One corner represented fright and curiosity - a super-novice boxer who wasn't used to being touched unwillingly, let alone punched intentionally.

In the other corner stood 110 pounds of human concrete, a world titlist who carries her championship belt in a lined briefcase and packs fearlessness in her unforgiving left hook.The champion was about to answer the curious one's big question, woman to woman, warrior to wimp:

Why are more and more women boxing?

"Almost every woman does it for the excitement. It's a thrill. And a lot of them are good at it," said Para Draine of Spokane, newly crowned International Women's Boxing Federation flyweight champ.

"It's physically challenging," she added.

Physically challenging as well as mentally terrifying to the virgin counterpuncher, who feared her arms and stomach would resemble the skin of a month-old pear the morning after.

After one round of ducking the champ's half-heartedly thrown jabs - accompanied by a few mocking pleas of "No mas! No mas," the novice said she had plenty.

But it was enough time to experience a rush that was fueled by inner strength as well as outwardly visible fear.

In a women's regulation 2-minute round, which felt more like a day, the amateur began to understand why certain women feel the need to invade one of the last bastions of male sport.

"Women, just like any athlete, are looking for a bigger challenge," Draine said. "What I don't understand is why anyone would climb a damn mountain. Why would anyone climb Mount Rainier? Now that's crazy to me."

But climbing into the ring with the possibility of getting knocked cold is sane. And it's beginning to be more commonplace as hundreds of women attempt to make a buck from boxing.

The inception of women's boxing dates to the 1950s but always was perceived as a novelty act and eventually faded. It was given a new life five years ago when a woman successfully sued for the right to fight.

However, it gained its credibility in September 1996 when Christy Martin fought Deidre Gogarty in an undercard bout to the Mike Tyson-Frank Bruno fight. The women's bout, backed by promotions giant Don King, was broadcast to millions on pay-per-view. Martin earned a reported $50,000. Two years later, she turned down a fight against Lucia Rijker that would have paid an even split on $1.5 million.

Currently, there are about 2,000 female boxers worldwide, estimates Tom Eaton, president of FemBoxer Inc., a company based in Columbia, S.C. Eaton, who runs an Internet site called Women's Boxing on the Web, estimates between 400 and 500 are professional fighters.

Eaton's Web site, which he started about one year ago, profiles about 200 female boxers. He said the site gets about 185,000 visitors each month. In a recent report, Eaton wrote, "Boxing's `Best Kept Secret,' Para Draine, is a secret no longer.

Nicknamed the "The Czar of Women's Boxing," Eaton has been training female boxers for more than two years.

"I've found them to be better pupils of the sport," said Eaton, a 39-year-old former boxer. "They don't come in with the attitude that I'm going to make $60 million a fight. They don't do it for the money. They do it for the love of the sport. The idea is they want to fight and they want to be the best that they can be.

"Para's a perfect example of that.

"In her weight class, she is in the top of the sport."

Draine, 25, is the most decorated female fighter in the area. The 1991 Rogers High School graduate turned pro May 14, 1997. She's compiled a 7-1 record and estimates her earnings to be about $10,000, which forces her to keep her other night job as an I.D. checker and bouncer at a Spokane club.

Her big payday came May 24 when she earned $2,500 and claimed the IWBF Flyweight title in Atlantic City, N.J., beating Michelle Sutcliffe of England with a fifth-round TKO.

"I think the sport is actually just starting to boom to where there's more and more competitors," Draine said.

Already, there are other budding boxers in the Lilac City.

Sarah Schmedding, Draine's close friend, is one of Draine's regular sparring partners at the Spokane Karate Center on E. Sprague Ave. Schmedding, a 140-pound welterweight, turned pro Sept. 22, 1997 and has a 3-1 record. The 1995 Ferris High graduate, who was born and raised in the Valley, earns a living as a laborer who works with cement.

Nineteen-year-old Layla McCarter has compiled a 10-1 record as an amateur super flyweight. She's looking to turn pro within the next few months.

Schmedding and McCarter are byproducts of kickboxing. Draine, a top-ranked long-distance runner in high school and at the Community Colleges of Spokane, is the byproduct of a big family and one that includes two brothers who boxed.

The common denominator of all three is their unabashed toughness, sans fingernail polish, hairspray and stiletto heels. It's a good bet they'd have trouble finding a department store's cosmetics counter.