July 8, 2013

The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science - Women's Boxing Monthly Vol. 5

Does a place in the IBHOF await Mia St. John?
By Mark A. Jones – Women's boxing pioneer Mia St. John attended the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) inductions in June. On the second day of festivities, Mia gave a ringside lecture speaking on her boxing career and answered questions from the gathered fans. Later in the month, she underwent hip replacement surgery, officially retired from boxing, and celebrated her 46th birthday on June 24th.

Compiling an impressive record of (47-13-2, 18 KOs) St. John has established herself as one of the most influential female boxers ever, appearing on Bob Arum boxing cards during an era when women’s boxing enjoyed immense popularity. Her efforts, in concert with Christy Martin and Laila Ali, maneuvered women’s boxing into the mainstream during the late 90's and the early portion of the next decade; a level of popularity that women’s boxing has failed to achieve in the United States since. St. John's achievements as a women’s boxing pioneer are arguably Hall of Fame worthy.

On April 13, heavyweight Sonya Lamonakis (7-1-2, 1 KO) New York, New York lost a unanimous decision to Martha Salazar (12-4, 3 KOs) San Francisco, California. It was later discovered that the first four rounds were three minutes long when normally, women’s professional contests are two minutes in duration. In June, a hearing was conducted by the State of California on the matter determining that Salazar will keep the victory - labeling it a “technical win.”

A return match will take place in New York City in August.

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

Styles make fights. A great example of this was on display in Mexico on June 1 as two top-level junior flyweights met in an event named, “Dangerous Curves," Yesica Yolanda “Tuti” Bopp (24-1, 11 KO’s) Argentina, typically a lead puncher, challenged Jessica “Kika” Chavez (18-3-2, 4 KO’s) Mexico, primarily a counter-puncher, for the WBC Silver female light flyweight title held by Chavez. Early in the career of both, they met for the interim WBA light flyweight title with Bopp winning the fight by a lopsided unanimous decision. Since, Chavez has developed and flourished, losing only to the KO Digest’s #11 pound-for-pound boxer, Esmeralda Moreno, eight fights ago in 2011.

Bopp battles Chavez
Bopp, ever-popular in her home country of Argentina, and the reigning WBO, WBA light flyweight champion (titles not on the line), traveled to Mexico to acquire yet another legitimate light flyweight title from Chavez and suffered her first career loss having a hard time of it from the opening bell. As counter-punchers often do, Chavez started slowly allowing Bopp to establish an early lead as Chavez established proper range and studied the punch patterns of her more decorated opponent. In round three and continuing over the middle rounds, Chavez began to fire on all cylinders, countering Bopp’s attack with well-placed shots. Bopp struggled with the midrange variety of Chavez and resorted to clinching or moving away in an attempt to draw Chavez towards her in a straight-line, an approach the 24-year-old Bopp is more comfortable handling.

Bopp rallied in the ninth and tenth rounds as she sensed that the fight was slipping away, and Chavez slowed due to the high pace of the battle. In the end, the fight was consummated on the highest level with both fighters battling every minute of every round. The judges, two from Mexico and one from the United States, ruled in favor of Chavez (97-93/97-93/96-95) KO Digest also scored for Chavez, (96-95). With the win, Chavez set up possible super-fights with fellow Mexican junior flyweights, Esmeralda Moreno (25-6, 9 KO’s) or the current WBC junior flyweight champion, Ibeth Zamora Silva. Bopp still holds the WBO, WBA junior flyweight titles and is currently scheduled to defend in July.

Mathis in position to unify
On June 1 in Dombasle-sur-Meurthe, Meurthe-et-Moselle, France, in front of her hometown fans, KO Digest’s #7 pound-for-pound female boxer, Anne Sophie Mathis (27-3, 23 KOs) returned to her winning ways after two consecutive decision defeats to Holly Holm and Cecilia Braekhus respectively, by winning the WBF female light middleweight title with a fifth round stoppage of the tough Yahaira Hernandez (14-5, 8 KOs) Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic. Mathis, one of the most dangerous punchers in the history of women’s boxing, put Hernandez on the deck briefly midway through the first round with a right cross to the head. The remainder of the fight was an all-our war witnessing both fighters throwing bombs with Mathis accurately landing crisply inside the wide looping punches of Hernandez. The end came in the fifth when Hernandez turned her back on her hard punching opponent approximately ten seconds after taking a well-placed uppercut to the liver. The referee administered an 8-count and stopped the fight when it appeared that Hernandez was unable to proceed. With the win, Mathis positioned herself well if she desires to battle the popular Maria Lindberg in a European super-fight or any of the division’s champions: Oxandia Castillo (WBO), Tiffany Junot (WBC), Layla McCarter (WBA), or Jennifer Retzke (IBF).

On June 14 in Stockholm, Sweden, Diana Prazak (12-2, 8 KOs) Los Angeles, California, by way of Melbourne, Australia, scored a stunning knockout in the eighth round of the previously unbeaten, Frida “Golden Girl” Wallberg (11-1, 2 KOs) Gothenburg, Sweden. Wallberg was sharp early landing crisply and moving out of the way of any responses from her determined challenger. Wallberg seemingly lost a step in the fifth round allowing the normally pedestrian moving Prazak into the fight. Prazak landed with considerable power punches to the body and head over the remainder of the bout, buckling the knees of Wallberg in the seventh with a right cross; a punch that in retrospect Wallberg never recovered from. At 1:02 of the eighth round, Prazak landed a well-placed counter left-hook on the point of Wallberg’s chin, felling her to the canvas. Wallberg rose from the knockdown appearing wobbly but was allowed to continue until a clubbing right hand, a punch that Wallberg normally absorbs in stride, knocked her to the canvas for a second time where the fight was properly halted by the referee. At the time of the stoppage, Wallberg was leading on all three scorecards, (68-65). KO Digest also had Wallberg leading, 67-66 giving her each of the first four rounds and Prazak 5-7.

Lucia Rijker prevents a terrible tragedy from getting any worse
What was witnessed next is an incitement on the lack of a well-seasoned boxing culture in Sweden and gross incompetence from Wallberg’s trainer, William Nguesseu who himself retired from the sport due to a head injury. The trainer failed to set the freshly knocked out Wallberg on a stool as the ringside doctor examined her as she slumped over the ropes. It was only after the prompting of Prazak and her trainer, Lucia Rijker that Wallberg was positioned on a stool, and the ringside doctor was summoned to return to the ring to examine Wallberg for a second time.

As a result of Team Prazak’s timely intervention, Wallberg was removed from the ring on a stretcher and taken to a local hospital where it was discovered that she sustained a subdural hematoma which required emergency brain surgery. Thankfully, Wallberg awoke from a medically induced coma a few days later and posted positive comments to Facebook. In 2009, Rita Figueroa suffered a brain injury that required emergency surgery ending her boxing career. Concerning the Wallberg injury, Rita commented, “It was ridiculous that she was not attended to right away, and it took at least 30 seconds for someone to even get her a stool. Thank God Lucia was there and got things moving. Doctors need to be more prepared to look for signs of head injury; it’s a matter of life and death. A minute or two is crucial at that time.” With the win, Prazak claims the WBC super featherweight belt and sits on top of a skilled division that also boasts, “Queen” Ronica Jeffrey, Amanda “The Real Deal” Serrano, and popular Peruvian, Kina Malpartida.

Winner and still champ - Erica "La Pantera" Farias
On June 15 in Buenos Aires, KO Digest’s #2 pound-for-pound female boxer, Erica Anabella “La Pantera” Farias (17-0, 9 KOs) Argentina, defended her WBC female lightweight title with a 10-round unanimous decision victory over the super-tough, Chika Mizutani (14-4, 7 KOs) Tokyo, Japan. Always a quick starter, Farias threw hard leather early and often only to discover that her opponent was up to the task of challenging for a world title, owning competent enough boxing fundamentals to avoid the most devastating punch in the arsenal of the champion, the right cross. Farias continued her attack unabated throwing her wide left-hook to set up her straight right cross which landed often enough to pile up points but failing to secure a knockout. During an exchange near the end of the fourth round, Farias landed a counter right uppercut that caused Mizutani to briefly drop to a knee; displaying excellent recovery skills, Mizutani survived the remainder of the round and showed no ill effects of the punch during round five. A knockout victory eluded Farias who has knocked down eight of her last ten opponents stopping seven of them. With the win, Farias is looking at an exciting matchup against the WBC’s #1 contender at lightweight, Delfine Persoon (24-1, 10 KOs) Belgium who has developed into a devastating puncher with her right hand.

On June 29 in Mexico and televised on Fox Deportes, Yazmin “La Rusita” Rivas (28-7, 9 KOs) Torreon, Mexico, successfully defended her IBF female bantamweight title with a ten-round unanimous decision shutout victory over Kimka Miyoshi (8-6-1, 3 KOs) Kawasaki, Kanagawa, Japan (100-90 x3). Miyoshi, best known for her split decision victory over Riyo Togo, fought outside Japan for the first time in her career was thoroughly outclassed by the technically proficient Rivas. Rivas is likely to defend next against, Carolina Raquel Duer (14-3-1, 5 KOs) Argentina who is the #1 contender and the WBO female super flyweight champion. On the same card, Ibeth Zamora Silva (18-5, 8 KOs) defended the WBC female light flyweight title with an eighth round stoppage of Maricela “La Baby” Quintero (11-4-1, 0 KOs) Culiacan, Mexico. Silva, the for WBA minimumweight champion, won the vacant WBC female light flyweight title in March with a ten-round split decision victory over Naoko Shibata in Tokyo, Japan.

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

La Tigresa ready to roar again?
On July 13, in Tucuman, Argentina, KO Digest’s pound-for-pound #9 female boxer, Melissa Hernandez (18-4-3, 6 KOs) Miami, Florida, faces Argentinian female boxing legend, Marcela Eliana “La Tigresa” Acuna (38-6-1, 17 KOs) Caseros, Buenos Aires, Argentina for the interim WBO featherweight title. The WBO featherweight champion, Alejandra Marina “Locomotora” Oliveras (30-2-2, 15 KOs) Argentina, was seeking at least $50,000 to defend against Hernandez forcing the Argentinian promoter, Osvaldo Rivero to secure Acuna to meet negotiated television commitments. At the age of 36, Acuna is nearing the end of an illustrious career that witnessed her dominate the super bantamweight division going unbeaten from 2006 to December 2012 besting such greats as, Jackie Nava, Alicia Ashley, Yazmin Rivas and the previously mentioned Oliveras. Despite her success at super bantamweight, her ventures north to featherweight and junior welterweight have been met with mixed results losing to Christy Martin, Lucia Rijker, and Sharon Anyos.

Hernandez looking to get back in the title picture
The 33-year-old Hernandez has won titles at super bantamweight, featherweight, super featherweight, and lightweight essentially migrating to where the opportunities exist. Losing the WBC featherweight title on May 31 by a technical decision to Jelena Mrdjenovich likely fueled her quest to secure another featherweight title even on an interim basis. Although she is two inches shorter than Acuna, Hernandez is the naturally bigger fighter and owns a significant hand speed advantage. She will look to counter at close range where Acuna is weaker stylistically. Acuna, as was witnessed in her January draw with WBA, WBO super bantamweight title holder, Yesica Patricia Marcos (21-0-2, 7 KOs), will look to fight from long-range where she is still respectable. In Acuna’s home country of Argentina, Hernandez will have to dominate each round to ensure a close decision victory. This is an excellent match-up of two borderline Hall of Fame boxers with contrasting styles.

On July 13, in Dresden, Sachsen, Germany, KO Digest’s #4 pound-for-pound female boxer, and two-division champion, Christina Hammer (14-0, 7 KOs) Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany defends her WBF and WBO middleweight titles against Mikaela “Destiny” Lauren (19-2, 7 KOs) Stockholm, Sweden. Hammer, aged 22 last saw action on May 4 when she dismantled Zita Zatyko winning a unanimous decision and the WBF and WBO female super middleweight titles. Holding two wins over the current IBF welterweight title holder, Eva Halasi and decision victories over junior middleweight, Rachael Clark, and welterweights, Cindy Serrano, and Jill Emery: Lauren has constructed a boxing record worthy of a second attempt at the welterweight titles held by Cecilia Braekhus; an attempt at Hammer’s middleweight titles is an indictment on the quality of the middleweight division of women’s boxing. In 2010, Braekhus defended the WBC, WBA, and WBO welterweight titles stopping Lauren in the seventh round. Hammer will pound out a stoppage victory in the middle rounds preserving her titles without much difficulty. That said the 37-year-old Lauren has a widespread following in Europe that, in concert with the ever-growing popularity of Hammer in Germany, will ensure a large following of this matchup for as long as it lasts.

July 13 boasts yet another gorgeous matchup in women’s boxing. In addition to the battles mentioned above, Marina “Barbie” Juarez (36-7-3, 16 KOs) Mexico City, Mexico, receives an opportunity to set things straight with the iron-fisted, Riyo Togo (10-4-1, 9 KOs) Tokyo, Japan with both the WBC super-flyweight division’s #1 ranking and the WBC International female super flyweight title on the line. Togo won the title on April 27 knocking out Juarez in the first round when Juarez made the mistake of brawling with a brawler. Juarez secures the rematch because the lure of Juarez challenging the WBC Super flyweight titleholder and fellow Mexican, Zulina Munoz (38-1-2, 25 KOs) in a Mexican super-fight is extremely attractive barring Juarez getting past Togo. Juarez, at the age of 33, has lost two of her last five with two of the wins coming by split decision. The evidence would suggest that Juarez is sliding down the other side of the hill; a trip that all fighters face if they hang around long enough. There is perhaps no other country more supportive of women’s boxing than Mexico where Juarez enjoys rock star status.

Agripino ready to dive into the world of pro boxing
On July 27 at the Twin River Event Center, Lincoln, Rhode Island, Marcia Agripino, Ledyard, CT, makes her professional debut in a 4-round fight against Vanessa “Lil Gladiator” Greco (1-2-3, 0 KOs) Brooklyn, NY. In women’s boxing, records generally fail to disclose to what level a fighter is performing; three-time New York Daily News Golden Gloves Champion, Vanessa Greco is a case in point. In an era dominated by meaningless volume punching; infighting and body punching are almost lost traits. Greco employs both strategies. Judges, who over the past two decades have become enamored with volume punching, often overlook her close-range work. Having amateur accomplishments of her own, Agripino, under the tutelage of Peter Manfredo Sr, won the 2010 Rocky Marciano Tournament at the Harvard Club in Boston. A bonus of training under Manfredo Sr is that Agripino trains daily alongside world ranked super bantamweight, Shelly Vincent. “Training with Shelly has been a huge part of my training since I started boxing in 2007. I have learned a lot from her, she pushes me to be a better fighter, and she is one of the best,” said Agripino. Most fighters ease into their professional careers by dipping a big toe into the water as a test. Agripino, with her assignment on the 27th, is diving into the deep end of the pool head first.

Three Questions - Sweet Side Q&A with Brandi Montoya

Southpaw bantamweight Brandi “Baby Doll” Montoya (5-2, 0 KOs) originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the current WIBA youth super bantamweight title holder, began her professional career with two losses before rattling off five consecutive victories including a grudge-match win over Natalie Roy who spoiled Montoya’s professional debut winning a majority decision. Her most impressive victory is a 2012 eight-round unanimous decision victory over Chantel Cordova who just a year earlier battled Arely Mucino for the IBF female flyweight title. Since then, Montoya has joined the United States Marine Corps. KO Digest investigates with a special 4th of July edition of Three Questions:

Semper Fighter
Q: Why did you join the US Marines?

A: I joined the Marine Corps because I was having trouble paying for college, fighting, working and living on my own. When I was considering the military, I would talk to people about it and the reputation that the United States Marine Corp had was fascinating. I desired an MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) that would translate into a civilian career. And to be able to say that I joined the smallest, roughest, toughest and most prideful military branch!

Q: Which is more important to you, winning a fight or defending America?  

A: Defending my country, well it’s just as rewarding as winning a fight, but I think it’s an extremely selfless act, and that is another form of joy.

Q: What does the future hold for Brandi Montoya?

A: I definitely want to continue my boxing career. I will not stop at a 5-2 record. At the age 20, I have too much potential to stop. I am almost finished with my military training, and then I will be able to hit the fleet, start working my job, find a boxing gym on or near the base and get back into my zone!

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

Prazak crashes the P4P ratings at #12
1- Cecilia Braekhus (22-0, 6 KOs) Norway
2- Erica Anabella Farias (17-0, 9 KOs) Argentina
3- Ava Knight (12-1-3, 5 KOs) United States
4- Christina Hammer (14-0, 7 KOs) Germany
5- Jessica Chavez (18-3-2, 4 KOs) Mexico
6- Yesica Yolanda Bopp (24-1, 11 KOs) Argentina
7- Ann Sophie Mathis (27-3, 24 KOs) France
8- Jelena Mrdjenovich (29-9-1, 14 KOs) Canada
9- Melissa Hernandez (18-4-3, 6 KOs) United States/P.R.
10- Layla McCarter (35-13-5, 8 KOs) United States
11- Esmeralda Moreno (25-6, 9 KOs) Mexico
12- Diana Prazak  (12-2, 8 KO's) Australia

"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