The gloves are off as women's boxing legend meets fighter Tommy Coyle

She was "The Mighty Atom of the Ring," under 5ft tall, but with a lethal left jab

Barbara Buttrick

For a decade Barbara Buttrick was the world’s unbeaten flyweight and bantamweight champion - scoring 12 knockouts.

But when Barbara decided she take up boxing in the 1940s, her biggest battle was getting anyone to take her seriously.

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The 87-year-old, who now lives in Miami, returned to her native Hull today and came face to face with another local boxing champion, Tommy Coyle, who unveiled a plaque in her honour at his gym in east Hull. "You have the eye of a tiger", he told her.

Barbara Buttrick

"She was a world champion - I am just international," he added.

Coyle, a former WBC Silver International lightweight champion and Buttrick, will take part in a panel discussion at the WOW Hull festival this Saturday.

Her story has also inspired a new play Mighty Atoms, by Amanda Whttington, which premieres at Hull Truck Theatre in June.

Buttrick was born in Cottingham, near Hull, in 1930. She realised what she wanted to do when she came home after playing football, her shoes covered in mud and her mother threw down a newspaper to clean them off.

Barbara Buttrick

It was about Polly Burns aka "Polly the Champ", a remarkable fighter, born in 1881 to a circus family, famous as "the lady who held up donkeys with her teeth".

She said: "What used to annoy me was that the boys, whatever they wanted to do they could do.

"Girls never had opportunities. I felt a girl should be able to do what she wanted to do.

"I started by punching in the back yard with the boys in 1945. Then when I was 18 I decided to go to London. My mum was not happy but she said as I was 18 she could not stop me."

Barbara Buttrick

She pressed on despite negative comment, including the Daily Mirror, which wrote: "I fail to understand why she considers it necessary to parade herself like some freak."

The Yorkshire Post recorded in July 1950 the Mayor of Dewsbury expressing his displeasure at a fight between her and another woman at the town's Fair. It was later cancelled - despite hundreds queuing up to watch.

She added: "Girls are very lucky now to have the opportunities. If I was a kid now I would be a very happy kid. They should appreciate it."

After her first appearance on the fairground at Epsom on Derby Day, in 1949, in Tommy Wood's booth, she racked up 1,000 boxing exhibitions as a bantamweight, travelling the fairgrounds of England, France and the US.

Barbara Buttrick

She then fought professionally in Canada, Chicago, and southern Florida.

In 1957, she became the first female to win a World Title at bantamweight in San Antonio, Texas, beating the heavier Phyllis Kugler on a unanimous points decision.

Buttrick also founded and became the president of the Women's International Boxing Federation.

Coyle said he hoped she would inspire a new generation of female fighters. He said: "We have some fantastic young females who are up and coming. For them to realise what Barbara achieved, I am hoping she will inspire them to go and do the same."

Barbara Buttrick
Barbara Buttrick