August 21, 2014

The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science - Women's Boxing Monthly Vol 15

Babyface Boxing's Beautiful Brawlers
By Mark A Jones -- Female boxers enlisted in the United States Army continue to impress as Alexandra Love and Rianna Rios won their weight classes in July at the National Women’s Golden Gloves Championships in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Fellow World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) teammates Fallon Farrar and Melissa Parker finished second in their respective weight classes; both are former National Champions.

On August 31 in Redwood City, California, Babyface Boxing presents, “Beautiful Brawlers IV,” an all-female boxing card featuring over 100 amateur boxers from Canada, Puerto Rico, and the United States. The third edition of the series held on August 31, 2013, featuring USA Boxing Olympian Queen Underwood, drew nearly 600 spectators including cameo appearances by professional boxers Ava Knight, Melissa McMorrow, and Carina Moreno. The chief architect of the Beautiful Brawlers series is Blanca Gutierrez, who wears many hats in the boxing scene which includes gym owner, coach, promoter, and she even manages heavyweight Martha "The Shadow" Salazar.

Watts was the big winner in Scotland
The 2014 Commonwealth Games were held in Glasgow, Scotland, on 23 July to 3 August. 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist Nicola Adams (England) won a close 2-1 decision over Michaela Walsh (Northern Ireland) to win the women’s flyweight (48-51 kg) class. Shelly Watts (Australia) won four fights in five days to win the lightweight class (57-60 kg) defeating Laishram Devi (India) by a 3-0 margin. 2012 Olympian Savannah Marshall (England) topped Ariane Fortin (Canada) for top honors in the middleweight (69-75 kg) class by a close 2-1 decision.

A Look Back At July 2014 in Women's Boxing:

On July 18 in Sedavi, Spain, vivacious light-middleweight Mikaela “Destiny” Lauren (22-3, 8 KOs) of Stockholm, Sweden, at a catchweight of 152 pounds, earned a WBC title opportunity with an eight-round decision victory over former title challenger, Kali Reis (6-3-1, 2 KOs) of Providence, RI, by the scores (77-74/77-75/77-75). Lauren enjoys excellent fan support in Europe and employed her size and experience to earn a slight advantage on the scorecards. Reis was competitive throughout, displaying enough boxing ability to keep the score close. With the win, Lauren will receive a shot at the vacant WBC light-middleweight title against Aleksandra Magdziak Lopes in Sweden in November.

Lauren earns a WBC title shot
KO Digest’s Top 5 Light Middleweights:

1- Anne Sophie Mathis (France)
2- Mikaela Lauren (Sweden)
3- Paola Gabriela Casalinuovo (Argentina)
4- Maria Lindberg (Sweden)
5- Kali Reis (USA)

On July 25 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Fernanda Soledad Alegre (20-1-1, 10 KOs) of Gonzalez Catan, Argentina, successfully defended the WBO female light-welterweight championship for the tenth time with a second round technical knockout of Dalia Vasarhelyi (9-6) of Budapest, Hungary. Alegre took over the fight shortly after the referee's instructions, relentlessly perusing her overwhelmed foe until the assigned referee Gustavo Tomas saved Vasarhelyi, who was helplessly trapped on the ropes, from further punishment near the end of round two. This wipeout was nothing more than an exercise to display the first-rate abilities of the 27-year-old champion who hopefully returns to defending against fighters on the level of former conquests Chris Namus and Enis Pacheco. For the 21-year-old challenger, it was her third unsuccessful attempt at a world title losing to Maria Elena Maderna (TKO-3) and Rola El Halabi (UD-10) previously.

Hammer couldn't keep Mathis off her all night
On July 27 at Anhalt Arena, Dessau, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, WBO & WBF middleweight champion, Christina Hammer (17-0, 8 KOs) Dortmund, Germany, was seemingly cruising to a decision victory over French power-puncher Anne Sophie Mathis (27-3, 23 KOs) when, in the fifth round, she was clubbed to the canvas by a legal rapid succession of right hands to the left ear by the free hand of Mathis during what constituted an unsuccessful attempt to clinch on the behalf of Hammer. The omnipresent assigned referee Manfred Kuechler was grossly out of position during the beat down having an excellent view of the French battler’s back. He failed to initiate a count out of Hammer; instead, he halted the contest determining that Hammer was unable to continue and disqualified Mathis for illegal blows to the back of the head awarding Hammer the WBF light-middleweight title, which Mathis was defending, and the vacant WBO female light-middleweight title.

During the battle, as expected, Hammer fought well from long-range enabling her to evade the leads of Mathis with her superior movement. Mathis delivered better than she received at close-range causing Hammer, who appeared uncomfortable at close-quarters, to clinch; a skill she has yet to master. During the fight, both fighters received warnings for numerous fouls by a heavy-handed referee that was excessive in his admonishment for insignificant violation of the rules. In the end, the sanctioning commission (Bund Deutscher Berufsboxer- BDB) changed the result to “no contest” admitting that mistakes were made affecting the result. Mathis keeps her WBF light-middleweight strap, and Hammer maintains control of the WBO & WBF middleweight titles. The WBO did not order a rematch since Hammer is the organization's reigning middleweight champion.

Shibata is the winner and still champion
On August 2 at the Adachi Ward Sogo Sports Center in Tokyo, Japan, Naoko Shibata, 106 ¾, of Tokyo, defended her IBF female light-flyweight title by stopping veteran Mexican contender Ana Arrazola, 107, in the ninth round of a scheduled ten. At the time of the stoppage, Shibata led on the scorecards by an impressive margin (79-73/79-73/78-74). Shibata is quietly one of the best fighters in women’s boxing. Of her three losses, two were closely contested defeats to Ibeth Zamora-Silva (SD-10) and Etsuko Tada (UD-10). The other, a 2010 defeat to Naoko Fuijoka. For Arrazola (20-10-2, 13 KOs), who has fought the best from minimumweight to light-flyweight suffered her first stoppage loss. With the win, Shibata moves to (13-3, 3 KOs) and will look to defend her title against top contenders Sanae Jah (IBF #2) or Jessica Chavez (IBF #3).

On the undercard, southpaw Momo Koseki, 101, of Tokyo, defended her WBC female atomweight title (102 lbs.) for a record-breaking 14th time with an eight-round demolition of Muay-Thai star Denise Castle, 101 ¼, of Bournemouth, UK. The fight was halted at the 2:09 mark of the eighth of a scheduled ten when referee determined that Castle (2-1, 2 KOs) had absorbed too much punishment to continue. Koseki (19-2-1, 6 KOs) was leading by the identical score of (70-63) on each scorecard. With the win, Koseki surpasses Yoko Gushiken’s thirteen defenses to become the Japanese fighter with the most-successful title defenses.

Sweet Side Quick Hits for July/August: 

Bosques now has a belt
On July 17 Carolina Raquel Duer (17-3-1, 5 KOs) landed enough big shots to win a ten-round unanimous decision over Ana Lozano (8-2) retaining her WBO female bantamweight title. It was Duer’s second defense of the bantamweight strap. She previously held the WBO female super-flyweight title defending it successfully six times before elevating to bantamweight. On July 26 Anabel Ortiz (15-3, 3 KOs) stopped contender Neisi Torres (12-3-1, 8 KOs) in the third round retaining her WBA female minimumweight title for the second time. Noemi Bosques (6-1-2, 2 KOs) won her first minor title stopping Yolaine Lin de Lauf (6-2) in the third round of their scheduled eight round affair. Bosques scored two knockdowns in the third round before the referee stoppage. Former light-middleweight champion, Jennifer Retzke (15-1-1, 9 KOs) won the vacant IBO welterweight title with a ten-round, split-decision over Florence Muthoni (11-4-1, 5 KOs). Carolina Rodriguez (13-0, 1 KO) defended her IBF bantamweight title with a split-decision over slugger Dayana Cordero (13-5-1, 9 KOs).

A Look Ahead To August 2014 in Women's Boxing:

On August 23 in Coacalco, Mexico, on a card dubbed, “Duel of Queens” Jessica “Kika” Chavez (20-3-3, 4 KOs) of Mexico City will battle “Mighty” Melissa McMorrow (9-4-2, 1 KO) of San Francisco, USA, for the vacant WBC International female flyweight title. Stylistically, this is an excellent matchup boasting the counter-punching ability of Chavez versus the close-range, volume-punching of McMorrow.

As it is in women’s boxing, a record does not always indicate to what level a fighter can compete. A quick look under the hood of McMorrow’s career reveals that she usually engages top-level competition often in the opponent’s home town. Her in-your-face aggressive fighting style has enabled her to upset two German-based world champions in Nadia Raoui, a boxer-puncher, and Susi Kentikian, a fellow volume-puncher, in Germany. McMorrow is equally adept at handling all boxing styles requiring her opponents to make the necessary adjustments. In her last effort, McMorrow lost a closely-contested, ten-round unanimous decision to Mexican boxing superstar, Mariana “Barbie” Juarez in Mexico.

Chavez is undefeated in her last eleven bouts with only a November 2013 split-draw with Mexican slugger Arely Mucino as the lone blemish. Chavez is widely considered among the pound-for-pound best in the sport holding wins over Yesica Yolanda Bopp, Irma Sanchez, and Katia Gutierrez. Most recently, she won a unanimous decision over ten rounds against former WBA light-flyweight champion, Tenkai Tsunami of Japan. The three losses on the docket of Chavez are to Ibeth Zamora Silva, Esmeralda Moreno, and Bopp, each a present of former pound-for-pound entry. The 26-year-old Chavez is nearing the prime of her career and is a multi-dimensional fighter who discovers a method to prevail in the fights she is favored to win.

Chavez will win a close one according to Mark Jones
McMorrow, 33, will try to get inside and attempt to sit there and force Chavez to match her high punch volume. Chavez should make the proper adjustments, denying McMorrow inside position, and thereby enabling her to control enough of the action at medium to long range to persuade the judges to see things her way.

Prediction: Chavez UD-10 McMorrow (6-4 or 7-3 in rounds).

On 23 August in Villa Ballester, Argentina, in the main event of a card containing two high profile female bouts, Marcela Eilana “La Tigresa” Acuna (41-6-1, 18 KOs) of Caseros, will defend her WBO female super-bantamweight title in a scheduled ten round contest against Edith Soledad Matthysse (12-6-1, 1 KO) of Trelew. This fight is a rematch of their May 2013 battle where Acuna dominated the action winning nine of the ten rounds on each scorecard. Matthysse won the WBA female featherweight title in December with a unanimous decision victory over Ogleidis Suarez. She is reducing in weight to super-bantam to challenge Acuna in hopes of adding a championship belt in a second weight class to her record. At 34, she is the older sister to former WBC light-welterweight champion, Lucas Martin Matthysse. The older sister owns the same aggressive streak as her more credentialed brother, but that is where the comparison ends. Edith Soledad has one knockout victory in nineteen professional outings, but her aggressive tactics have enabled her to defeat world champions Daniela Romina Bermudez and Suarez. After losing her first two professional bouts to Christy Martin (UD-10) and Lucia Rijker (KO-5), Acuna has built a certain Hall of Fame career boasting an incredible 6 ½ year run as the dominate super-bantamweight champion of the sport (2006-12) defeating Alicia Ashley, Alejandra Marina Oliveras, and Jackie Nava along the way. In her last action, Acuna stopped contender Estrella Valverde (TKO-6) to retain her WBO title. Acuna is a master counter-puncher and at 37-years-old, remains one of the pound-for-pound best in women’s boxing. Acuna, as she did in their first meeting, will exploit the straight-line aggressive style of Matthysse, moving just enough to evade her advances and expertly countering with her full arsenal of punches. Acuna wins nine of ten rounds routing Matthysse. Prediction: Acuna UD-10 Matthysse (9-1 in rounds).

On the undercard, Erica “La Pantera” Farias (19-1, 9 KOs) of Virreyes, Argentina, battles the “Rough & Ready” TBA in a non-title bout scheduled for ten rounds. It will be the first fight back for the former WBC female lightweight champion since losing her title in her 12th defense to Delfine Persoon in April. The card is scheduled to be televised by Argentina TyC Sports.

Will Nava be too slick for Ashley?
On September 6 in Mexico City, Mexico, Alicia “Slick” Ashley (21-9-1, 3 KOs) of Westbury, New York, defends the WBC female super-bantamweight title against Mexican superstar Jackie “La Princesa Azteca” Nava (29-4-3, 13 KOs) of Tijuana. The 46-year-old Ashley, who will turn 47 by fight night, has the distinction as the second oldest reigning world boxing champion behind only Bernard Hopkins (49). However, Ashly is relegated to a secondary position to very few in boxing in terms of defensive ability; she sits on top of women’s boxing as the best defensive fighter in the game. Undefeated since 2010, Ashley has won her last seven contests, the longest such streak of her career. Holding career-defining wins over Marcela Eliana Acuna (twice), Elena Reid, and IWBHF inductee Bonnie Canino only adds to her credibility as a reigning champion. It will be the fourth defense of the WBC title for Ashley. The 34-year-old Nava, in May, returned to the ring after a two-year hiatus (child birth) and became a super-bantamweight champion for the fifth time winning the interim WBA version with an impressive dismantling of former champion, Alys Sanchez (KO-7). Nava, who is susceptible to knockdowns, hit the canvas briefly in the first round but rallied scoring four knockdowns of her own in route to an impressive victory. Nava is a stalking mid-range, left-hook artist with bristling punching power with the ability to lead or counter. She is at her best when forcing her opponents back to the ropes where her lack of lateral movement is more difficult to exploit; Nava is front-foot heavy.

Unlike the Sanchez fight, Nava will find it difficult to land a meaningful glove on Ashley, a southpaw, due to the champion’s efficient lateral movement, excellent upper body flexibility, and deft right jab. Although she possesses significantly more firepower, Nava, to battle on an even footing in the middle of the ring, will have to increase her punch volume and force the Ashley into enough exchanges along the ropes to sway the judges to favor her. At a natural site, this is a pick’em fight. In Mexico, Nava will get the benefit of the doubt and win a closely-contested, but comfortable decision. Losing a close fight on the road is not a new experience for Ashley, who has arguably lost only a fraction of the nine defeats posted to her official record.

This match, scheduled on the undercard of Juan Francisco Estrada versus Giovani Segura WBA & WBO World flyweight championship fight, will be one of two high-profile female bouts on the card. Also appearing in a ten-round title bout will be the ever-popular, Mariana “Barbie” Juarez, facing an unnamed opponent in defense of her WBC International super-flyweight title. Juarez is recovering nicely from a shoulder injury and should be ready to defend her title on this card. Rumors are still swirling about the prospects of a super-fight between Juarez and WBC female super-flyweight champion Zulina Munoz (42-1-2, 27 KOs).

Prediction: Nava UD-10 Ashley (6-4 in rounds). 


Nava is predicted to prevail
KO Digest’s Top 5 Super Bantamweights (122 lbs.):

1- Marcela Eilana Acuna (Argentina)
2- Jackie Nava (Mexico)
3- Alicia Ashley (USA)
4- Yesica Patricia Marcos (Argentina)
5- Sabrina Perez (Argentina) 

On September 13 in Copenhagen, Denmark, in the co-main event of a Sauerland Promotions “Nordic Fight Night” card, the consensus pound-for-pound #1 boxer in women’s boxing, Cecilia “First Lady” Braekhus (25-0, 7 KOs) of Bergen, Norway, defends her WBA, WBC, and WBO female welterweight titles against IBF female welterweight champion Ivana Habazin (13-1, 5 KOs) of Zagreb, Croatia. Habazin’s IBF welterweight strap is also in play. The 32-year-old Braekhus, in the prime of her career, with a victory, will gain control of each of the “big four” welterweight titles. After her dominating points victory over Jessica Balogun in June, Braekhus stated publically, ‘’I would like to fight for the IBF belt next,” said Braekhus. ‘’I already hold the WBC, WBA & WBO titles and now I want to unify the division and become the first female fighter to hold all four belts.’’ During her four-year career, Habazin, 24, pounded her way to the IBF title by beating a group of pretenders with only two owning winning records. Like most European fighters, she attempts to fight at long-range coaxing her opponents into taking all the risk and countering when the opponent sits inside her range. She is too slow of hand and foot to employ this strategy against Braekhus, who owns a ridiculous speed advantage. Prediction: Braekhus will dispense with her usual niceties and stop Habazin within six rounds to look impressive in what is likely her final fight at welterweight. Braekhus TKO-6 Habazin

On the undercard, “The Swedish Princess” Klara Svensson (13-0, 5 KOs) will receive her first shot at a world title when she battles slugger Marie Riederer (15-1-1, 10 KOs) for the interim WBC World light-welterweight title. "I have been waiting for this opportunity for a long time," said Svensson. "I am happy to finally get a chance to fight for the World title. I am expecting a tough fight. On paper, Riederer is the best opponent I have faced so far in my career but I am looking forward to the challenge." To date, neither fight has faced respectable competition both piling up wins over ordinary competition.
In June 2010, Riederer stepped up in competition and lost decisively to Christina Hammer (KO-5).

Sweet Side Quick Hits for August-September:


On August 29 in Maracay, Venezuela, Arely Valente (12-1-1, 6 KOs) of Mexico will face Mayerlin Rivas (9-3-1, 6 KOs) of Venezuela, for the interim WBA female bantamweight title. Rivas failed in two attempts at world titles whereas Valente is receiving her first shot at a world title belt. On August 30 in La Pampa, Argentina, former longtime WBA female light-welterweight champion, Monica Silvina Acosta (19-1-2, 5 KOs) will battle fellow Argentine Marisa Gabriela Nunez (6-5-2) for the vacant IBF female light-welterweight title. Also on August 30 in Peru, Peruvian-born “Triple L” Linda Laura Lecca (10-2-1, 3 KOs) will meet Guadalupe Martinez (7-6, 3 KOs) of Mexico for the interim WBA female super-flyweight title. Future superstar Kenia Enriquez (11-0, 6 KOs) of Tijuana, Mexico, will battle veteran trial horse Mayela Perez (11-15-4, 7 KOs) in San Diego on September 4. It will mark the third time that the 20-year-old Enriquez has fought in San Diego. 

KO Digest Dynamite Dozen Top 12 Pound For Pound Ratings:

Month after month, Braekhus is still pound for pound #1
1- Cecilia Braekhus 25-0, 7 KOs (Norway)
2- Marcela Eilana Acuna 41-6-1, 18 KOs (Argentina)
3- Anne Sophie Mathis 27-3, 23 KOs (France)
4- Yesica Yoland Bopp 27-1, 12 KOs (Argentina)
5- Delfine Persoon 29-1, 13 KOs (Belgium)
6- Diana Prazak 13-2, 9 KOs (Australia/USA)
7- Jackie Nava 29-4-3, 13 KOs (Mexico)
8- Christina Hammer 17-0, 8 KOs (Germany)
9- Erica Anabella Farias 19-1, 9 KOs (Argentina)
10- Jelena Mrdjenovich 32-9-1, 16 KOs (Canada)
11- Naoko Fujioka 12-0, 6 KOs (Japan)
12- Ibeth Zamora-Silva 20-5, 8 KOs (Mexico)


"The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science" is written by women's boxing expert Mark A. Jones -- exclusively for KO Digest. You can find more of Mark's female fight coverage on his women's boxing blog:  Boxing Jones 

August 1, 2014

KO Digest Interview: Gary Balletto - “ I never knew how loved I was ”

The Grandson of Hitman Tiger Balletto
Working seven days a week with rigorous physical tests, focused on one goal and traveling over 400 miles away from his home in (divine) Providence, Rhode Island to Baltimore, it feels as though Gary Balletto is at camp training for a fight. In a way, he is. However, this fight is more important than any he  had in a decade long career in the boxing ring.

This fight is not one against a world class opponent that can be won by studying film. Like all but two of the fights on his record (31-3-2, 26 KOs) it is being fought close to home, but this time, it’s more personal.

Gary Balletto wants to walk again.

The small-town, small-state hero was beloved by much of New England for his fierce, never-give-up fighting style and peak physical condition. He’ll need both of those things more than ever to combat an injury suffered in July of 2013 that paralyzed him in his own backyard.

Hearing him talk about it is heartbreaking, but he doesn’t want your sympathy—only the continued support that has been overwhelming from not only the boxing community but the entire region as well. Only 39 years old, Balletto has already accomplished a lot. He won Golden Gloves titles in southern New England, he fought on national television multiple times and was a big ticket seller in the area en route to accruing smaller titles. He staged a comeback to fight on the reality TV show “The Contender,” starred in his own documentary film, and was training to break a fitness world record before the accident.

But there’s still one big accomplishment left to come, one that seems miles away but begins with literally one single step.

And like any brave fighter, Balletto will never stop trying to get back up on his feet to take it. 

Beaten to the end by Goyo, Gary never gave up
KO Digest's Joel Sebastianelli: Your injury had a sudden and profound impact on your life one year ago. Take us through the circumstances and how your life has changed.

Gary Balletto: It was the scariest feeling I ever had. My life changed completely as a result of the accident. Last year, I was in phenomenal shape. I always took care of my body with conditioning and weight training. For me now, the biggest thing that bothers me is that my body doesn’t look right. I was very fussy. I like perfect symmetry. I ate the right nutrition, I never drank or smoked, and do to all of that stuff and take such good care of my body and then get paralyzed from the waist down? I don’t have use of my hands, my muscles are getting atrophy. It bothers me to look in the mirror more than anything. This happened in my backyard. My seven year old son, at the time, was in the boxing gym about a week before the accident. He had never done pull-ups, so I put him on the bar and I told him that his older brother could probably do 10 pull-ups at that age, so let me see how many you can do. He did 20.

A week later on a Sunday, we were home. We just had pancakes for breakfast. I went outside to play with my youngest. I found this bar, an old piece of a trampoline. I wedged it between two trees and had a screw gun to put a couple of screws around the bar into the tree for him to practice and do pull-ups. At this time, I was also practicing to break the world record for pull-ups done in one minute, so I figured I could use a pull-up bar at home too—but it was really for him to play on in the yard. I said “let me show you how to spin around the bar.” Just on my hands, with my arms straight, I spin around once and although the bar was flimsy, I didn’t fall. He asked me to do it again so he could see where my hands were. The second time I spun around the bar, it crashed straight down to the ground and I landed completely the wrong way. Immediately on impact I broke my neck and was paralyzed that second. I knew it. I knew as soon as I hit. I couldn’t move my legs, I couldn’t move my hands.

Balletto looked like the Micky Ward of Rhode Island
KOD: Your entire life has been spent in Rhode Island, a state not known for producing many notable boxers with the exception of Vinny Pazienza and Peter Manfredo Jr, how did boxing wind up in your life? 

GB: I started boxing at the age of thirteen, but it was something that I always thought I should be doing because my grandfather and father were boxers, but they weren’t around to teach me boxing. My father died when I was ten years old but I knew the sport ran in my family so I eventually tried it myself when I was thirteen. I ended up being very good at it. At the age of 18, I was taking boxing more seriously and I moved from Florida back to Rhode Island after I finished high school. When I came back and joined this gym, my goal was to win a Golden Gloves boxing title at Southern New England. I trained for this for almost three months and in the finals, I knocked my opponent out 40 seconds into the first round. I didn’t know how talented I was until that point, when I won the Golden Gloves like it was so easy. I won numerous titles in New England in tournaments, always against the best in the area.
I finished with a record of 13-2, with both losses coming against national number ones.

KOD: The majority of your career was spent with Jimmy Burchfield and CES. How much of an impact has CES had on the regional boxing landscape over the years, given that there is so little boxing in the state of Rhode Island?

GB: CES was the only show in town at the time, so there was no place better to be as a New England fighter. Jimmy Burchfield and I are very close. He’s a great man, he’s been good to me throughout my career. We’re still very close friends today.

KOD: In your decade long career, you only had two fights outside New England, with most of them coming in either Rhode Island or Connecticut. How important was fighting at home to you and do you feel that gave you an advantage?

Balletto appreciates what Mr. B does to help
GB: Fighting at home definitely gave me an advantage to have my hometown crowd there. But, as I said many times when I fought on ESPN, I was always in my local town because my promoter was the one doing the show. I was a very big ticket seller. I understand why he wanted me on those shows, but it doesn’t matter where in the world you fight—if you’re on television, everybody is going to see you. I was never on the road as an opponent. It just so happened that all my fights were in New England.

KOD: You never won a major world title, and outside of Friday Night Fights and the Contender, haven’t received a lot of national attention. But, ask people in the region about some of their favorite fighters from the area and you name frequently comes up. What qualities do you think made those fans latch onto you and stay with you through the years?

GB: I think people liked to watch me because I was exciting. I would take a chance, even if it was taking punches. No matter what you do in life, if you never take a chance, you’re never going to get to that next level. I tried to knock my opponent out in every single fight. That was my main goal, and knockouts are what people want to see. Most people don’t enjoy watching a boxing match. I always felt if I didn’t knock my opponent out, I didn’t really win.

KOD: In 2006, at the end of your career, you were featured on season 2 of “The Contender.” How did the opportunity to fight on the show come about, and how did the experience differ from a typical fighting experience away from the show?

GB: The day before the last tryout in New York City, I got a call from promoter Rich Cappiello. He promoted me at the beginning of my career before I signed with Mr. B, and he said “Gary, I got the word their fighting close to welterweight. I think you should come with me tomorrow and go to this tryout. I know that you’re going to get picked.” I had to go back and talk to my wife about it. I was retired almost three years from boxing, and we decided together that I shouldn’t fight anymore because of the damage that had been done to my body. I first had to convince my wife to let me go because we weren’t boxing anymore. I convinced her to let me go, that it was just a tryout with a friend of mine, and that they probably weren’t going to pick me anyway. Soon enough, I heard they were going to pick me and a couple of weeks later I got the phone call that they liked me and decided to go with the weight class and were going to send me to another tryout to narrow it down. Another week or so went by, and they invited me to LA for another tryout with sparring and numerous tests for eight days. They invited 37 fighters and narrowed it down to 16 going by personalities, how you are on camera, medical fitness, and other things they used to make a good TV show.

KOD: What was it like to actually be on the show from the reality TV angle behind the scenes?

Celebration turned into tragedy for Tiger
GB: That experience was very different for me because it was almost like going to a training camp, which is something I never did outside of my own gym. I actually learned a lot by being around other great fighters and watching their regimens. I was surprised that the training was not as intense as I had done my whole life. These guys that were in the top 20 in the world didn’t train hard. It was more technical than anything else. Now that I look back on my career, if I mastered my technical boxing as I mastered my strength and conditioning, I think I would have been a better fighter.

I actually had a lot of experience being on film. I starred in a documentary film prior to the TV show called “Sweet Dreams,” so I had a camera follow me for almost five years and it wasn’t something different for me. Unfortunately, when I fought on “the Contender,” it was at the end of my career. I actually retired from boxing in 2003 and the Contender didn’t happen until 2006, so I had three years of nothing and jumped into a TV with one month of training. Had this happened at the right time, my career would have wound up in a much different place if the show happened in 2003 or in my weight classes instead of a few weight classes higher than my ideal weight.

KOD: In its fairly short run, The Contender did a good job of bringing boxing into the spotlight and attracting casual fans, but boxing shows don’t seem to stick around for long in any format, including reality TV and scripted. Is there any reason in particular that you think boxing shows struggle to attract and keep viewers?

GB:
This show would be the most viewed to maybe you and me, but I guess the majority of the population wouldn’t view. I thought it was the greatest show on TV and I don’t understand why the viewings went down and there eventually weren’t enough viewers to keep it on. It was exciting. It was as real as it gets, and there wasn't a better show to show that boxing is a man’s sport. Growing up, if you got into a fight in the street, you fought with your hands. If you went to the ground and the guy was kicking you or choking you, it was cheating. Now, MMA is here but I look back at fighting as a kid and fights didn’t happen like that, they happened by standing up and fighting. Boxing is a man’s sport. I thought it would be viewed more than it was.

KOD: You’re in one of the nation’s top rehab programs right now. Do the doctors think you will ever be able to walk again?

GB: No. No. There’s no doctor that thinks I will walk again, and they’re not allowed to give their opinion on that anyway, but sometimes they do. There’s only one doctor that thinks I’ll walk again. He’s not my practicing doctor—he was Christopher Reeve’s doctor and he doesn’t practice anymore. But, he owns the facility we go to in Baltimore. It’s always nice to hear that and you hope for the best, but no, statistically, I’ll never walk again. However, I’m not planning on statistics. I think I was one of the most perfectly trained athletes ever, so for me, I don’t think there was anybody in better shape at the time when they broke their neck than I was. I hope that means something. I hope that my doctors say that means something, the shape I was in.

KOD: What goals do you have on the rebound from injury? You’ve certainly come a long way, but what struggles lie ahead?

Tiger Junior hits the bag for Dad
GB: My goal would be to walk again. It’s almost impossible to put a time on that, I’ve realized. It’s a long process for nerves to grow back and reconnect. It’s a very, very long process. I thought I would be walking already with my therapy by pushing it to the limits like a fight. I do seven days a week of very intense physical therapy, which is what this program I am in told me to do. They said hardcore therapy will get you better, which is perfect for me because that’s all I know. I have improved in all parts of my body’s strength. Everything that is actually working gets stronger, and I actually have an improvement in my motor as far as moving. My fingers are starting to twitch which is new, and I have movement in my stomach. I can’t do a sit-up, but I have the muscles triggering at the T5 level, which is below the level of injury. It’s a great sign. I’m a little frustrated, but I’m definitely making progress in this very slow process.

KOD: Fighters fight. Having fought for many years in the ring, is there a mentality from boxing that you’ve taken with you and applied to rehab that helps you stay strong during this difficult time?

GB: It's automatically in my nature to train hard. I already know how to train and all the exercises I need to do. When I work with these therapists, it’s not like they teach me anything, they’re just there to help me get through it. I see a physical therapist three days a week, but I train the other four days on my own with special adaptive equipment recommended by Baltimore. There is a bike that is electric stimulation that moves my legs so I can maintain the muscle in my legs. The arms I can do myself. I don’t have my hands to grab onto something for pulling exercise, but I have adaptive gloves I can use to do that. I know how to work the muscles in my body, and that’s what they tech you at physical therapy. I’m one step ahead there.

Fun, fast, always came to fight
KOD: Were you surprised by how many people in the boxing community embraced you and your family after the accident? What has that experience been like for you?

GB: Not only did the boxing community embrace me, but my home state Rhode Island embraced me. It’s amazing the support that I have and the friends that I have through this problem. I never knew how loved of a person I was, to be honest with you.

KOD: Your son is following in your footsteps and is currently fighting as an amateur. Boxing is obviously a physically taxing sport. Were you always supportive of Gary Jr’s goals to get in the ring, or did you hope he’d pick another sport over boxing?

GB: Absolutely. You said it exactly. I hoped he would pick another sport to do. I never pushed the sport of boxing on my son. I didn’t want him doing it, but I never said he couldn’t and he completely made his own choice. When he was younger, he didn’t like it and said it was stupid because he thought MMA was the way to go. He wrestled since he was six years old and had the background to be an MMA fighter with Thai boxing and judo. In February of last year, he pulled a groin muscle training and ever since then, he was waiting for it to heal and after seeing a doctor, he has a piece of his muscle detached from the bone near the groin area and he needs a surgery that he has put off since then. But, he realized that boxing doesn’t affect his groin, and he decided that he wants to box and follow in his father’s footsteps. It’s really exciting for me, but at the same time, I don’t really want him fighting.

KOD: What role have you been able to play in his career thus far, and how much potential do you think he has?

Balletto is a proud family man   
GB: I was training him up until I hurt myself along with my old boxing trainer, Kurt Reader. I always give him my point of view, but I wanted him to learn from more than one person. I had one trainer my whole career, but I think it’s important to learn from different trainers because you take a little bit from each one. I want to be there as a second person to tell him what I think at the same time, but not have that relationship with him.
I want to be his father still.

KOD: What defines you in or out of the ring that you are most proud of? 

GB: I’m most proud of my family. I couldn’t be happier with my three kids and my wife, and I have so many friends. I think that having the right attitude throughout life is important. I’ve always been a giver and helped people, and it has paid back in so many ways by doing the right thing throughout my life, especially when something like this happens.

The Future of Boxing

KO Digest Interview conducted by Joel "The Future" Sebastianelli

Joel joined KO Digest in January 2013 and has been a fixture on press row in the New England area for three years. In 2012, he served as the host of “The Boxing Fix” on Leave it in the Ring Radio. Sebastianelli is the future of boxing journalism and broadcasting.

Joel can be found Tweeting on Twitter @JJSebastianelli

July 27, 2014

Gennady Golovkin KO's Daniel Geale in 3 - Triple G the Real Deal at MSG

"Real Deal" Geale goes out on his shield in 3 vs GGG
NEW YORK  — Perhaps Gennady Golovkin should consider moving to the Big Apple, or at least investing in some prime real estate. New Yorkers have readily taken to the WBA middleweight champion. Fighting at Madison Square Garden on HBO for the third time in six fights, the power-puncher brought the city that never sleeps to its feet Saturday night with his seventeenth consecutive knockout. "The Tyson effect," is how K2's Tom Loeffler described it at the post-fight press conference. With an anticipated crowd too large to be held in the smaller Garden Theater, the decision was made to have MSG's main arena (the big room) scaled down to a 9,000 seating capacity. With a turnout crowd of more than 8,500–the promotion was definitely a success, an indication that the unbeaten power puncher's fan base is growing.

As Kazakhstan boxing fans proudly waved their flags, the anticipation for the main event steadily increased. In fact, the mere sight of "GGG" on the giant screen drew loud cheers from the pro-Triple-G crowd. Perhaps unaware of Daniel "Real Deal" Geale's personal issues back home Down Under (the Australian fighter dedicated the fight to his mother who was diagnosed with cancer) Geale would be greeted with loud boos, a sharp contrast to Golovkin's entrance into the ring, like that of a knockout king.

It was a game of cat-and-mouse in the opening round, with Geale darting left-and-right, while looking for counter punching opportunities. Golovkin's first big punch, a sneaky lead right hand, drew oohs from the crowd. Geale did land a right hand to the body, and a left hook to the head, but Golovkin didn't blink. Golovkin landed a heavy jab, as well as a nice left hook right cross combination. In an opening round that would last four minutes long, Geale went down without a punch, thanks to a lazy camera man who left his camera strap dangling in the ring on the apron. The WBA champion increased the pressure in the second, but Geale made him miss often. But he also paid the price, as he expended a lot of energy to do so. A left hook to the body by Golovkin, followed by a right cross put Geale on his bicycle. Finally, a solid left hook, followed by a glancing right hand dropped Geale for the first time. The crowd erupted as Geale picked up the referee's count.

The scariest middleweight in the world
Uncharacteristically, Golovkin did not go to the body after he had his opponent hurt, and his punches went whistling over Geale's head. However, "GGG" did land a good right hand before the bell. Golovkin continued to miss some of his punches as he hunted his prey in the third, but he was narrowing the gap, as Geale's back got closer to the ropes. Suddenly, a straight right hand landed flush to the face of Golovkin, but the champion quickly countered with a right hand of his own off of his back foot, to the surprise of Geale, who did not get his own right hand back in time to defend himself. As Geale headed to the canvas for the final time, a left hook by Golovkin was added in for good measure.

As a totally beaten Geale tried to clear his head and stop stumbling, referee Mike Ortega indicated he'd seen enough. The time of the stoppage was 2:47 of the third round. "Is the knockout important?" asked Max Kellerman, minutes later in the ring. "The knockout is important, not just for me or for my team, but everybody. This is a show, a big drama show," he said. "This is my fighter style, like Mexican style. This is a fight, this is not games," added the champion. Golovkin 30-0 (27 KO's) mentioned linear world middleweight champion Miguel Cotto, Peter Quillin, and Sam Soliman as possible future opponents before leaving the ring.

Perez got docked a point by Harvey Dock
In the co-main event, referee Harvey Dock would become the main topic of discussion after the WBC heavyweight title eliminator between Bryant "By-By" Jennings and Mike "The Rebel" Perez. On paper, this should have been an exciting fight with Jennings being the better all around athlete, and Perez the more experienced boxer with extensive amateur experience. Although the fight wasn't  exactly pleasant to the eye, there would be momentum swings throughout. The fight started in favor of Perez countering Jennings, and his jab to the body and head was fairly effective. It wasn't all one sided. Jennings would have his moments, landing an occasional right hand to the body and head. "Embarrass him," instructed Adam Booth to Perez before the third. Jennings turned the tide in the next few rounds, as Perez was already breathing heavily. Jennings right hands to the body and head drew kisses blown from his opponent, but the Cuban now based in Ireland didn't receive any points for that. He did out hustle Jennings in the sixth, but the Philadelphian heavyweight slowly took over the next four rounds by beating Perez about the body with both hands and eye catching rights to the head. In the tenth, Perez stumbled from one of those right hands, after he got careless backing Jennings into a corner.

Also in the tenth, a nice right uppercut, and a temporary switch to southpaw won Jennings the round. The eleventh saw Perez step up with body shots, and move Jennings around the ring. With the fight fairly close, Perez lost a point in the final round for hitting Jennings on the break, but Perez fought back desperately trying to get the point back. Driving his fighter back with one two's mainly to the body, the round was even. Most in attendance felt Jennings won the fight, so there was a groan from the crowd when the first card of 114-113 by Tom Schreck was read in favor of Perez. However it was overruled by the scores of 114-113 and 115-112 by Glen Feldman and Joe Pasquale, respectively. Jennings won the fight on a split decision. Perez, whose record fell to 20-1 (12 KO's) left the ring, and was not seen the rest of the evening.

 GGG wants Cotto first and foremost
From pressrow on behalf of KO Digest, I scored it 114-113 in favor of Jennings.

At the post press conference, Jennings explained his fight plan. "I used my distance well, and I showed him I have an inside game. I made him do what I want to do," said the winner. "He didn't want to trade, which surprised me. Even though he was gassed, he was still tricky, because he didn't move his feet. I expected him to trade more, because I had more shit for him," laughed Jennings, whose record improved to 19-0, 10 KO's. The classy Geale 30-3 (16 KO's) was next. "Tough day at the office," the challenger cracked. He also stated the obvious. "You make a mistake with a puncher, especially one with good timing, you will pay." Finally it was Triple G's turn, and again he made reference to his "Mexican style" of fighting. Promoter Loeffler mentioned Cotto as a priority, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and Canelo Alverez as possible opponents. I did question the champion on his preparation for Geale's style of fighting. "Obviously, you prepared for his fighting style in camp. Did he surprise you at any time, or did it go as expected?" I asked. "No. In the first round, I looked at his tactics and strategy, in the second, it was my time," said the proud champion.

Images and Words by David McLeod - exclusively for KO Digest 

KO Digest Ringside Report 

July 22, 2014

The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science - Women's Boxing Monthly Vol 14

Winning Women in Florida
By Mark A Jones – On July 8 through 12 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the 2014 National Women’s Golden Gloves was held with over one hundred female boxers from around the country competing. Many familiar names took top honors in their respective weight classes including Marlen Esparza of Houston, Texas, who was a member of the first ever USA Women’s Olympic Boxing Team at the 2012 Olympic Games, winning a bronze medal. She defeated Maureeca Lambert of Wisconsin by a 3-0 decision to take top honors in the 112-pound weight division.

Danyelle Wolfe, of San Diego, California, who recently appeared in the revealing ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue 2014, received a nod in the 152-pound class with a 3-0 decision over The Army's Fallon Farrar. 

Wolf is a punching pin-up girl


Senior Open (19-40) Champions:
106: Alexandra Love (Army)
112: Marlen Esparza (Houston)
119: Christina Cruz (NYC)
125: Rianna Rios (Alice, TX)
132: Mikaela Mayer (Los Angeles)
141: Meghan Karcher (Tavares, FL)
152: Danyelle Wolf (San Diego)
165: Melissa Kelly (Somerville)

At the National Golden Gloves tournament, on July 10, the first-ever inductions for the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame (IWBHF) was held. The contributions of a fabulous cast of seven inductees were celebrated for their contributions to women’s boxing at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. The event was hosted by Bill Calogero and each inductee was introduced by Malissa Smith, author of the “History of Women’s Boxing.” The IWBHF is the creation of Sue Fox; a former boxer and creator of the website, Women’s Boxing Achieve Network or “WBAN.” Foremost among the inductees is Barbara Buttrick “The Mighty Atom of the Ring” who barnstormed the United States in the 1940s and 50s and is considered the most important pioneer of women’s boxing. She compiled a reported record of (31-1) during her travels often fighting exhibition bouts against men. In the 1990s, she founded the Women’s International Boxing Federation, a major sanctioning body in women’s boxing.

Female Fighting Pioneer
2014 IWBHF Inductees:

1- Barbara Buttrick (boxer)

2- Bonnie Canino (boxer/coach)

3- Christy Martin (boxer)

4- Regina Halmich (boxer)

5- Dr. Christy Halbert (coach/author)

6- Lucia Rijker (boxer)

7- Jo-Ann Hagen (boxer) posthumous

And not to be outdone, The Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame located in Belfast, New York, on July 12 during their induction weekend, held "A Celebration of Women in Boxing.” The list of new inductees included five original female bare-knuckle boxers, and five honorary inductees, all of whom brought a positive light to upstate New York.

 Christy Martin made the IWBHF
Original Bare Knuckle Boxers:

1- Elizabeth Wilkinson (Stokes)
2- Anna Lewis
3- Hattie Stewart
4- Hattie Leslie (Libbie Spann)
5- Alice Leary (Barbara Dillon)

Modern Honorary Inductees:

1- Christy Martin (boxer)
2- Leona Brown (boxer)
3- Gloria Peek (coach)
4- Melvina Lathan (NYSAC Chairperson/judge)
5- Nellie Bly (reporter)

A Look Back At June 2014 in Women's Boxing:

On June 21 at the Trend Eventhotel in Pyramide, Vienna, Austria, on a card featuring two female world title bouts as co-main events, hometown favorite Eva Voraberger, 114 ¾, successfully moved up from flyweight to win the two vacant super-flyweight titles (WBF & WIBF) with a hard-fought, ten-round unanimous decision (96-94/97-94/97-93) over Thailand’s Nonggift Onesongchaigym 109 ½. Only a late rally by Voraberger (17-3, 9 KOs), prevented the 18-year-old Onesongchaigym (6-2-1, 1 KO) from returning to Thailand with two minor world titles.

In the co-main event, 37-year-old Oezlem Sahin, 104, won the WIBF, WBF, and GBU minimumweight titles with a sixth round knockout of Thailand’s Buangern Onesongchaigym, 103 ¼. Oezlem (18-0-1, 6 KOs), a Turkish-born German, dominated the action throughout finally ending things in the sixth stanza after scoring two knockdowns. The 21-year-old Onesongchaigym drops to (11-7) and suffers her fourth loss via the knockout route. The only blemish on the record of Oezlem is a four-round draw early in her career with the current WBF & WBC Silver female flyweight champion Raja Amasheh (17-0-1, 4 KOs).

Nelson above all but Braekhus at 147
On June 28 at the Du Burns Arena, in Baltimore, Maryland, in the main event, WIBA welterweight champion Tori Nelson of Ashburn, Virginia, defended her title for the third time with a ten-round unanimous decision (95-94/98-92/98-92) over Nicole Woods of Stone Mountain, Georgia. Woods (11-14-3) proved to be a tough customer displaying more skill than her pedestrian record would otherwise believe she owns. With the win, Nelson improves to (10-0-3, 1 KO) and continues to wait for the call to battle the division’s most decorated fighter, Cecilia Braekhus (25-0, 7 KOs). This fight was the main event.

On the undercard, promising flyweight prospect, Tyrieshia Douglas of Baltimore improved to (5-0, 1 KO) with a six-round unanimous decision victory (60-54/60-54/58-56) over Christina Fuentes (3-6-3). Fuentes battles out of Laredo, Texas.

Douglas, whose brother Antoine is an undefeated middleweight prospect, finished second to Marlen Esparza (112 lbs.) in the first-ever women’s USA Boxing Olympic Trials in 2012.

Kudos to Ponytail Promotions for scheduling female bouts as the main event on their cards.


Braekhus eyes her competition at welterweight
KO Digest’s Top Five Welterweights:

1- Cecilia Braekhus (Norway)
2- Tori Nelson (USA)
3- Oxandia Castillo (Dominican Republic)
4- Jessica Balogun (Germany)
5- Ivana Habazin (Croatia)

On June 28 in Hidalgo, Mexico, Canelo Promotions gave women’s boxing proper respect by placing five bouts, four of them high profile, on a nine-bout card. In the co-main event, Zulina Munoz of Mexico City defended her WBC female super-flyweight title for the sixth time with a six-round TKO over bantamweight contender Renata Domsodi of Budapest, Hungary. Munoz (42-1, 27 KOs) proved to be too strong for the 39-year-old Domsodi (12-5) who was game, but outgunned by a wide margin. The immensely popular Munoz, who holds the title once held by the come backing Ana Maria Torres (28-3-3, 16 KOs), is playing a waiting game in hopes that high profile battles with either Torres or longtime nemesis Mariana Juarez (39-7-3, 16 KOs) soon materialize.

Rivas is a two time bantamweight champion
On the undercard, Yazmin “La Rusita” Rivas, Torreon, Mexico, became a two-time bantamweight champion securing the WBC female version with a dominate ten-round unanimous points win (99-91/98-90/98-90) over former champion Alesia “The Tigress” Graf of Australia. It was the fourth loss in six fights for Graf who earlier in her career held the GBU super-flyweight title for nearly four years. She also briefly held a world title at super-bantamweight. It is the second consecutive win for Rivas since dropping a controversial split-decision to Jessica Gonzalez (5-1) in November 2013. Rivas previously held the IBF female bantamweight title successfully defending the strap four times over two years. Also on the undercard, in a non-title fight, interim WBC female bantamweight champion Jessica Gonzalez of Mexico City, won a ten-round unanimous decision over Yulihan Luna Avila of Gomez Palacio, Mexico. With the win, Gonzalez improves to (5-1) and Avila drops to (10-2, 1 KO) with the loss. Also in action, former pound-for-pound entry Esmeralda Moreno (27-7-1, 9 KOs) continues to struggle to find her groove in her comeback, wins an eight-round unanimous decision over Lorena Mendoza (1-8-1). The 27-year-old Moreno is (2-1-1) since November 2013 after missing a year due to childbirth. Estefani Casillas (1-1) knocked out Lorena Cruz (1-1) in the second round.

On July 7 at Korakuen, Tokyo, Japan, in front of her hometown fans, pound-for-pound elite female banger Naoko Fujioka, 115, defended her WBA female super-flyweight title with a ten-round unanimous decision (97-93 x 3) over former basketball player, Tomoko Kawanishi, 115, of Osaka, Japan. The 38-year-old Fuijoka (12-0, 6 KOs) started the first round slowly adjusting to the challenger’s superior five inch reach advantage. In round two, Fujioka found her rhythm landing quick combinations before sliding out of range avoiding her challenger’s imprecise counters. The 27-year-old Kawanishi (9-2, 4 KOs) eleven years the junior of the champion, displayed a good jab early in the fight, but faded as the fight matured failing to match Fujioka’s lethal arsenal. With the win, Fujioka maintains her status as an elite pound-for-pound competitor in women’s boxing. The #1 contender to Fujioka is an interim champion, “Triple L” Linda Laura Lecca (10-2-1, 3 KOs) of Lima, Peru. Fujioka, formerly the WBC female minimumweight champion, leapfrogged the light-flyweight and flyweight divisions in November 2013 winning her current title with a ten-round unanimous decision over compatriot Naoko Yamaguchi.

Another win for  the best female Super Fly Fujioka
KO Digest’s Top 5 Super Flyweights:

1- Naoko Fujioka (Japan)
2- Zulina Munoz (Mexico)
3- Mariana Juarez (Mexico)
4- Melissa McMorrow (USA)
5- Debora Anahi Dionicius (Argentina)


KO Digest’s Quick Hits for June/July:

Jennifer Hamann wins her pro debut
Highly ranked super-bantamweight Shelly Vincent moved to (12-0, 1 KO) with a six-round, majority-decision (59-55/58-56/57-57) over Nydia Feliciano (7-6-3). It was Vincent’s second-decision victory over former world title challenger Feliciano. Dahiana Santana (34-6-1, 14 KOs), in her hometown of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, won the interim WBA featherweight title with a ten-round unanimous decision over Colombian import Francia Elena Bravo (16-3-2). Santana dominated the action winning every round on two of the three scorecards. Popular Californian minimumweight Amaris Quintana (8-2-2, 1 KO) won an eight-round unanimous decision (80-71 x3) over Susana Uribe (3-1, 1 KO) winning the NABF minimumweight title. Uribe was knocked down in the first round. Fernanda Soledad Alegre (19-1-1, 9 KO), the WBO female light-welterweight champion, in a non-title bout, won an eight-round unanimous decision over Roxana Beatriz Laborde (8-13-2) by the scores (78-77/79-75/80-74). Alegre, the WBO female lightweight champion since December 2010 has eight successful defenses. One of the most famous fighters in Mexico, Arely Mucino (20-2-2, 10 KOs) won every round on two of the three scorecards in route to one-sided points win over Suri Tapia (7-4, 2 KOs). And finally, Jennifer Hamann, ranked #1 by USA Boxing at 125 lbs., won her pro debut with a four-round decision (40-35/40-35/40-36) over southpaw Ariel Beck. Hamann scored a knockdown in round one and thoroughly dominated the contest with superior boxing skills. With the loss, Beck drops to (3-1). Former four-division world champion and the current featherweight contender Melissa Hernandez, who is Hamann’s favorite boxer, assisted head-trainer Tricia Turton in the corner.

A Look Ahead To Women's Boxing in July & August 2014:

Hammer vs Mathis
On July 26 in Dessau, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, two-division world title holder, Christina Hammer (17-0, 8 KOs) attempts to win a world title in a third weight class when she faces the toughest test of her career in French knockout specialist, Anne Sophie Mathis (27-3, 23 KOs) for the vacant WBO light-middleweight title. The 23-year-old Hammer, who simultaneously holds the WBO & WBF middleweight titles and the WBO super-middleweight belt, moved her training camp from Germany to the mountains of Tyrol, Austria, for a few days to engage in high-altitude training with Coach Dimitri Kirnos in preparation for the mega-fight. Hammer told German sporting news site RAN, "Training in more than 1000 feet elevation and excursions into the surrounding mountains all from part of my preparation program. In my last fight, this particularly strenuous training work has always paid on the steep slopes for my fitness and physique. I feel fit and have my weight is already close to the new weight limit.”

Since winning the WBO middleweight title in October 2010, Hammer successfully defended her title against an impressive line of contenders that include former champions Jessica Balogun, Mikaela Lauren, and Maria Lindberg. In May 2013, she elevated to super-middleweight winning the WBO & WBF super-middleweight title against former champion Zita Zatyko.

Can Mathis punch her way past Hammer?
Stylistically, Hammer is similar to the long time male heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. At 5’ 11” she towers over most opponents relying on a supreme sense of range to keep her opponents at arm’s length where she forces them to lead enabling her to counter from a safe distance. Only Teresa Perozzi and Maria Lindberg were at times able nullify this advantage by successfully getting inside Hammer’s range and engaging her on the inside. In those fights, Hammer made the proper adjustments and cruised to unanimous decision victories.

The 37-year-old Mathis of Varangeville, France, a professional since 1995, has already accomplished what Hammer, with a victory, intends on equaling, and that is winning legitimate world titles in three-weight classes. Mathis, during her legendary career, has secured titles at light-welterweight, welterweight, and light-middleweight. In world title bouts she has scored impressive knockout wins over high-level fighters such as Myriam Lamare, Ana Pascal, and Holly Holm. Of her three losses, two came against pound-for-pound greats Cecilia Braekhus (L-10) and Holly Holm (L-10). In her second professional bout, Mathis was stopped in five rounds by future champ Marischa Sjauw, who was (5-0-1) at the time.

Mathis, because of her nuclear-charged, right-cross is perhaps the premier power puncher in the history of women’s boxing. Mathis has finished 23 of her 30 opponents inside the distance. Stylistically, she is a stalker who backs her opponents to the ropes and unleashes a barrage of punches with emphasis on the right-cross. Hammer said of the Mathis challenge, "I want to set new standards in women's boxing. Mathis is, of course, in this new weight class for me a real size with a huge knockout ratio. I put out the challenge to fight the best. There are enough women who runaway repeatedly in front of me!"

Hammer vs Mathis Preview & Prediction:

Hammer is expected to prevail over Mathis
Power: Mathis
Speed: Hammer
Chin/Durability: Even
Size: Hammer
Accuracy: Hammer
Skills: Even
Conditioning: Hammer
Punch Volume: Hammer
Defense: Hammer
Quality of Opposition: Mathis

Sweet Side Prediction: In the twilight of her career, as demonstrated in the decision losses to Braekhus and Holm, Mathis can be outboxed and is vulnerable to lateral movement. Mathis will always have a puncher’s chance and is crafty enough to force Hammer into exchanges that benefit the power puncher from France. Hammer is younger, bigger, and faster, and if the reduction in weight doesn’t affect the chin of Hammer, she should prevail by decision. It is refreshing to note that two of the best female boxers currently lacing up gloves are fighting each other. Due to the politics of the game, this is rarely the case. 

Koseki is the WBC Atomweight Champion
On August 2 at the Adachi Ward Sogo Sports Center in Tokyo, Japan, Momo Koseki (18-2-1, 5 KOs) looks to defend her WBC female atomweight title for a record-breaking fourteenth time when she battles 42-year-old Muay Thai legend Denise Castle (Onesongchaigym) who sports a professional boxing record of (2-0, 2 KOs). Koseki will look to break the record of Yoko Gushiken, who defended the WBA light-flyweight title thirteen times from 1976-81. Also on the card, Naoko Shibata (12-3, 3 KOs) of Tokyo looks to defend her IBF light-flyweight title for the second time when she faces the WBF light-flyweight title holder, Ana Arrazola (20-9-2, 13 KOs) of Mexico. Arrazola has faced the superior opposition, losing more often than not, but does hold victories over Anahi Torres and Marisol Molina. Against A-level competition, Arrazola is a step behind dropping one-sided decisions to Yesica Yolanda Bopp (twice), Susi Kentikian, and longtime minimumweight champion Ji-Hyun Park.

On August 10 in Cleveland, Ohio, 22-year-old newly crowned WIBA featherweight champion Carla Torres (4-2) defends her title for the first time in her home town when she battles Canadian Natasha Spence (6-2-1, 5 KOs). Torres, in May, won the title by upsetting Ronica Jeffrey (13-1) by a split-decision. The title-winning effort was the first fight for Torres since dropping a split-decision to Ela Nunez 2 1/2 years earlier. After getting off to a 6-0 start to her career, the hard punching Spence is looking to return to her winning ways in Ohio after losing her last two bouts to New Yorkers Melissa St. Vil and Jeffrey.

KO's Editor Update: Torres is now defending her title against Brooklyn, New York’s, Jennifer Santiago (3-0, 2 NCs), who in her last fight, scaled 117 pounds. Santiago hasn't been past six rounds and hasn't defeated a fighter with a winning record.

Torres hopes to climb in the ratings
KO Digest’s Top 5 Featherweights:

1- Jelena Mrdjenovich (Canada)
2- Melissa Hernandez (USA/Puerto Rico)
3- Dahiana Santana (Dominican Republic)
4- Ronica Jeffrey (USA)
5- Edith Soledad Matthysse (Argentina)

On 15 August at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, Nordic Coliseum Boxing is promoting a nine-bout, all-female fight card. Headlining the card is the former WBO female bantamweight champion Kaliesha “Wild Wild” West facing the hard punching bantamweight contender, Dayana “El Diamante” Cordero in an eight-round bout. Fighting out of Moreno Valley, California, West has fought to an impressive record of (16-1-3, 4 KOs) since turning professional in 2006 winning the WBO bantamweight title in her 16th professional fight. She successfully defended the title three times holding off talented foes like Ava Knight and Jessica Villafranca before elevating to super-bantamweight to win a minor world title in October 2012. Since, West, now 26-years-old, has found opportunities few and far between and has not laced up a pair of fight gloves in nearly 22 months. At first glance, the record that Cordero (13-4-1, 9 KOs) of Barranquilla, Colombia, may appear respectable, but upon close inspection, she has been exploited. She does own record of (3-4-1) against opponents with winning records, which, which is eye-raising, but not alarming. However, she is often used as easy prey having been matched in world title bouts against exceptional champions such as super-bantamweight Yesica Marcos (TKO-6), featherweight Alejandra Oliveras (L-10) and most reprehensibly, light-welterweight Monica Acosta (TKO-5). Having turned professional just after her 14th birthday, the now 18-year-old Cordero should still be tooling in an apprenticeship and is in over her head against a fighter with the physical ability of West. Also on the card, two promising lightweight prospects Brenda Gonzales (3-1) will battle Lucia Osegueda (3-0) in a fight scheduled for six rounds. Super-middleweight Annie Mazerolle (2-0) will battle Charmaine “Not So Sweet” Tweet, who is making her professional boxing debut. Super-middleweights are an endangered species in women’s boxing, and both fighters could find themselves highly ranked after just a few fights. Vanessa Bradford (3-0-1), who is an underrated prospect, battles Sherine Thomas (2-3). Other notable fighters appearing on the card are Jacqueline Park (3-1), Maureen “Baby Face” Riordon, and Maricela Cornejo (2-1).

KO Digest’s Quick Hits for July/August:

On July 25, Fernanda Soledad Alegre (19-1-1, 9 KOs) will defend her WBO female light-welterweight title for the ninth time when she faces Dalia Vasarhelyi (9-5, 1 KO) in her home town of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Alegre is an exceptional champion, but Vasarhelyi, an import from Hungary, is only three months removed from a knockout loss to Maria Elena Maderna in a failed attempt at Maderna’s WBO female lightweight title. Vasarhelyi, nicknamed the Black Dahlia will be squashed quickly in this fight. Bright Mexican prospect Kenia Enriquez (11-0, 6 KOs) sees action in San Diego, California, against the ever-tough TBA over ten rounds on July 25. Enriquez is a future star at light-flyweight. Another bright prospect is in action on July 25, this time in Chicago. Light-welterweight Kristin Gearhart (3-0, 1 KO) will take on Ashleigh Curry (5-8-2, 1 KO) in a bout scheduled for four rounds. In a heavyweight contest, Sonya “The Scholar” Lamonakis (9-1-2, 1 KO) battles Carlette “The Truth” Ewell (15-7-1, 9 KOs) for the IBO female heavyweight title in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten. This fight is a rematch of their January 2012 fight that ended in a six-round, split-draw. Since, Lamonakis has matured as a fighter posting a record of (3-1-1) whereas Ewell has been inactive. In a rematch of KO Digest’s 2013 Robbery of the Year, Jennifer Retzke (14-1-1, 9 KOs) of Berlin, Germany, looks to win the vacant IBO female welterweight title by defeating Kenyan speedster Florence Muthoni (11-3-1, 5 KOs). The two highly ranked welterweights met in August 2013, and it appeared that Muthoni did enough to win the IBO title, but the fight was ruled a majority-draw. Muthoni, returns to the scene of the crime: Open-Air BUGA Familiengarten, Eberswalde, Germany, for this battle. None of the judges assigned to their first match are scheduled to score this fight. The appointed judges for the rematch are from Belgium, Italy, and the USA. Muthoni is clearly the better fighter and hopefully gets her just reward.

KO Digest’s Dynamite Dozen Top 12 Pound For Pound Ratings:

Braekhus is still the best female fighter in the world
1- Cecilia Braekhus 25-0, 7 KOs (Norway)
2- Marcela Eilana Acuna 41-6-1, 18 KOs (Argentina)
3- Christina Hammer 17-0, 8 KOs (Germany)
4- Yesica Yoland Bopp 27-1, 12 KOs (Argentina)
5- Delfine Persoon 29-1, 13 KOs (Belgium)
6- Diana Prazak 13-2, 9 KOs (Australia/USA)
7- Jackie Nava 29-4-3, 13 KOs (Mexico)
8- Erica Anabella Farias 19-1, 9 KOs (Argentina)
9- Jelena Mrdjenovich 32-9-1, 16 KOs (Canada)
10- Naoko Fujioka 12-0, 6 KOs (Japan)
11- Ibeth Zamora-Silva 20-5, 8 KOs (Mexico)
12- Jessica Chavez 20-3-3, 4 KOs (Mexico)

"The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science" is written by women's boxing expert Mark A. Jones - exclusively for KO Digest. You can find more of Mark's work on his women's boxing blog:  Boxing Jones 

July 11, 2014

The Day Arturo Gatti Died

Boxing's Ultimate Blood & Guts Warrior
JULY 11, 2009 was a day like any other but for fight fans and those close to boxing legend Arturo "Thunder" Gatti, a day unlike any other. Exactly five years ago today, Gatti died at the age of 37 while vacationing with wife Amanda in Brazil. Retired for two years and very much out of the boxing limelight, Gatti was presumably off living the life many of us hoped he would be able to live after a brutal 2007 beating at the hands of "Contender" runner-up Alfonso Gomez. As sad as that final fight was, the final two years in Arturo's life were by some accounts even more tragic. Much mystery and controversy still surrounds the day Arturo died.

Did he take his own life as reported? Was he killed? Many unanswered questions still remain yet somehow, someway, his passing was on my mind that day even before I got the news that Gatti was actually gone.

Let me try to explain by telling the story.

The Saturday morning of July 11 was a typical sunny and bright summer day in the Boston area. Over morning coffee, I was flipping through some old boxing magazines from my collection. One issue in particular stood out. That was the October 1990 issue of The RING commemorating the passing of Rocky Graziano. "Thanks for the Memories" proclaimed the faded cover. As I read that headline and looked at the old fashioned illustrations of Graziano in action, I began to think about the obvious comparisons between Graziano and Gatti as fighters. Then for some reason it occurred to me that someday in the future I would surely hold a similar magazine in my hands commemorating the passing of MY generation's Rocky Graziano, Arturo Gatti.

Little did I realize just how soon I would have that fateful magazine in my hands.

Approximately three weeks later I was holding it.
The Memory Remains

Some time after lunch on the day Arturo died, an old hometown friend from Brockton emailed and broke the news of Gatti's death to me. I immediately recalled thinking about Gatti and Graziano while looking at that Ring Magazine over coffee that morning and it seemed like too much of a coincidence. Still, I was sure that when I pondered his death earlier that day, I had no way to know that Arturo may have already been dead, or dying. The shock of a more tangible reality took over and I began to share with people the strange premonition I experienced earlier in the day.

Most people thought it was crazy and I'm not sure everyone believed me but it's the truth, and I stand behind it as such. On the day Arturo died, I seemed to be aware of it before being told of it and I don't fully understand why. Could it be that we receive and communicate information in ways we don't fully understand? Maybe it really was just a strange coincidence. Or perhaps the giant void suddenly left behind by Gatti's passing was just too big not to notice immediately. In any case, a true boxing legend passed away that day and I think it's fair to say we're all still in grief, even five years later.

Arturo Gatti was the most spectacularly exciting boxer of his generation. With his incredible heart and determination, Arturo far exceeded his own limited skillset and by doing so joined in the elite company of boxing legends like Rocky Graziano. In June 2013, Gatti was inducted on the first ballot into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canstota, New York. Boxing's ultimate blood and guts warrior has now been reborn and made immortal.

Thanks for the memories Arturo.

Written & Experienced by Jeffrey Freeman