September 4, 2013

The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science - Women's Boxing Monthly Vol. 7

Beautiful Brawlers
By Mark A. Jones – On August 31 at the Sports House in Redwood City, California, the third edition the women’s amateur boxing series, “Beautiful Brawlers” took place in front of nearly 600 spectators. In a display of support for their amateur counterparts, well-known professional boxers Ava Knight, Melissa McMorrow, Carina Moreno, and Jolene Blackshear were in attendance. The chief architect of the Beautiful Brawlers card is Blanca Gutierrez who wears many hats in the California boxing scene. She co-owns a gym, Baby Face Boxing, works as a coach, manages the #1 ranked female heavyweight Martha Salazar, and with the “Beautiful Brawlers” series, has now thrown her hat into the promotion ring.

The 17-bout card featured U.S. Olympians Queen Underwood, Casey Morton, and Jamie Mitchell. Morton and Mitchell are highly ranked by USA Boxing at 119 lbs. Heaven Garcia won the ‘Best Boxer’ award 14 years old and under. Stalacia Leggett won the same award for those 15 and older. Mitchell, who won a close decision victory over Morton, won the ‘Most Inspirational’ award. The fourth edition of the Beautiful Brawlers series is tentatively scheduled for early 2014.

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

Hammer is the WBO Fighter of the Year
In August, the WBO named Christina Hammer their ‘Female Fighter of the Year’ presenting her with a diamond ring for her efforts over the past 12 months. Hammer posted a 3-0 record over the period defending her middleweight title twice, and becoming a two-division champion by winning the WBO super-middleweight title with a decision over Zita Zatyko in May.

On August 3 in Toluca, Mexico, the ever-popular, Zulina “La Loba” Munoz (39-1-2, 26 KOs) Mexico City, Mexico, successfully defended her WBC super-flyweight title for the fourth time by blasting out Maribel “Pantera” Ramirez (8-6-2, 3 KOs) Mexico City, Mexico, in the first round of a scheduled ten. To begin the fight, “La Loba” started stalked Ramirez landing well to the body and head with vicious power punches. With 45 seconds remaining in the round, Munoz landed a wide left hook that visibly shook Ramirez. Munoz closed the show with a well-placed right cross that landed on the point of the chin knocking Ramirez to the blue Corona canvas where she took a ten-count from the assigned referee. The #1 contender to Munoz is Mexican women’s boxing pioneer, Mariana “Barbie” Juarez. When this super-fight is made, surely it will be the ‘event of the year’ in women’s boxing.

On August 9, in Santa Rosa, La Pampa, Argentina, Monica Silvina “La Gata” Acosta in front of her hometown fans, retained the WBA female light-welterweight title with a seventh round technical knockout of Belinda “Brown Sugar” Laracuente, New York, New York, USA. With the win, Acosta improves her impressive record to (19-0-2, 5 KOs) issuing Laracuente her first stoppage loss. The 34-year-old Laracuente, who took this fight on short notice, drops to (26-28-3, 9 KOs). Acosta started quickly landing well to the body early in the battle particularly with the left hand. With Laracuente offering little in opposition, the mauling continued until Laracuente was unable to continue after seven rounds of one-sided action. The hard punching Chris Namus (18-3, 7 KOs) of Montevideo, Uruguay, is the WBA #1 contender to Acosta at light welterweight. Namus lost two closely-contested decisions in the hometown of the division’s consensus best fighter, Fernanda Soledad Alegre (15-1-1, 7 KOs) of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Choi defected for a better life
On August 15, at Wolmido, Icheon, South Korea, the “Defector Girl Boxer,” Hyun-Mi Choi (8-0-1, 2 KOs) Seoul, South Korea, won the interim WBA female super featherweight title with a ten-round unanimous decision victory (97-93/97-93/96-94) over former three-time champion, Fujin Raika (25-8-1, 10 KOs) Tokyo, Japan. The action was closely contested with Choi boxing well from the outside and Raika landing the heavier punches at close range when she managed to get close. The experienced challenger, at the age of 37, was only effective in spurts and could not deny the 22-year-old Choi from securing the WBA super-bantamweight title in her adopted home country. At age 13, Choi was selected to train for the 2008 Olympics as a member of the North Korean women’s boxing team. When the International Olympic Committee ruled against including women’s boxing as an event, Choi along with her family defected from the oppressive tyranny of North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-Il to the capitalist Nation State of South Korea in 2004 in the hope of discovering a better way of life. Once there, Choi pounded out an amateur record of 17-1. Upon turning professional, Choi, the former WBA female featherweight champion, won that title in her pro debut and successfully defended it seven times before moving to super-featherweight after finding it difficult to cut the weight.

On August 24 at Open Air Bike Show, Volgograd, Russia, Svetlana Kulakova (8-0, 1 KO) won the ‘interim’ WBA female light-welterweight title with a 10-round unanimous decision over longtime contender, Judy Waguthii (12-6-3, 3 KOs) Nairobi, Kenya, The matchup billed, “The Battle of Stalingrad,” Kulakova was outstanding throughout besting her experienced opponent with an aggressive two-fisted attack. In the tenth and final round, with enthusiastic fan base and a large advantage on the score cards, Kulakova suffered a cut over the left eye; however she successfully remained upright staving off Waguthii’s aggressive effort to obtain a stoppage victory. The win over the little-known but respectable Waguthii, who was impressive in defeat against Ramona Kuehne and Ji-Hye Woo, in previous world title challenges, inserts Kulakova into the discussion at light-welterweight which boasts champions, Fernanda Soledad Alegre (WBO), Klara Svensson (WBC Silver), Sabrina Giuliani (EBU), and Monica Silvina Acosta (WBC, WBA). Acosta is the official WBA female light-welterweight recently earning a stoppage victory over the previously unstoppable, Belinda Laracuente.

Ina Menzer wins two titles and then retires as champion
On August 24 at the Warsteiner Hockeypark, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany, Ina Menzer, the former longtime WIBF, WBO, and WBC featherweight champion, in front of her hometown fans moved her impressive record to (31-1, 11 KOs) and won the WBF and WIBA female featherweight titles with a ten-round unanimous decision over the former WIBF featherweight champion, Goda Dailydaite (8-1, 2 KOs) Essen, Germany, by the one-sided scores (100-88/100-88/97-92).

Over almost a 5 year period, Menzer successfully defended her WIBF title fifteen times; punching her way to an impressive record of 18-1 in world title fights besting such women’s boxing standouts as Esther Schouten, Ramona Kuehne, Yazmin Rivas and Laura Serrano before dropping a decision to Canadian, Jeannine Garside in July 2010. Sadly, directly after securing the WBF and WIBA world titles with the decision victory over Dailydaite, Menzer announced her retirement from boxing wishing to retire as a world champion. Historically, Menzer will be regarded as a top-shelf featherweight, and a pioneer of women’s boxing in Europe partially responsible for the popularity the women’s niche of the sport enjoys today.

Three Questions - Sweet Side Q&A with Noemi Bosques

Noemi “La Rebelde” Bosques
Noemi “La Rebelde” Bosques of Saint Petersburg, Florida entered the professional ranks in May 2012 after a stellar amateur career that boasts a #1 ranking in the state of Florida, a finalist at the Ringside World Tournament, and a Bronze Medalist at the National PAL Tournament. Since turning professional, Noemi has pounded out a record of (2-0-1, 0 KOs); the latest victory, a one-sided unanimous decision over the undefeated Monica Flores on July 12. The lone blemish on her record, a draw with Brooklyn Banger, Vanessa Greco, witnessed Noemi fighting with a heavy heart just two weeks after the death of her mother. Noemi currently has an October commitment to meet the ever-tough TBA at the La Carte Event Pavilion, in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Q: What attracted you to Boxing and what boxers do you most admire or emulate?

A: The chess strategy behind it. I love a good boxing match where the mind is involved, and fighters think several moves ahead. I love how it’s only you, versus the man or woman in front of you. No excuses, no team to rely on when that bell ring other than you, and the sound of your coach coming from your corner. Boxing is the extreme challenge, only you and your opponent, who's smarter when your mind and body are fatigued? Who trained the hardest? It's bigger to me than the physical fight everyone else is watching those few minutes. A fighter that I emulated when I first started was Susi Kentikian, another flyweight like myself. I genuinely liked Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whitaker, and Yesica Bopp is another one I look up to a lot.

Q: Tell us about your amateur boxing accomplishments.

A: Winning the Sunshine State games in Florida, winning state and regionals two consecutive years, bronze at the PALS and Ringside tournaments. I think being able to fight at the Olympic Training Center alone was an enormous deal. I think the amateur boxing experience was 110% necessary in order for me to become a successful pro boxer. I learned a lot watching fighters like Tyrieshia Douglass, Marlen Esparza, and Tiara Brown just to name a few.

Q: Over the past decade, the popularity of women’s boxing has stagnated in the United States. 
In your opinion, what actions need to take place to revive the sport?

A: I think media coverage and promotion should take more time to introduce these fabulous female fighters! There is an incredible amount of talent in the United States, but they're virtually unknown. Boxing in general, other than fighters who receive coverage on HBO and Showtime, who else is actually known by the general public? It's the advantage MMA has right now over boxing. MMA has won the interest of the mainstream television viewers because it is on mainstream television. The whole world is missing out! If women’s boxing had similar exposure, especially with gifted boxers such as Ava Knight, Kaliesha West, and Yesica Bopp, I guarantee that the sport would become more popular.

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

On September 7 at Arena Nord, Frederikshavn, Denmark, on the “Nordic Fight Night - The Gladiators” card, the KO Digest’s #1 pound-for-pound female boxer, “The First Lady of Boxing”, Cecilia Braekhus (22-0, 6 KOs), the WBA, WBC, and WBO female welterweight champion, battles iron-fisted prodigy and current WBO female light middleweight champion, Oxandia “La Loba” Castillo (12-0-2, 9 KOs), Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

In February, the 18-year-old Castillo nicknamed, “La Loba” (The Wolf) displayed her appetite for a world title by knocking out Hanna Gabriel (13-1-1, 9 KOs) in the second round of a brutal slugfest ending the former champions three-year strong hold on the WBO light middleweight title. Although Castillo scaled 168 pounds in late 2011, the move to welterweight should not be an exhausting proposition; as recently as early 2011, Castillo was campaigning as a welterweight. Only twice in her young career has Castillo been extended past four rounds. World class competitor, Cindy Serrano drew with Castillo in June 2011, and the unknown Damaris Vizcaino (0-5), after a six-year hiatus from the ring, extended Castillo into the seventh round in December 2012. Castillo has knocked out her last eight opponents with only Gabriel owning a winning record.

The 31-year-old Braekhus, of Bergen, Norway, displaying the utmost in professionalism is not taking her young challenger for granted. “She is young, hungry, and strong. That is a dangerous mixture,” said Braekhus of her opponent. Braekhus is no stranger to facing hard-punching welterweights winning a unanimous decision over Anne Sophie Mathis almost a year ago. Since winning the WBA and WBC welterweight titles with a decision victory over Vinni Skovgaard in March 2009, Braekhus successfully defended the WBC title eleven times and the WBA title ten. She added the WBO title belt to her collection in May 2010 with a ten-round decision victory over American, Victoria Cisneros.

Castillo vs Braekhus
Here is how the two female fighters break down in ten key categories where it would appear that Braekhus holds a significant advantage in 8 out of 10 of them:

Power: Castillo
Speed: Braekhus
Punch Volume: Braekhus
Accuracy: Braekhus
Defense: Braekhus
Chin/Durability: Braekhus
Skills: Braekhus
Quality of Opposition: Braekhus
Conditioning: Braekhus
Size: Castillo

Prediction: Castillo, who moves forward in a straight-line behind a solid jab, has a puncher’s chance if Braekhus makes the mistake of standing in front of her. Braekhus possess remarkable boxing skills, after governing the youthful aggression of Castillo early; Braekhus should befuddle her with movement and speed to completely dominate the later rounds where Castillo is inexperienced. Braekhus will be victorious earning a one-sided unanimous decision.

On September 7 in Saarbrucken, Germany, the Jordanian born, Raja Amasheh (15-0-1, 4 KOs) Karlsruhe, Germany, battles Eva “The Golden Baby” Voraberger (16-2, 8 KOs) Vienna, Austria, for the vacant WBF female super-flyweight title. After losing two of her first three professional bouts, Voraberger has won fifteen straight including a ten-round unanimous decision victory over Polina Pencheva in May winning the WIBF flyweight title. In her professional debut, Amasheh drew with Oezlem Sahin who would later become the WIBF light-flyweight champion. Since, Amasheh has gone undefeated battling past the six-round distance only once, a ten-round unanimous decision victory over super-flyweight trial horse, Fleis Djendji in October 2012. Both fighters are aggressive, forward moving, and throw punches in bunches, but neither has been tested by top-of-the-division competition. Voraberger is ranked #20 by boxrec with Amasheh besting her by one position at 19. This fight is significant due both fighters extraordinary popularity in Europe. It is likely to be well attended and widely covered.

On September 13 at the Twin River Event Center, Lincoln, Rhode Island, a significant welterweight contest takes place as Tori Nelson (6-0-3, 0 KOs), the former WBC female middleweight and current WIBA middleweight champion drops two weight classes to battle, Aleksandra Magdziak Lopes (10-1, 1 KO) for the WIBA welterweight belt. Since last October, Nelson from Ashburn, Virginia, has traveled twice to Bermuda, the adopted home country of the WBA middleweight champion, Teresa Perozzi earning a draw on each occasion. Battling out of Marshfield, Massachusetts, by way of Gliwice, Poland, Lopes has three decision victories over the past eleven months totaling 22 rounds of action which include wins over former WBC middleweight champion, Yvonne Reis and popular Connecticut slugger, Adelita Irizarry. Apart from the A-level skill set that both Nelson and Lopes consistently demonstrate, the difference in styles makes this fight a must-see. Lopes, the taller and younger fighter, is a fundamentally sound stylist who employs efficient lateral movement and exceptional speed. In contrast, Nelson is a straight-line swarmer that aggressively attacks her opponents like a bulldozer with a two-fisted attack. This fight is likely to be closely contested with the winner being placed on a short list for an alphabet title shot.

Hardy brings the Heat on September 16th
On September 16 at the Resorts World Casino, Queens, New York, Heather “The Heat” Hardy (6-0, 1 KO) Brooklyn, NY, battles Jennifer “Superstar” Scott (3-4, 2 KOs) Houston, TX, in a 6-round bout in the super-bantamweight division. Hardy, a former national amateur champion, has built an impressively large and ever-growing fan base since deciding to remove the headgear and lace up the smaller gloves of the professional ranks a year ago. Her popularity is partly a result of her well-known promoter, Lou DiBella, her penchant for self-promotion on various forms of social media, but mostly due to her fan-friendly two-fisted swarming attack and the inherent vulnerability associated with that fighting style. Jennifer Scott, who gave Jackie Trivilino (9-5-3, 1 KO), another fighter with a swarming style, fits in a losing effort three years ago, is a step-up in competition from what Hardy has faced to date during her blossoming career. Scott, a boxer-puncher with an aggressive streak has also competed in mixed martial arts and played linebacker for the Houston Lady Oilers. Of the opponents on the boxing record of Hardy, she is most similar to Mikayla Nebel, a tall lanky boxer-puncher whom Hardy has twice defeated by decision. At 5’7”, Scott has a two inch height advantage over Hardy and scaled 135 pounds in her most recent effort, a unanimous decision victory over Angel Ford in May. Considering the styles of both fighters, whatever the outcome, there will be serious leather-swapping action with neither fighter taking a backwards step.

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

Jessica Chavez is #5 Pound for Pound
1- Cecilia Braekhus (22-0, 6 KOs) Norway
2- Erica Farias (17-0, 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, 23 KOs) France
8- Jelena Mrdjenovich (29-9-1, 14 KOs) Canada
9- Diana Prazak (12-2, 8 KOs) Australia
10- Marcela Acuna (39-6-1, 17 KOs) Argentina
11- Melissa McMorrow (9-3-3, 1 KO) USA
12- Esmeralda Moreno (25-6, 9 KOs) Mexico 

"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