March 12, 2013

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

By Mark A. Jones - Women's professional boxing enjoys a niche following of dedicated enthusiasts, all too often being overlooked by mainstream boxing fans. This new monthly column on KO Digest will not be an all-encompassing dissection of the sport of women’s boxing, the focus will instead be on the important happenings in bouts involving world titles and high profile competitors. Additionally, a single match-up involving a rising prospect will be spotlighted; giving readers an inside look at a potential future star in women’s boxing. Also included will be featured divisional ratings, a pound-for-pound top twelve ranking called the “Dynamite Dozen,” and a listing of the best female boxers in each weight class. A report on the prestigious title fights of the preceding month and a look ahead to next month completes this very well-rounded look into women's boxing - The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science.

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

Women’s boxing was in superb form in February. The talented prospect, Natasha “The Nightmare” Spence took a loss but gained valuable experience. Amanda “The Real Deal” Serrano gained renown as a two-division champion by capturing a featherweight title via knockout over a formidable opponent.

Teresa Perozzi, the WBC middleweight champion, sustained an early knockdown only to rally to retain her title versus a serious challenge from a particularly aggressive opponent. Former longtime flyweight champion, Susi Kentikian won the interim WBA flyweight title by defeating a relative unknown but willing opponent.

After two straight losses to American flyweights, this match-up was arranged to be an event where Susi got her groove back; the result was not Kentikian recapturing an ever-escaping prime condition, but getting bloodied and bruised against a fighter acquired by peering down the ratings rather than up them. Susi Kentikian, Hamburg, Germany, (30-2, 16 KOs) captured the interim WBA female flyweight title by mauling her way to an unanimous decision victory over an inexperienced, but game, Sanae Jah, Belgium, (7-1, 2 KOs). Kentikian lost the WBA female flyweight title to Carina Moreno in December by spilt decision.

Susi Kentikian back on the throne?
Jah, matched against a fighter with a winning record for the first time, boxed from long-range well evading many of the wild misses launched by Kentikian. Jah, in spots, countered well, but her lack of significant firepower enabled Kentikian to deliver effectively enough to persuade the judges to favor her. Kentikian scored a flash knockdown in round seven when a right-cross struck home punctuating an unanswered five punch combination. In the end, the bout was more closely contested than the scoring, (99-90 ½/ 98-93/ 97 ½-92) might otherwise suggest. Kentikian's first reign as the WBA flyweight champion lasted nearly six years. Only time and a higher level of competition will determine if Susi is back.

Note: Carina Moreno injured her knee when she won the WBA female flyweight title from Kentikian last December. Kentikian must meet Moreno to legitimize her claim to the WBA title.

As a nor’easter pummeled portions of New England on February 8, just south of the storm in Wilmington, Delaware, two talented super featherweight prospects battled. Melissa “Little Miss Tyson” St. Vil, 136, Brooklyn, NY, (4-1-2, 0 KOs) rained down power punches early and often on Natasha “The Nightmare” Spence, 130, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, (6-1-1, 5 KOs). Spence, a fast and powerful lead puncher, steamrolled five of her fist seven professional opponents with only Vanessa Bradford and the defensively gifted Lucia Larcinese having lasted the distance, discovered herself in an unfamiliar position of fighting from behind as St Vil, giving no backwards step, landed power punches at a higher rate than she received.

The Canadian rallied in the later rounds as St. Vil tired, but it was too little too late to sway the judges from awarding St. Vil the majority decision, (79-73/78-74/76-76). With the win, St. Vil adds Spence to a list of notable victories that include Evette Collazo and Jennifer Han.

St. Vil goes after Spence while Jack O watches closely
Despite the loss, Natasha Spence is scheduled to face Ronica Jeffery for the vacant interim WIBA super featherweight title. Jeffery won the WBC Silver female super featherweight title defeating “Lethal” Lindsay Garbatt by the unanimous decision in August 2012.

Note: Melissa St. Vil received some notoriety by starring alongside Melissa Hernandez, Dominga Olivo, and Geneve Brossard in the 2007 documentary, “Golden Gloves” directed by amateur boxer Leyla Leidecker. The documentary was later renamed, “The Life of Million Dollar Babies.”

There are exciting fights that fly under the radar experienced by only the most serious enthusiasts of the sweet science. On the second day of February in Pembroke, Bermuda, Teresa Perozzi, Warrick, Bermuda, (9-4-3, 1 KO) and Tori Nelson, Ashburn, Virginia, (6-0-3, 0 KOs) engaged in one of these must-sees. This match-up was the second meeting of the two elite middleweights. They met in October of 2012 in a memorable world title fight that ended in a draw.

The fascination of this match-up was the difference in styles featuring swarming infighting skills on Nelson versus the adaptability of Perozzi. In a 2010 world title bout versus the rangy Christina Hammer, Perozzi employed an infighting strategy to compensate for Hammer’s 5’11 frame, and superior reach. In this battle, she chose to execute a long-range, counter-punching strategy to exploit a perceived weakness in Nelson’s aggressive straight-line style.

Perozzi started quickly wining the first two stanzas keeping Nelson at bay with a deft jab and effective movement. The third round, the most compelling round of the fight, and a possible round-of-the-year candidate witnessed both fighters scoring knockdowns. Perozzi was the first to hit the deck, placed there by a two-punch combination executed by Nelson from close-range. She recovered quickly enough to return the favor approximately twenty seconds later landing a counter left hook that felled Nelson.

Nelson’s constant pressure asserted itself in the fourth round giving her the best of the action through the sixth frame. Perozzi rallied beginning in round seven sweeping the remaining rounds and apparently doing enough to persuade the judges to call the fight in her favor. In the end, as in their last meeting, the judges could not come to a consensus declaring the fight a spilt-draw; (96-95 Perozzi/ 97-94 Nelson/ and 95-95). With the draw, Perozzi, who also holds the WBA female middleweight title, retains her WBC version. Nelson is scheduled to defend her WIBA middleweight title against Maria Lindberg on March 30.

One of the most dangerous punchers in the sport of women’s boxing, Amanda Serrano, 126, Brooklyn, NY, (17-1-1, 12 KOs) took aim at the WIBA and UBF featherweight titles on February 16 in the Dominican Republic. Her opponent, Wanda Pena Ozuna, 126, the Dominican Republic (8-5, 2 KOs) was experienced having faced both Cecilia Braekhus and Hanna Gabriel during her career.

Amanda Serrano
Serrano secured the titles with a first round technical knockout over Ozuna; Serrano’s sixth first round stoppage of her career and third in a row since dropping a decision to WBC female super featherweight champion, Frida Wallberg in April of 2012. The victory gives Serrano a world title in her second weight class having won the IBF super featherweight title in 2011. At the age of only 24, she is amassing an impressive string of knockouts.

Jessica “Kika” Chavez, 107, Mexico City, Mexico, (17-3-2, 4 KOs) won the vacant WBC Silver female light flyweight title by beating WBF female flyweight champion, Irma “La Guerita” Sanchez, 107, Guadalajara, Mexico, (25-6-1, 7 KOs) over ten rounds by the scores (99-91/98-92/98-92). Both fighters have won several minor and major world titles between them. This was a rematch of a 2011 IBF female light flyweight title bout that Chavez won by split decision. Jessica Chavez, at the age of 24, is legitimately one of the top twenty pound-for-pound female fighters in the world.

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

On March 9, dangerous welterweight contender, Jessica Balogun is scheduled to battle the ever-tough TBA in Germany. Balogun (22-2, 10 KOs) lost a decision to Cecilia Braekhus in June 2012 performing better than expected against the elite welterweight.

Erica Anabella Farias, the WBC female lightweight champion and one of the most dangerous punchers in women’s boxing defends her title against the limited Liliana Palmera (21-9-3, 15 KOs) of Columbia. Farias will defend in her home country of Argentina where she owns an inherited advantage due to extreme crowd support. Farias has knocked down eight of last eleven opponents stopping seven within the distance including a sixth round retirement of Palmera in February, 2012. Farias (15-0, 8 KOs) holds wins over Melissa Hernandez, Ann Saccurato, and Irma Balijagic Adler.

On March 12, Naoko Fujioka (9-0, 5 KOs) Japan, is scheduled to stay active in a non-title affair versus Maribel Ramirez (8-4-2, 3 KOs) Mexico, in an eight round bout in Tokyo, Japan. Fujioka, a fearsome puncher at minimumweight has successfully defended her WBC title twice since lifting it from Anabel Ortiz on an eighth round retirement in May 2011.

On March 16, Yesica Yolanda “Tuti” Bopp (23-0, 10 KOs) defends her WBA and WBO light flyweight titles against a yet to be named opponent in her home country of Argentina. Bopp has successfully defended various recognized world titles fifteen times since winning the interim WBA female light flyweight title in August 2008. In her last start on January 26, she won a technical decision over Marisa Johanna Portillo.

On March 22, Ivana Habazin (10-0, 5 KOs) Croatia, faces trail-horse Eva Halasi (10-6, 9 KOs) Serbia, for the vacant IBF female welterweight title. Habazin has been moved quickly facing decidedly pedestrian competition over her first two years as a professional. Halasi should provide little resistance; of her six losses, five have come by the stoppage route. Habazin owns an American style of fighting does possess some serious firepower in her right cross.

On Mach 30, in Stockholm, Sweden, Jennifer Retzke (12-1, 9 KOs) Berlin, Germany, the defending IBF light middleweight champion, defends her title against Mikaela Lauren (18-2, 6 KOs) Stockholm, Sweden. Both fighters hold stoppage victories over Eva Halasi. Lauren holds wins over Cindy Serrano, Jill Emery, Rachel Clark, and two wins over the above-mentioned Halasi. If Retzke fails to stop Lauren inside the distance, it will be difficult for her to win on the cards in Lauren’s home town.

Pound for Pound Queen Holly Holm
Monthly Featured Divisional Ratings - Welterweights:

1- Holly Holm (32-2-3, 9 KOs) Albuquerque, NM IBA, WBF
2- Cecilia Braekhus (21-0, 5 KOs) Bergen, Norway WBA, WBC, WBO
3- Anne Sophie Mathis (26-3, 22 KOs) France
4- Jessica Balogun (22-2, 10 KOs) Aachen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
5- Mia St. John (47-12-2, 18 KOs) Oxnard, CA
6- Aleksandra Lopes (9-1, 1 KO) Quincy, MA
7- Ivana Habazin (10-0, 5 KOs) Zagreb, Croatia
8- Holly Lawson (5-2, 1 KO) Los Angeles, CA
9- Sarah Kuhn (5-3-1, 1 KO) Albany, NY
10- Adelita Irizarry (8-7, 2 KOs) Hartford, CT

Encompassed in the welterweight division are perhaps three of the top ten pound-for-pound female boxers currently campaigning in the sport. This talented group also contains some excellent contenders of varying styles, and a few talented newbies that may someday test the best of the division.   

A Closer Look - Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm (32-2-3, 9 KOs)
Titles: IBA, WBF welterweight and Junior Welterweight
From: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Age: 31
Experience: 11 years
Style: Ambush Fighter
Strength: Conditioning, movement, long-range defense
Best Wins: Mary Jo Sanders, Anne Sophie Mathis, Mia St. John, Christy Martin, and Ann Saccurato
Losses: (2) Anne Sophie Mathis and Rita Turrisi
Last Bout: Win UD-10 Diana Prazak

The Goods: The current IBA, WBF welterweight and light welterweight champion is the divisions most decorated boxer holding various welterweight titles since her title winning victory over Angelica Martinez in 2006. Holm has not only dominated welterweights; she defeated world class fighters Tricia Turton and Mary Jo Sanders to win junior middleweight titles. Holly Holm is the quintessential ambush fighter using almost constant movement as her defense. Most high-level boxers have a smooth simultaneous transition from offense to defense. Holly’s style is similar to basketball; she is either on offense or defense. She is as aerobically fit as any fighter in the game, and the ambush style of boxing fits her skill set well. Holly is arguably the greatest female boxer of her time and one of the greatest in the history of women’s boxing. She routinely headlines boxing cards at the Route 66 Casino in her home town of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Sweet Side Quick Quotes:

Welterweight #9 contender Sarah Kuhn - "I am honored to be a part of such a diverse division. Boxing is so much of a weight game that being right in the middle of the weight classes brings such a broad type of fighter. You can never be sure what you're going to be facing based on weight in this division.” 

Welterweight #8 contender Holly Lawson - “In my opinion, Cecelia Braekhus is currently atop the weight class. Both she and Holly Holm are very close based on the opposition they have faced and the fact that they both win decisions in their respective hometowns. We have a fairly decent sized division, the thing that bothers me is the fact that both of those women choose to fight over the hill, should be retired, women (aka Mia St John). I am hoping to fight for a title shot sometime this year; I am working on a tune-up fight within the next month. My goal is to be the unified champion; I am working on building myself as a brand so I can encourage large American promoters to feature me here in the states, so I don't have to take a fight overseas with the cards already stacked against me.”

KO Digest's Dynamite Dozen P4P Women's Ratings: 

1- Holly Holm (32-2-3, 9 KOs) USA
2- Cecilia Braekhus (21-0, 5 KOs) Norway
3- Erica Anabella Farias (15-0, 8 KOs) Argentina
4- Ava Knight (11-1-3, 5 KOs) USA
5- Christina Hammer (13-0, 7 KOs) Germany
6- Melissa Hernandez (18-3-3, 6 KOs) USA/Puerto Rico
7- Layla McCarter (35-13-5, 8 KOs) USA
8- Yesica Yolanda Bopp (23-0, 10 KOs) Argentina
9- Frida Wallberg (11-0, 2 KOs) Sweden
10- Anne Sophie Mathis (26-3, 22 KOs) France
11- Esmeralda Moreno (25-6, 9 KOs) Mexico
12- Marina Juarez (36-6-3, 16 KOs) Mexico

Best By Weight Class Rankings:

Heavyweight- Sonya Lamonakis (USA/Greece)
Super Middleweight- Zita Zatyko (Hungary)
Middleweight- Christina Hammer (Germany/Kazakhstan)
Light Middleweight- Layla McCarter (USA)
Welterweight- Holly Holm (USA)
Light Welterweight- Holly Holm (USA)
Lightweight- Erica Anabella Farias (Argentina)
Super Featherweight- Frida Wallberg (Sweden)
Featherweight- Melissa Hernandez (USA/Puerto Rico)
Super Bantamweight- Yesica Patricia Marcos (Argentina)
Bantamweight- Irma Garcia (Mexico)
Super Flyweight- Carolina Raquel Duer (Argentina)
Flyweight- Ava Knight (USA)
Light Flyweight- Yesica Yolanda Bopp (Argentina)
Minimumweight- Naoko Fujioka (Japan)

Written and Compiled 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 at: Boxing Jones