Born JoAnn Verhagen in South Bend, IN.
While working at the Bendix brake manufacturing factory, she hit a co-worker who was harassing her with uninvited advances and the incident was witnessed by the brother of local boxing promoter Johnny Nate. Before long, Verhagen was a regular at Nate’s boxing gym. Boxing under the name JoAnn Hagen, she competed in matches throughout the Midwest. In 1949 she squared off with fellow South Bend native Pat Emerick in Council Bluffs, Iowa with Emerick winning by 4th round TKO. In 1954 Hagen made history as the only boxer to defeat Barbara Buttrick when she scored an eight-round decision in front of 1,200 fans in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in the first women’s bout to be broadcast over the radio. Hagen helped raise female boxing’s profile by making major media appearances including the popular game show What’s My Line? and The Steve Allen Show. Following a loss to Phyllis Kugler in 1956, she hung up the gloves.
After retiring from the ring, Hagen enlisted in the Marine Corps and lived in South Bend until she passed away in 2004 at age 73.