Byrd said. "You're watched closer as a woman, and you're subjected to more scrutiny."

Most of the woman in boxing didn't set out to be involved in the sport. Patricia Morse Jarman was a reporter at KTNV-TV, Channel 13 long before she became a fight judge. Sonja Ewell worked at HBO before she tried her hand at managing fighters. Barry worked for the Metropolitan Police Department before she and her husband, Pat, got into the boxing business 25 years ago.

"I've asked myself many times how I got into this, and I've never gotten an answer," Barry said. "My husband wanted it, and it kept mushrooming and mushrooming. Twenty-five years later, here we are."

Most men aren't threatened by having women involved. Clarence "Bones" Adams, a former world bantamweight champion who recently won a fight at the Palms, said he prefers a woman judge.

"They pay closer attention," Adams said. "They know how to judge. Being a fighter has nothing to do with being able to be a judge. They're two different things."

Byrd appreciated hearing Adams' comments.

"It's a sign of progress. You're here to give 100 percent, just like the fighters do," she said.

The women who work in professional boxing in Las Vegas don't consider themselves a sisterhood. Instead, they feel like they're part of the sports community as a whole. Women are more accepted than they were 20, 30 years ago when few women actually fought and fewer did anything more than work as a secretary or an office staffer.

"There's a sense of family with all the people involved in boxing," said Pat Lundvall, the lone woman on the five-member Nevada Athletic Commission panel. "That being said, it's great to see women getting the opportunity to become more involved. It's good for the sport."

Many say they remain involved with boxing because of the competition, what Lundvall refers to as "the human chess match" that takes place inside the ring.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp or 702-387-2913.