PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                     November 25, 2012


Home Boxers Fights Arenas Non-Boxers Gyms Relics More About Contact


By George H. Hanson Jr., Esq.
The Mouthpiece


If I were to write a book about Althea Saunders, I would start the first chapter with “The crowd parted, when they heard the Thunder as she entered the ring. The gong sounded and Thunder rained down on her opponent like an Indian monsoon.” Yes, Althea Saunders is a boxer of the highest order. She’s a well-oiled, fine-tuned purveyor of pain and destruction—a lean mean fighting machine—135 pounds of twisted steel and mass appeal! “Had Dr. Frankenstein gone to his lab focused on creating the perfect physical specimen for a female pugilist, he would have emerged with Althea “Lady Thunder” Saunders. Saunders (3 wins – 0 losses – 1 draw – 0 KOs) has the legs of a 100-meter sprinter and the upper body symmetry and strength of a professional swimmer. Her orbs are set perfectly in her cranium to garner maximum peripheral vision. Beautiful, lithe, powerful, alert and quick as a cat, watching her you get an eerily titillating feeling that visitors from another world left her in Roswell, New Mexico programmed for destruction and mayhem in the squared circle.” (The Mouthpiece – January 28, 2012)

Born in the historical fight town of Philadelphia and raised in Atlantic City, Saunders graduated from Atlantic City High School where she excelled in track and field, volleyball, soccer and field hockey. A natural athlete she also played the flute in the school’s marching band. Perhaps it was fate, happenstance, providence, or whatever label one wants to use to describe what occurred 12 years ago when Saunders was vacationing in Las Vegas and stumbled upon the national Golden Gloves boxing tournament for women. It piqued her interest and she attended and was intrigued by the action convinced that this was her calling. Hell, she was no stranger to contact sports already holding a green belt in taekwondo—practicing at the Atlantic City P.A.L. where she also worked full-time as a supervisor. 

Nobody trains harder than Saunders. No surprise that middleweight legend Marvelous Marvin Hagler is her favorite fighter because of his intensity and determination.  Hagler’s work ethic was unrivaled and unquestioned.  Much of the former middleweight champion has rubbed off on Saunders, who is the consummate professional—a perfectionist who embraces the rigorous training of professional boxing.  I would be hard-pressed to find another boxer that wreaks havoc on his anatomy as much as Lady Thunder. It is no easy task to work full-time, raise two children—son Christian who is now 18-years old, daughter Cierra who is now 16— and cram 89 amateur fights in a 10-year window. Yet Saunders was able to accomplish all three in glorious fashion winning the National Golden Gloves and P.A.L championships in 2008 before joining the professional ranks in June 2010.

It was former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women.” Madame Albright was partially correct—there is a special place in hell for people who don’t help women!  If this is the case, many boxing executives will be taking their seat next to Lucifer in his heated enclave. Despite her Spartan

work ethic and rigorous training schedule, Saunders has competed in only four professional fights. In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution secured women the right to vote. Maybe it should have been extended beyond equal rights in the voting booth to also encompass parity in the squared circle. 

Prize-fighting is a male-dominated enterprise and there are still many promoters and matchmakers who are firmly entrenched in their stupidity that the talent and will to compete in a boxing ring emanate from the testicles of men. They vehemently protest the inclusion of women in the professional ranks by excluding them from their professional shows. Thus, a polished diamond of destruction like Saunders gets few opportunities to display her pugilistic prowess. Fortunately, promoters Diane Lee Fischer of Dee Lee Promotions and Percy “Buster” Custus of The James Shuler Memorial Boxing Gym are gender neutral and appreciate the talent and hard work of Saunders who has been an attraction on their cards. Besides, she is a huge ticket seller and a budding songbird who eliminates a line item expense by doing double duty by belting out the National Anthem at the their shows. In one night, Saunders transforms from Patti Labelle to Marvelous Marvin Hagler without missing a beat. Yu nah hear di tun-dah? 

Althea Saunders is passionate about her goal to become New Jersey’s first female world boxing champion. And under the tutelage of Atlantic City-based trainer Bill Johnson—who guided his son Leavander Johnson to the IBF lightweight title—it is axiomatic that she will accomplish this feat. Saunders splits her time between Philadelphia where she now resides, and Atlantic City where she continues to work full-time for the Atlantic City P.A.L. as a Program Specialist.  In the mornings she can be found at The Joe Hand Boxing Gym in Philadelphia working with trainer, Danny Davis. It’s off to work and then training in the afternoon in Atlantic City. It is an exercise in diligence, time management and an indomitable will to reach the pinnacle of her profession.

Allow me to mount my soapbox—it is only a matter of time before Saunders wins a world title. Maybe by then the suits at HBO, Showtime, ESPN and NBC Sports Network will have the common sense, temerity and human decency to showcase a female fighter who isn’t an off-spring of either of the two legends who waged war in The Thrilla in Manila! Then, you will hear the Thunder….

Continue to support the sweet science, and remember, always carry your mouthpiece!




George H. Hanson Jr., Esq. - Special Contributor - November 22, 2012
Photos 1 & 2 by Chris Toney

George Hanson covers the Philly fight scene with his regular
column called "The Mouthpiece". You can reach George via e-mail at