October 7, 2013

The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science - Women's Boxing Monthly Vol. 8

Claressa Shields - USA's only 2012 Gold Medalist in Boxing
By Mark A. Jones – The AIBA Women’s Junior/Youth World Boxing Championships were held from September 20-29 in Albena, Bulgaria. Team USA competed in the event for the first time forming a 10-woman team starring 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist, Claressa Shields (Flit, MI.), the first boxing gold medalist the United States has witnessed since Andre Ward won gold in 2004. The AIBA is the international governing body for Olympic-style boxing, which recently changed the rules in regard to age divisions forcing Shields and other 17 and 18-year-old boxers to compete in the newly formed youth division. Shields, now pounding the books as a Broadcast Journalism major at Olivet College, in the preliminary rounds, stopped all three opponents inside the distance.

With a 2-1 decision over Elzbieta Wojcik of Poland in the finals, Shields won the gold medal and was awarded the Best Youth Boxer trophy. Poland, the surprise of the tournament, won team honors in the youth (17-18 y/o) age group followed by Kazakhstan and China. The United States finished seventh winning one gold and two bronze medals. Russia edged Kazakhstan on the strength of four golds to win team honors in the junior (15-16 y/o) age group. The US finished third fueled by gold medal performances from Caitlin Orosco (Anaheim, CA.), and Jajaira Gonzalez (Glendora, CA.).

A look back at September 2013 in women’s boxing:

Yamaguchi vs Fujioka
In the women’s professional ranks, as with their male counterparts, the lightest weight classes are often overlooked. In September, Naoko Fujioka (10-0, 6 KOs) officially dropped her WBC minimumweight title to challenge fellow Japanese power-puncher, Naoko Yamaguchi (22-3-3, 18 KOs) for the WBA female super-flyweight title on November 13, in Tokyo, Japan the home town of both fighters.

On September 7, in Frederikshavn, Denmark, on the Sauerland Promotion’s “Nordic Fight Night,” “The First Lady” of boxing, Cecilia Braekhus, 145 ½, Bergen, Norway, defended her WBC, WBA, and WBO welterweight titles with a ninth round technical knockout of 18-year-old Oxandia “La Loba” Castillo, 146 ½, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Castillo (12-1-2, 9 KOs), was virtually unknown before winning the WBO female light-middleweight title with a devastating second round knockout of longtime champion, Hanna Gabriel in February. Entering this contest, Castillo was considered to possess significant offensive prowess but little in the way of comprehensive boxing skills that would cause her to be considered anything but one-dimensional.

Braekhus looks like the best because she is
After absorbing Castillo’s best in the first round, Braekhus (23-0, 7 KOs), at 31-years-old and likely in the prime stage of her career, may have composed her best effort dismantling the young hard-charger with far superior boxing ability. As the fight wore on, Braekhus increased her control boxing beautifully from long range landing repeatedly with one-two combinations and lead rights. In the final seconds of the ninth, a barrage of well-placed right hands from Braekhus went unanswered causing referee, Mickey Vann to stop the action saving Castillo from any further punishment. With the win, Braekhus cemented her status as the pound-for-pound best female fighter and has now successfully defended her WBC title an impressive 12 times and her WBA title 11.

On September 7 in Saarbruecken, Germany on a talent-laden boxing card titled, “Night of Champions” the Jordanian born Raja Amasheh, 111, in front of supporters from her adopted home country, secured the WBF female super-flyweight title with a ten-round unanimous decision victory (96-94/97-94/98-92) over 23-year-old upstart, Eva “The Golden Baby” Voraberger, 114 ¼, Vienna, Austria. With the momentum of a 15-bout winning streak, Voraberger (16-3, 8 KOs), who normally campaigns as a flyweight, landed the heavier blows throughout having some success countering the swarming attacks of Amasheh. Initiating most of the exchanges, Amasheh (16-0-1, 4 KOs) gained the advantage by way of sheer punch volume operating primarily in the middle of the ring where she enjoyed a speed advantage. With the win, Amasheh moves into the alphabet title picture in the loaded super-flyweight division; whereas Voraberger, against a quality opponent, gained valuable experience that will lend her well in the future.

On the same card, Rola El Halabi, 139 ½, Ulm, Germany by way of Beirut, Lebanon, competed in her third fight since suffering three gunshot wounds inflicted by her former manager/stepfather in the dressing room just prior to a 2011 title fight. Halabi, successfully defended her WBF light-welterweight title with a sixth round TKO of Sopo Putkaradze, 137 ½, Tbilisi, Georgia. Halabi, who holds stoppage wins over the current IBF welterweight champion, Eva Halasi and Mia St. John improves to (13-1, 7 KOs). Putkaradze, who weighed the heaviest of her career, drops to (6-1-2, 1 KO). 

The winner is La Guerita
On September 7, in Mexico, Katia “Katty” Gutierrez, 108, Los Mochis, Mexico, the former IBF minimumweight champion, moved to light-flyweight to battle former light-flyweight and flyweight world champion, Irma “La Guerita” Sanchez, 108, Guadalajara, Mexico. The feeling out period was dispensed with by both fighters in this contest as they were familiar with the other from their 2011 IBF light-flyweight title fight which Sanchez won by a unanimous decision. Sanchez (26-6-1, 7 KOs), aggressively stalked Gutierrez (18-4, 4 KOs) attempting to force her less experienced opponent, (239-145 in rounds boxed) into close range exchanges along the ropes; however, Gutierrez, a counter-puncher, required space to work accomplished enough in the middle of the ring to make the fight interesting. The contrasting styles led to back-and-fourth spirited action witnessing neither fighter gaining a foothold until the final round. With the decision in doubt, Sanchez summoned the previous 238 rounds of boxing experience and successfully forced Gutierrez onto the ropes landing almost at will over and under the shell-like defense that Gutierrez was forced to adopt. In the end, Sanchez won a split-decision victory by the strange tabulation of (98-96/98-96/ 96-98).

Three Questions - Sweet Side Q&A with Jennifer Hamann

Jennifer is a thinker in and out of the ring
Since earning a B.A. in Philosophy from Seattle University in 2009, Jennifer Hamann of Seattle, Washington, is flourishing in her journey to be a great boxer, sticking and moving her way to an impressive 27-2 record and earning a #1 ranking at featherweight (125 lbs.) in the USA Boxing elite women’s division under the tutelage of coach Tricia Turton.

Now a graduate student at Seattle University, Jennifer’s journey of juggling books, life, and the sweet side of the sweet science continues which can be followed on her boxing blog The Road to Gold: A Journey to the 2016 Olympics. This month, KO Digest asks "Thee Questions" of Hamann.

Q: While enrolled at the Seattle University, you earned a B. A., in Philosophy and competed in track & field and soccer. Most boasting a similar resume would not enter the gritty world of boxing or would do so cautiously, on a white-collar level. Since donning the gloves and headgear of the amateur ranks, you have pounded out a 27-2 record having succeeded on both the national and international stages. Why boxing, and what is motivating you to prepare for a potential berth on the 2016 United States Olympic Team?

A: The day I landed my first clean left hook in the ring woke me up to something I didn’t think I was allowed to feel – satisfaction without guilt, anger without reserve, expression without apprehension. Boxing saved me from a life of settled mediocrity and quashed expression through the power of a punch. I didn’t need boxing to save me from the streets or pull me out of trouble. It has done something even more powerful by igniting a sense of permission to express myself through my body, regardless of my image, gender or socioeconomic background. I like breaking the rules – if this was something I wasn’t supposed to be good at, then I was sure as hell going to do it. In college I comfortably holed myself up in my philosophy books, imagining what it would be like to practice and experience some of the theories and ideas I read about in class. A career in academics and the study of philosophy was a logical and safe path that seemed set out for me from the beginning. I grew up with a philosophy professor Dad who indoctrinated the Socratic method in our family dinner conversations.

Q: After a fantastic showing at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England, women’s amateur boxing was dealt a severe body-blow when the IOC decided to maintain only three women’s weight categories; flyweight, lightweight, and middleweight for the 2016 Olympics. Will the decision by the IOC compel you to vacate the featherweight weight class (125-lb) and compete for the lightweight (132-lb) USA Olympic Team berth?

A: I fight at 125 for a reason – my body and boxing are their best at this weight class. But when those pastries and happy hours get away with me, I can throw down at 132 and will be happy to do so in a few years if the senselessness of only three weight classes for women in the Olympics sticks around. Frosting covered pastries and my butt taking a regular seat at happy hour is good for the soul but not the figure, so I’m also thankful that boxing is a bitchin workout.

Q: In 2009, you initiated your amateur boxing journey at Cappy’s Gym in Seattle under the tutelage of former professional boxer, Tricia Turton. Since, you have followed her to the newly founded, Arcaro Boxing. 
What has Coach Turton meant to your development as a boxer?

Boxer Hamann and Coach Turton
A: Tricia was and still is a great boxer who was unfortunately not given adequate coaching to take her title fights to the level they could have been. However, I’m grateful that in order to right this wrong, she has giving herself wholeheartedly to a new generation of boxers. She works with our styles rather than trying to change them to fit some mold. I’m a sassy Sagittarius with a roaring temper and she helps me use this to my advantage in the ring, rather than make me change my personality. I’ve also learned that loyalty goes a long way, and this new gym, this new team, is a team win! I didn’t win Nationals – my coach, my supporters, our clients and my teammates helped along the way.

I hope I can say that for all of us for the 2016 Olympics.

Read More: www.hamannroadtogold.org

A look ahead to October 2013 in women’s boxing:

On October 11, in Santa Fe, Argentina, Alejandra Marina “Locomotora” Oliveras (30-2-2, 15 KOs), in front of her hometown fans, seeks her fourth major world title when she battles #6 ranked, Lely Luz Florez (14-5-1, 8 KOs) Monteria, Colombia, in a ten-round contest for the interim WBC female light-welterweight title. Florez, a former interim WBC female light-welterweight champion, is no slouch winning the belt with a first round stoppage of then undefeated and all-around tough customer, Chris “Bombon Asesino” Namus of Uruguay. Since, Florez has battled to a (4-4-1) record losing the light-welterweight belt in her first defense by a split-decision to Monica Silvina Acosta. In contrast, Oliveras throws every punch with bad intentions having won her last eleven bouts, eight within the distance since a 2011 failed attempt at the WBA and WBC light-welterweight titles, a razor-thin decision loss to Acosta. Most recently, Oliveras held the WBO female featherweight title successfully defending it five times; she also boasts three defenses of the WBC super-bantamweight title and briefly held the WBA lightweight title. Oliveras may have the punching power to bypass two weight classes, but does she have the physical stature? At only 5’ 1”, she will experience a severe height disadvantage to Florez who stands 5’ 4 1/2". 

Marina Barbie Juarez back in action in Mexico
On October 12, at the Hard Rock Hotel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Mexican women’s boxing pioneer, Mariana “Barbie” Juarez (37-7-3, 16 KOs) Mexico City, will defend her WBC International female super-flyweight title for the first time against the unranked and virtually unknown, Buakaew OnesongchaiGym (6-1-1, 0 KOs) Trang, Thailand, over the ten-round distance. The feather-fisted OnesongchaiGym, by winning the WBC Asian Boxing Council female flyweight title in April, gets a dance with Juarez, but must be considered a mere tune-up for the Mexican superstar with a super-fight with the WBC super-flyweight titleholder, Zulina Munoz (39-1-2, 26 KOs) possibly on the horizon.

On October 23, in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, the two-time Maxim cover girl Lauryn Eagle (7-3-1, 3 KOs) Peakhurst, Australia, who over her brief career has won the Australia female lightweight title and the WBF female super-featherweight title remains active in a scheduled six-round bout against Eileen Forrest (0-2-1) Coorparoo, Australia. This a rematch of their November 2010 meeting that ended in a majority-draw with a single judge favoring Eagle by a wide margin. Forrest will be making her first start since May 2011, a first round knockout loss to the current WBC super-featherweight champion, Diana Prazak (12-2, 8 KOs). In addition to the Maxim covers, the 25-year-old Eagle has won Miss Teen Australia, Miss Teen International and starred in the second season of Celebrity Apprentice Australia.

Lethal Lindsay vs The Force
On October 25, in Albany, New York, “Lethal” Lindsay Garbatt (7-6-2, 3 KOs) Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, battles Jackie “The Force” Trivilino (9-5-3, 1 KO) Plattsburgh, New York, in a ten-round bout for the interim WIBA featherweight title. This is a rematch of their July meeting that witnessed Garbatt score a knockdown in the eighth and final round earning a split-draw in what was an action-packed fight. Garbatt holds impressive wins over elite featherweights, Jelena Mrdjenovich and Melissa Hernandez and has experience wearing WIBA title belts winning the super-featherweight version in 2010 with a split-decision victory over Mrdjenovich. This will be the first world title experience for Trivilino who was unsuccessful in two attempts at the New York State featherweight title drawing with and losing a close decision to, Nydia Feliciano. 

On October 26 in Toluca, Mexico, Ibeth “La Roca” Zamora (18-5, 8 KOs) defends her WBC female light-flyweight title against KO Digest’s #3 pound-for-pound female boxer, Ava Knight (12-1-3, 5 KOs). Zamora, fighting out of San Cristobal Huichochitlan, Mexico, won the title in March by edging Japan’s Naoko Shibata in Tokyo by split-decision. In June, she stopped worthy challenger, Maricela Quintero by eighth round retirement making her first defense a successful one. Zamora, once the interim WBA minimumweight champ, owns wins over Jessica Chavez, Anabel Ortiz, and Esmeralda Moreno. Each of her five losses came to elite competition. Ava Knight, hailing from Chico, California, is no stranger to punching for pay in Mexico traveling south of the border for each of her last six fights (6-0, 2 KOs) with each involving a world title. Moving down from flyweight (112 lbs.) to the light-flyweight class (108 lbs.) should not be a problem for Knight who scaled 108 pounds in a January, 2013 fight dominating the competent Susana Vazquez.

Can La Roca upset Ava Knight?
Here is how the two female fighters break down in ten key categories. Knight holds a slight advantage in 6 out of 10 of them with 2 even:

Power: Knight                    Speed: Knight  
Chin/Durability: Even    Size: Knight    
Accuracy: Knight              Skills: Knight                            
Conditioning: Even          Punch Volume: Zamora 
Defense: Knight                 Quality of Opposition: Zamora
KO's Sweet Side Prediction: This is the quintessential bull against the matador match-up displaying the aggression and punch volume of Zamora against the size, speed, and boxing ability of Knight. Both fighters have the possession of above-average punching power with each owning knockout victories over quality opposition. Knight, who holds wins over A-level competitors Mariana Juarez, Arely Mucino, and Kaliesha West, all who campaign above light-flyweight, should have enough to decision Zamora, but it will not be a walk in the park. 

KO Digest's Dynamite Dozen Pound-for-Pound Ratings:

Persoon is #12 P4P
1- Cecilia Braekhus (23-0, 7 KOs) Norway
2- Erica Farias (18-0, 9 KOs) Argentina
3- Ava Knight (12-1-3, 5 KOs) USA
4- Christina Hammer (15-0, 7 KOs) Germany
5- Jessica Chavez (19-3-2, 4 KOs) Mexico
6- Yesica Bopp (25-1, 11 KOs) Argentina
7- Ann Sophie Mathis (27-3, 24 KOs) France
8- Jelena Mrdjenovich (30-9-1, 15 KOs) Canada
9- Diana Prazak (12-2, 8 KOs) Australia/USA
10- Marcela Acuna (39-6-1, 17 KOs) Argentina
11- Melissa McMorrow (9-3-3, 1 KO) USA
12- Delfine Persoon (26-1, 11 KOs) Belgium

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