December 4, 2013

The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science - Women's Boxing Monthly Vol 10

Braekhus returns to action in January
By Mark A. Jones – The consensus #1 pound-for-pound fighter in women’s boxing, the “First Lady” of boxing, Cecilia Braekhus (23-0, 7 KOs) the WBA, WBO, & WBC welterweight champion is scheduled to return to the ring on January 18 at Arena Nord in Frederikshavn, Denmark, on the “Nordic Fight Night” series against a yet to be named opponent. Braekhus, who impressively dealt upstart Oxandia Castillo (TKO-9) her first loss in September, will defend her titles at Arena Nord, where she enjoys significant fan support. “I love fighting in Frederikshavn, the atmosphere is fantastic. I am back in full training, I want to get better every day, and there are still a lot of things I can learn. I'm keen to defend my titles and give my fans a night to remember on January 18th.” 

During the WBC Convention held in Bangkok, Thailand from November 3-9, it was declared that the WBC female lightweight champion, Erica Anabella Farias of Argentina must defend the title against #1 challenger Delfine Persoon of Belgium. Persoon (27-1, 12 KOs) became the mandated challenger to Farias (18-0, 9 KOs) in March when she knocked out Kremena Petkova in two rounds in a WBC female final lightweight title eliminator bout.
The WBC announced that purse offers will be accepted beginning on December 6.

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

A special night for Shelito
On November 2, in Mashantucket, Connecticut, on a Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports card dubbed “The Connecticut Classic,” rising super-bantamweight prospect, Shelly “Shelito’s Way” Vincent, 123, Providence, overwhelmed Alisha McPhee, 118, Langley, British Columbia, Canada, stopping her in the fourth round of a scheduled six. It was the first knockout win for Vincent (10-0, 1 KO) who said, “That was my first stoppage, and it was a very special night for me.” McPhee (2-1), a full-time elementary school teacher, suffered her first loss. Also on the card making her professional debut, Michelle Cook, 116, Massena, New York, battled to a four-round majority draw (39-37/38-38/38-38) with popular Connecticut bantamweight, Marcia “Pino” Agripino, 117, Groton, Connecticut. Agripino falls to (1-0-1).

On November 9, in Coacalco, Mexico, in front of 5,500 fans former two-time flyweight champion, Arely “Machine Gun” Mucino, Monterrey, Mexico, threw punches in bunches earning a ten-round, split-draw against the #7 ranked pound-for-pound female boxer Jessica “Kika” Chavez, Mexico City, Mexico. In boxing, styles make fights. That old-school cliché held true in this fist-flying affair as Mucino (18-2-2, 10 KOs), a midrange hooking volume-puncher, smothered her counter-punching opponent with a high work rate. Chavez (19-3-3, 4 KOs) had enough moments in the fight to persuade the assigned judges to rule the fight a split-draw (96-94/94-96/95-95) allowing her to retain the WBC Silver female light-flyweight title for the second time. The decision ended the nine-fight win streak Chavez enjoyed since dropping a decision to Esmeralda Moreno in February 2011. Chavez, the former WBF (interim) and IBF light-flyweight champion, is ranked #1 at light-flyweight by the WBC behind champion Ibeth Zamora Silva and Esmeralda Moreno who is recognized as “champion in recess.” Arely Mucino is ranked #2 at flyweight behind champion, Shindo Go of Japan and #1 contender, Ava Knight of the United States. The two combatants have ostensibly agreed to a rematch.

On November 13, in Tokyo, Japan, Naoko Fujioka, 114 ¼, Tokyo, relinquished her WBC minimumweight title and moved up in weight to challenge a fellow top-shelf Tokyo female battler and WBA super-flyweight champion, Naoko Yamaguchi, 115, in front of a capacity crowd at the Korakuen Hall. Yamaguchi was embarking on her third defense of the WBA super-flyweight title that she won in July 2012 with a decision victory over longtime champion, Tenkai Tsunami. What was considered a fight-of-the-year candidate turned into a one-sided whopping as the versatility and boxing ability of Fujioka prevailed over the raw punching power of the now former champion. Until scoring a knockdown in the third round, Fujioka boxed cautiously, wary of the punching power of her Japanese compatriot. Owning superior conditioning and unparalleled late-round punching power, Fujioka dominated the remainder of the contest visibly affecting her opponent with power shots falling just short of a stoppage. With the unanimous decision victory (97-92/97-92/98-91) Fujioka moves to (11-0, 6 KOs) winning a legitimate world title in her second weight class. Relatively unknown by those other than hardcore followers of women’s boxing; Fujioka is now in the discussion as a pound-for-pound elite fighter. Yamaguchi drops to (22-4-3, 18 KOs) and remains a legitimate threat at super-flyweight.

Sugar Munoz punches Lamare in the mouth
On November 30, in Tours, Indre-et-Loire, France, light-welterweight Myriam Lamare (22-3, 10 KOs) of Marseille, France, returned to the ring after a 13-month break with an eight-round points win over Loli “Sugar” Munoz (12-13-3, 7 KOs) of Barcelona, Spain. Lamare, the former WBA, WIBF, WBF & IBF light-welterweight champion, when active, is formidable holding wins over Chevelle Hallback, Ann Saccurato, and women’s boxing pioneer, Jane Couch. Her presence adds excitement to an already strong light-welterweight division boasting Argentine champions Alejandra Marina Oliveras (WBC), Monica Silvina Acosta (WBA), and Fernanda Soledad Alegre (WBO). Klara Svensson (Sweden), Svetlana Kulakova (Russia), and Marie Reiderer (Germany) each hold minor titles and offer future European options for Lamare who has fought outside her home country of France only twice.

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

On December 6, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, six-time world champion and the current WBC featherweight champion, Jelena Mrdjenovich (30-9-1, 15 KOs) Edmonton, Canada, stays busy by hosting Wanda Pena Ozuna (9-5, 3 KOs) Dominican Republic, in an eight-round, non-title affair. Currently ranked #8 pound-for-pound, the 31-year-old Mrdjenovich has a lethal left-hook and Ozuna, of her four knockout losses, has suffered three in the first round; the odds this fight gets past two rounds is unlikely. During her career, Mrdjenovich holds wins over Layla McCarter, Melissa Hernandez, Lindsay Garbatt, and women’s boxing pioneer, Mia St. John.

Hammer Time
On December 6, in Frankfurt, Germany, two top-shelf female boxers, Christina Hammer and Ramona Kuehne appear on the same televised (Germany Sport1) card. Entering the contest as the #3 ranked pound-for-pound female boxer, Hammer (15-0, 7 KOs) Dortmund, Germany, will be defending her WBO and WBF middleweight titles, each for the sixth time against 19-year-old Carmen Garcia (10-2, 5 KOs) Agua Prieta, Mexico. The 23-year-old Hammer is a two-division champion also owning the WBO super-middleweight title which is not involved in this contest. Garcia, who has previously campaigned at welterweight and light-middleweight, has constructed an impressive record against entry-level competition. Of her ten wins, five were making their pro debuts and the remainder combined for a winning percentage of .322. Hammer last saw action in July dismantling popular Swedish contender, Mikaela Lauren winning a lopsided ten-round unanimous decision. With the departure of former WBC and WIBA middleweight champion, Tori Nelson to the welterweight ranks, the middleweight cupboard is bare. After her inevitable victory over Garcia, Hammer, likely out of necessity, will explore the light-middleweight and welterweight divisions for her next opponent.

On the same card, three-division champion, Ramona Kuehne (20-1, 6 KOs) Berlin, Germany, the current WBF, WBO, and WIBF super-featherweight champion, defends her titles against the ever-tough TBA. Kuehne briefly held the WIBF lightweight and light-welterweight straps before winning the WIBF super-featherweight title in 2009. The upcoming defense will be her seventh of the WIBF belt and fifth of the WBO and WBF titles. Kuehne has won five straight, two by stoppage since suffering the lone loss of her career, a six-round technical knockout (cuts) to German featherweight boxing star, Ina Menzer.

On December 6, in Concordia, Entre Rios, Argentina, the #4 ranked pound-for-pound female boxer, Yesica “Tuti” Bopp (25-1, 11 KOs) of Wilde, Buenos Aires, Argentina, defends her WBA and WBO light-flyweight titles against 40-year-old light-flyweight and flyweight contender, Ana Fernandez (14-6, 10 KOs) of Petare, Venezuela. This is a rematch of their 2008 bout in which Bopp won the vacant interim WBA female light-flyweight title with a wide-margined unanimous decision victory over Fernandez. This will be the first action for Fernandez since being stopped in two rounds by the heavy-handed Arely “Machine Gun” Mucino in July 2012. Since losing a hotly contested ten-round decision to Jessica Chavez in June, Bopp shutout former two-division champion, Anastasia Toktaulova (14-12, 2 KOs) over ten rounds in July retaining her WBA light-flyweight title for the thirteenth time and her WBO light-flyweight title for the eleventh. The selection of Fernandez ranked #11 at flyweight by the WBA, is a (stay busy) challenger for the twenty-nine-year-old tiding the longtime champion over until a more significant event materializes in 2014.

On December 12 in Aalst, Oost-Vlaanderen, Belgium, the #9 ranked pound-for-pound female boxer and the current WIBF lightweight champion, Delfine Persoon (27-1, 12 KOs) Roeselare, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium will lace up the gloves for the seventh time in 2013 when she battles the current WIBA, GBU, and WBF lightweight champion, Lucia Morelli (18-3, 8 KOs) Offenburg, Germany, by way of San Servero, Italy. This contest is a rematch of a February 2012 WIBF title fight where Persoon won by knockout in the fifth round. Morelli scraped by the hard-punching Rola El Halabi in January winning the titles mentioned above by a majority decision. Except for that win, Morelli has demonstrated an inability to compete with top-level fighters as was witnessed by her one-sided losses to Cecilia Braekhus, Myriam Lamare, and Persoon. On November 11, in Belgium, Persoon scored a third-round technical knockout of the current IBF welterweight champion, Eva Halasi (11-7, 9 KOs) in a non-title fight. The 28-year-old Persoon, in the prime of her career, has developed into a beastly power-puncher with her right hand rivaled only by Erica Anabella Farias in the lightweight division. In this match-up, the power-puncher from Belgium should have little difficulty duplicating her previous fifth-round stoppage and winning her seventh contest of the year.

Three Questions - Sweet Side Q&A with Franchon Crews

Why box when you can sing or dance?
Baltimore’s Franchon “The Heavy Hitting Diva” Crews, the winner of five national golden gloves titles (2005-08, 2011), and seven US Open National Championships in three different weight classes (154, 165, and 178) began boxing in 2003 to reduce weight for a possible signing career. She quickly adapted to the rigors of the sport; in 2005, Crews won her first of four consecutive National Golden Glove titles with a first-round stoppage of Christine Brown. She also competed in the first-ever U.S. Olympic Women’s Boxing Trails in February, 2012. Franchon credits heart, will, and strength as her greatest assets in the ring and considers her mother her biggest influence. Currently, Franchon is preparing for the 2014 USA Boxing National Championships to be held in Spokane, WA, in January.

Q: In 2004, you competed in the popular reality show “American Idol” impressing the powers that be enough to air your audition as part of the show. Shortly after, you hibernated the golden voice and donned the golden gloves. Why?

A: Honestly, I never did, it’s just boxing started to take off for me and required a lot more time and dedication especially in 2009 when women were allowed to participate in the Olympic Games. Believe me, my ability to sing has grown so much and has matured so hopefully I can flex my singing chops soon.

Q: Your amateur career and your current “Road to Rio” campaign are well documented. The Olympic trials are just over two years away, what boxer is currently your toughest competition at middleweight? 
Have you ever thought about turning professional and punching for pay?

Crews has more medals to win in 2014
A: I still have things to accomplish and goals to achieve before I leave the game, go pro, or live life a little. I am in my prime by the time trials come. I will be a different fighter than I am now. I have been boxing half of my teen life and all my adult life. I am a little behind. Before I blink, I will be 30 years old and never had a chance to "party like its 1999" but I have traveled the world and seen things some people will never see in their lifetime. I am leaving my options open for the pro game, and I have the desire to explore my other talents too. I want my hard work to work for me and have something to show for my time and effort.

Q: As part of a fundraising event for the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland, you rappelled off the roof of the 33-story Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel. You scaled 28 stories in a steady and rain, and in concert with many others, procured over $320,000 for the cause. What stoked your interest in kidney disease?

A: My mother is battling cancer and suffers from chronic kidney disease along with other health issues. It was inevitable that I would be tied to it. She has been going through her illness exactly when I started my boxing career. "She fights to live, I fight to win!" That has been my motto, and being her main caretaker over all these years, it would be ludicrous not to educate myself because one day I may experience this ailment. I also realized that I may not get the recognition I deserve for boxing, but if I use what little I do have for a bigger cause, it will inspire others to be strong, relentless, and continue to fight through any issue or sickness they come across. My mother is my source of strength along with My God and having people support her and send both of us love over the years it has helped me cope and not feel alone. I just want others to know that sickness and illness can happen to and affect anybody, even the Heavy Hitting Diva's family. Also in June, I had to get surgery to repair my hernia. I competed at the 2013 Nationals and won with it and got a silver at the Pan American Continentals with it. So I was like let's go "Over the Edge" for kidney disease.

Read more about the "Heavy-hitting Diva’s Road to Rio" campaign:

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

#9 Persoon fights very well and very often
1- Cecilia Braekhus (23-0, 7 KOs) Norway
2- Erica Farias (18-0, 9 KOs) Argentina
3- Christina Hammer (15-0, 7 KOs) Germany
4- Yesica Bopp (25-1, 11 KOs) Argentina
5- Ann Sophie Mathis (27-3, 23 KOs) France
6- Marcela Acuna (40-6-1, 17 KOs) Argentina
7- Jessica Chavez (19-3-3, 4 KOs) Mexico
8- Jelena Mrdjenovich (30-9-1, 15 KOs) Canada
9- Delfine Persoon (27-1, 12 KOs) Belgium
10- Diana Prazak (12-2, 8 KOs) Australia/ USA
11- Ibeth Zamora Silva (19-5, 8 KOs) Mexico
12- Naoko Fujioka (11-0, 6 KOs) Japan 

"The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science" is written 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: Boxing Jones