May 8, 2013

The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science - Women's Boxing Monthly Vol. 3

Holm says goodbye to Braekhus and boxing
By Mark A. Jones – In April, the women’s boxing saga continued as the last symbolic shovel full of dirt was placed on top of an already laid to rest event when Holly Holm announced that she was bidding adieu to the boxing ring in favor of the MMA cage; effectively announcing the death of one of the most anticipated matchups in the history of women’s boxing between Holly Holm and Cecilia Braekhus.

Both welterweights are 31 years old. In women’s boxing circles, it was the equivalent of Mayweather vs Pacquiao; a male boxer Superfight that's apparently suffered the same fate. Similar to the Mayweather vs Pacquiao storyline, the more negotiations between the promotion of Braekhus, Saureland Promotions, and the promotion of Holm, Fresquez Productions, dragged on, the less it appeared the mega-fight would take place.

The end came on April 16th when Holm announced that she was retiring from the sport, leaving “Merciless” Mary McGee, a little-known but respectable lightweight out of Indiana as her dance partner for her swan song on May 11th. Holm stated, “It’s a hard decision, but I need to keep that spark and passion. MMA is where it’s at for me now.”

Both the Braekhus and the Holm promotions released statements pointing the finger at the other to shoulder the culpability for the demise of the fight. Neither fighter sullied their future legacies as both have already attained Hall of Fame class credentials. In the end, neither fighter needed the fight. Both have established boxing records meeting and defeating the best women’s boxing had to offer. More than anything, the sport of women’s boxing needed this high profile fight to happen and for it to be televised to reach a mainstream audience, especially in the United States.

The absence of Holm (32-2-3, 9 KOs), an impressive (21-1-1) in world title bouts, globally, deals professional women’s boxing a body blow from which it can recover. The status of professional women’s boxing in the United States, however, is on the ropes as a result of her retirement. Holm’s departure from the sport raises the question, “Is the United States the center of the women’s boxing universe?” The answer to that question is a resounding, no. The center of the women’s boxing universe is located in Germany, Mexico, and/or Argentina.

Of the five American based fighters listed by boxrec as the highest ranked fighter in their weight class, only Holm consummated her last fight in the United States. Tori Nelson (Bermuda), Layla McCarter (South Africa), Melissa Hernandez (Canada), and Ava Knight (Mexico) each either defended or battled for world titles abroad. Other high level American fighters who have recently battled for world titles elsewhere are Alicia Ashley (Panama), Melissa McMorrow (Germany), Carina Moreno (Germany), and Amanda Serrano (Dominican Republic). Melissa McMorrow, a native of California, is promoted by (SES), based out of Germany.

True connoisseurs of women’s boxing realize with a cursory inspection of the world rankings that many of the young-guns are of Argentinean or Mexican decent. Many of them have ridden the coattails of fellow compatriots such as, Erica Anabella Farias (Argentina), Yesica Yolanda Bopp (Argentina), Jackie Nava (Mexico), and Ana Maria Torres (Mexico), all long-time boxing champions. If almost every American fighter that competes on a high level is leaving the United States to find opportunities, who remains to build a fan base enabling women’s boxing to move from the current niche following it enjoys to something more mainstream? A Holly Holm versus Cecilia Braekhus "Sweet Side of the Sweet Science Superfight" would have been the ticket.

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

On April 13, at Arena Nord, Frederikshavn, Denmark, Cecilia Braekhus improved to (22-0, 6 KOs) with a three round demolition of a post-prime Mia St. John (47-13-2, 18 KOs). Since the late 90s, Mia St. John has earned the title, “Madame Ambassador” for representing women’s boxing displaying extraordinary beauty, solid boxing skills, and after the first Christy Martin fight, toughness. At the age of 45, St. John facing a bigger, faster, and a stronger prime conditioned opponent could no longer summon those ever-fading boxing skills to last the distance as she had with Holly Holm some eight years ago.

Braekhus pound for pounds St. John into retirement
Braekhus dispensed with her usual boxer-puncher technique and stalked St. John hurting her early and often with power shots' setup by a deft left jab. The end came with twenty-five seconds left in the third round with St. John stationary against the ropes absorbing well placed power punches by Braekhus. After the fight, St. John announced her retirement from the ring and passed the “Madame Ambassador” torch to the “First Lady of Boxing,” Cecilia Braekhus.

Braekhus retained her WBO, WBC, and WBA female world welterweight titles and captures the KO Digest #1 pound-4-pound ranking with the dominant win.

Argentina has roughly the same population of the State of California, but is arguably the women’s boxing capital of the world boasting pound-4-pound favorites Yesica Yolanda Bopp, Erica Anabella Farias, Fernanda Soledad Alegre, and Carolina Raquel Duer. A professional for just over two years and already the IBF female super flyweight champion, Debora Anahi Dionicius (12-0, 4 KOs) Villaguay, Argentina, on April 13 successfully defended her title for the first time by defeating a run-of-the-mill contender, Gabriela Bouvier (9-4-1, 2 KOs), Maldonado, Uruguay, by an unanimous decision (99-91/ 100-90/ 100-90). Still overshadowed by fellow Argentine super flyweights Daniela Romina Bermudez and the aforementioned Duer, Dionicius is improving her pedigree with each fight displaying excellent counter-punching expertise and the capability to fight as a lead-puncher or off of her back foot.

On April 20, in Sao Jose dos Pinhais, Parana, Brazil, Rosilette Dos Santos (28-5, 14 KOs) the WIBA super flyweight champion, fighting in her home town, defeated Carina Maria Britos (11-15, 7 KOs) Curitiba, Parana, Brazil by way of Argentina, by an unanimous decision over eight rounds. The WIBA title was not on the line. The match-up was irrelevant; simply a world champion staying active by engaging lessor competition. After the fight, Dos Santos, 37, announced her retirement from boxing stating, “I am very sorry, but my body cannot take anymore. I am retiring and giving up my WIBA super flyweight title.” After working the fields from the ages of 11 through 18, Dos Santos became a maid. It was not until witnessing a fight in her home town that she embarked on an amateur career entering the boxing ring for the first time in 2001; eventually turning professional in 2003. In 2008, she became the first female Brazilian born woman to win a world title (WPC). Upon retirement, she was named the WIBA Emeritus Champion.

Kuhn gets the win over Woods
On April 25, at the Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY in a welterweight crossroads matchup, Sarah “The Knockout” Kuhn (6-3-1, 1 KO) Albany, NY won a closely contested six-round split-decision victory over “Notorious” Nicole Woods (11-12-2, 3 KOs) Atlanta, GA. During the initial stages of Kuhn’s professional career, she was an uncompromising straight-line slugger; gradually, she has developed into a competent boxer/puncher proficient from long or close range. From the opening bell, Kuhn reverted to her old fighting style aggressively moving forward behind a sledgehammer jab pushing the taller Nicole Woods backwards revealing the struggle Woods has fighting while backing up. Woods adjusted after round two wining the third and fourth by successfully moving laterally creating enough space to land regularly with the jab and an occasional right cross. Sensing that the fight was slipping away, Kuhn increased the pressure in the final two rounds successfully keeping Woods moving backwards and concentrating on defense more than returning counter punches.

In the end, two of the three judges scored for Kuhn (59-55/59-55) with the other favoring the counter-punching of Nicole Woods, (58-56). KO Digest scored the fight for the hometown fighter, Sarah Kuhn (58-56). Sarah Kuhn, with the win, elevates herself in to the already muddled mix at welterweight with fellow American contenders, Holly Lawson and Aleksandra Magdziak Lopes. The division’s champions all hail from Europe, Eva Halasi (IBF), Jessica Balogun (GBU), and Cecilia Braekhus (WBC, WBA, and WBO).

Togo upsets Juarez in Mexico
On April 27, at Arena Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico, fan- favorite Mariana “Barbie” Juarez, 114, Mexico City, (36-7-3, 16 KOs) faced the lightly regarded Riyo Togo, 112 ¾, Tokyo, Japan (10-4, 9 KOs) for the vacant WBC International female super flyweight title. A loser in two of her three most recent outings, the one dimensional, but nuclear-fisted Togo was playing with house money in this matchup. Juarez is equal to a rock star in Mexico, was expected to dominate Togo and win a minor title in the process setting up a super-fight of sorts with WBC super-flyweight champion, Zulina Munoz (37-1-2, 24 KOs), also of Mexico. In women’s boxing circles, Togo was known to be an explosive puncher, especially with the right hand, but limited in boxing skill.

From the opening bell, Juarez chose to brawl with a brawler and it cost her dearly. A crushing right cross from Togo moved Juarez onto the ropes at the 1:10 mark of the first round where Juarez managed to evade Togo’s wild follow-up volleys. The two boxed on even terms over the next minute until the: 15 point when Togo landed a right uppercut that drew out a left-hook from Juarez; Togo simultaneously threw a left-hook landing a split-second ahead of the Juarez punch knocking the hometown fighter to the canvas. On her spindly legs, Juarez rose at the count of nine failing to satisfy referee Eddie Hernandez that she was fit to continue as he waived off the fight awarding the TKO victory to Japan’s Riyo Togo. With one of the biggest upsets in women’s boxing in recent memory, Riyo Togo wins the vacant WBC International female super flyweight title and is a serious challenger to the popular but vulnerable Zulina Munoz.

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

Knight (L) readies for the challenge of Soto
On May 11, KO Digest’s #3 ranked pound-4-pound female boxer, Ava “Lady of Boxing” Knight (11-1-3, 5 KOs) Chico, California, the IBF female flyweight champion, defends her strap for the third time when she faces the hard-charging Linda “La Muneca” Soto (5-2, 3 KOs) Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico, in Toluca, Mexico.

Also on this date, at the Route 66 Casino, Albuquerque, New Mexico, last month’s KO Digest #1 pound-4-pound female boxer, “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holly Holm (32-2-3, 9 KOs) Albuquerque faces “Merciless” Mary McGee (20-1, 11 KOs) for Holm’s IBA, WBF light welterweight titles. Before the announcement that Holly Holm was bidding farewell to the squared circle in favor of the mixed martial arts cage, battling Mary McGee was a risqué proposition. McGee throws punches in bunches possessing lightning in her right cross and above average hand speed. However, she moves in a straight-line, has an exceptionally vertical and inflexible posture, and less than favorable defensively. McGee has not fared well when facing world class competition. Brooke Dierdorff, an iron-fisted former national amateur champion, won a decision over McGee three years ago, and Kristy Follmar, a frightfully good counter-puncher probably did enough to win a match in McGee’s home state in 2009, losing a majority decision. Holly Holm is a superb ambush fighter. To defeat her, a fighter has to take away her escape route forcing her to engage when she wants to evade. McGee does not possess this skill and will be relegated to following Holm around the ring absorbing her infrequent but effective attacks.

On May 25, in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico, Zulina “La Loba” Munoz (37-1-2, 24 KOs) Mexico City, Mexico, defends her WBC female super flyweight title against the unheralded Soledad Macedo (11-8-2, 4 KOs) Salto, Uruguay. Munoz held various bantamweight titles including the WBC bantamweight and WBC Silver bantamweight titles before moving up in weight to capture the WBC female super flyweight title with a ninth round knockout of Gabriela Bouvier last September. In her most recent defense against the ever-tough Tenkai Tsunami, the former WBA female super flyweight champion, Munoz suffered an early knockout only to rally over the second half of the bout to retain her WBC female flyweight title by a razor thin margin on two of the three scorecards (95-93/95-93/97-92). Vulnerable champions are often very popular; such is the case with Munoz who has a large and loyal fan base in Mexico that have witnessed her on three separate occasions rise from knockdowns to retain world titles. This bout is nothing more than Munoz adding another knockout victory to an already gaudy record that, with a few exceptions, is littered with C-level fighters. Future defenses against Riyo Togo, Carolina Raquel Duer, or Mariana Juarez are much anticipated. Riyo Togo, with her recent knockout victory over Marina Juarez is the new #1 contender. All-time great, Ana Maria Torres, who is inactive due to pregnancy, is the WBC Champion Emeritus. Either would be favored to wrestle the title from Munoz.

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

#5 P4P Christina Hammer
1- Cecilia Braekhus (22-0, 6 KOs) (WW) Norway
2- Erica Anabella Farias (16-0, 9 KOs) (LW) Argentina
3- Ava Knight (11-1-3, 5 KOs) (FLY) USA
4- Yesica Yolanda Bopp (24-0, 11 KOs) (JFLY) Argentina
5- Christina Hammer (13-0, 7 KOs) (SMW) Germany
6- Melissa Hernandez (18-3-3, 6 KOs) (FW) USA/Puerto Rico
7- Layla McCarter (35-13-5, 8 KOs) (JMW) USA
8- Frida Wallberg (11-0, 2 KOs) (JLW) Sweden
9- Esmeralda Moreno (25-6, 9 KOs) (JFLY) Mexico
10- Jessica Chavez (17-3-2, 4 KOs) (JFLY) Mexico
11- Melissa McMorrow (9-3-3, 1 KO) (FLY) USA
12- Delfine Persoon (24-1, 10 KOs) (LW) 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