Battlin' Barbara by Anthony Lucas | Script Revolution

Battlin' Barbara

The true story of Barbara “The Mighty Atom” Buttrick-Smith, and her journey to become the first female World Bantamweight Boxing Champion while fighting the misogyny of the 1950's



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It’s 1945 in Hornsea, Yorkshire, United Kingdom, and fifteen-year-old Barbara Buttrick doesn’t follow the normal, and expected, activities of other girls her age. While competing in a football match with the local boys, she gets into a fistfight with a boy from the opposing team, and wins. Post-match and as Barbara and her friend clean their shoes with shoe-polish and newspaper, her attention is drawn to an article about a female prizefighter from 1914. Little did Barbara know, that article would be the impetus that would ignite a lifelong passion.

While visiting a travelling carnival Barbara watched with intrigue a woman take on all comers in the boxing ring, and try as she might, she could not get that out of her mind. With the purchase of a used pair of boxing gloves and the book, “The Noble Art of Self Defense” from a second-hand store, Barbara, with the support and assistance of her father, embarks on a rigorous self-training regime and at the age of eighteen revisits the travelling carnival. Only this time as a contender.

Although she initially fails to last the required single round, she persists again and again until she holds her own for an entire round. When she collects her winnings, she is approached by Sam McKeowen, an owner of another carnival, who, impressed with the fact that she was the only person to last a single round for the entire week, offers her a job as a fighter in his carnival.

In 1949, Barbara leaves Sam’s carnival to train at Mickey Wood’s gym in London, where she meets Len Smith, a man amongst so many who believed women had no place in a boxing ring. Len backs up his opinion by quoting a newspaper article calling for the abolition of the new trend of female boxers only to be met by Barbara’s challenge to a sparring session, which results in Barbara knocking him to the mat and breaking his nose in the process. After this, Mickey persuades Len to train Barbara for exhibition bouts, with her first bout being against Bert Saunders at the Kilburn Empire. But the Variety Artists Foundation steps in and applies pressure to cancel the bout.

With no other choice, Barbara resumes her training and eventually marries Len in 1952. They move to Texas in the United States of America, after learning that female boxers were more mainstream in that continent, but with the lack of recognition, Barbara finds she is back at square one and has no choice but to re-enter the carnival circuit in order to make a name for herself. Eventually Barbara is signed for her first professional fight, to be held in Canada in 1954. She loses via the judge’s decision but proves to everyone watching that she is a fighter to contend with.

In 1957 Barbara is granted the first United States female boxing license, along with American Phyllis Kugler, and is able to fight for the first Female Bantamweight World Title.

Barbara wins by unanimous decision and becomes the world’s first female boxing champion.

Having retired as undefeated Bantamweight Champion of the world in 1960, Barbara still resides to this day in Miami, Florida.

In 1990 Barbara was inducted into the International Boxing and Wrestling Hall of Fame and in 1994 she founded the Women’s International Boxing Federation of which she is still President today at 90 years of age.

Submitted: May 13, 2019
Last Updated: June 14, 2019

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The Writer: Anthony Lucas

I've been working at sea for the last thirteen years and always dabbled with short stories in my spare time. My late Uncle, an actor/director, read one and said he thought it would make a quirky short film, and so the seed was sown. At first I was overwhelmed by how it all works and what needed to be included to make an effective, engaging screenplay. But, working ten months a year at sea is great motivation for not working ten months a year at sea! So I stuck with it. The short was made as a final piece for a friends degree at Londons Met Film School and the fact that she wanted to make it at all gave me the confidence to attempt a feature, and I have recently finished my second and have... Go to bio

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