April 8, 2014

The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science - Women's Boxing Monthly Vol 11

The team of Rijker and Prazak win again
By Mark A. Jones – Since the last edition of “The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science” (January) much has transpired in women’s boxing. The consensus #1 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, Cecilia Braekhus, cemented her claim to that title with a dominant ten-round unanimous decision over former light-welterweight champion, Myriam Lamare. Super-featherweight Diana Prazak, who carries the weight of Australian women’s boxing on her shoulders, impressively dismantled a former featherweight champion in fellow Australian, Shannon O’Connell. Prazak, trained by Lucia Rijker, has developed into a force in the ring, and because of her success; an ever-growing number of Australian female boxers are gaining well-deserved recognition. 

USA vs Canada
In the amateur ranks, the 87th annual New York Daily News Golden Gloves finals are scheduled to be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on April 18-19. Christina Cruz (Atlas Cops & Kids), the tournaments only seven-time winner, will look to add an unprecedented eighth title this year. She pounded out a 3-0 decision over Emily Colon (Glen Cove BC) on March 1 in the quarterfinals of the 125-pound division. On March 29 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO, elite women’s boxing teams from the United States and Canada met in an International duel. It was the first such meeting for the United States in 2014. The US won the first six bouts and settled for a 7-2 team victory over their Canadian counterparts.

Winners: 112 - Marlen Esparza USA, 119 - Christina Cruz USA, 125 - Tiara Brown USA, 132 - Queen Underwood USA, 141 - Marie-Eve Dicaire Can, 152 - Myriam DiSilva Can, 165 - Franchon Crews USA, and Youth - Jajaira Gonzalez USA 

A look back at January - March 2014 in women's boxing:

On January 4 in Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Daniela Romina “La Bonita” Bermudez, 114, won the vacant WBO female super-flyweight title with an eight-round technical knockout of “Triple L” Linda Laura Lecca, 114 ¾. The 24-year-old Bermudez (16-2-2, 5 KOs), who fights out of Rosario, Argentina, now stands as a four-time champion winning world titles at both bantamweight and super-flyweight. She showed well in defeats earlier in her career against the current WBA & WBO light-flyweight champion, Yesica Yolanda Bopp and the current WBA featherweight champion, Edith Soledad Matthysse. It was the first stoppage loss for Lecca (9-2-1, 3 KOs) of Lima, Peru.

On January 18 in San Clemente del Tuyu, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ana Laura “La Monita” Esteche, 138 ¾, of San Martin, Buenos Aires, won the WBA female light-welterweight title with a ten-round unanimous decision (98-92/99-91/98-92) over the previously unbeaten Monica “La Gata” Silvina Acosta, 139 ¼. The 35-year-old Acosta (19-1-2, 5 KOs) fighting out of Santa Rosa, Argentina, was making her fourth defense of the WBA title. Esteche, with the upset win, moves her record to a deceiving (10-3-1, 2 KOs). The 23-year-old emerging star failed in previous attempts at world lightweight titles losing hometown decisions to fellow Argentine Victoria Noelia Bustos and Columbian Enis Pacheco.

Quick hits from January:

Southpaw Monica Lovato (13-1, 5 KOs) entered the ring for the first time in six years scoring a stoppage victory over DJ Morrison (TKO-4). Lovato is best known for winning the IBA female bantamweight title with a split-decision victory over Mexican boxing star, Mariana “Barbie” Juarez in 2007. Arely Mucino (19-2-2, 10 KOs), in her home town of Monterrey, Mexico, rallied to get past former longtime WBA super-flyweight champion, Tenkai Tsunami (19-9, 9 KOs) winning a controversial ten-round majority decision. Tsunami, a native of Tokyo, Japan, tasted defeat for the fifth time in Mexico. The first-ever Chilean born world champion, Carolina Rodriguez moved to (11-0, 1 KO) successfully defending her WIBA bantamweight title for the first time with a ten-round unanimous decision (100-89/100-89/99-89) over Simone Da Silva Duarte (14-5, 6 KOs). Duarte tasted the canvas in the eighth round. Yazmin “La Rusita” Rivas (29-8, 9 KOs) won the vacant WBC Silver female super-bantamweight title with a ten-round unanimous decision over the hard-hitting Calixta Silgado (11-3-2, 8 KOs) by the scores (100-90 x 3)

Braehus retains her title as the best in the world
On February 1 at Arena Nord, Frederikshavn, Denmark, Cecilia “First Lady” Braekhus, 145, of Bergen Norway, retained the WBA, WBC, and WBO female welterweight titles with a commanding ten-round unanimous decision over challenger Myriam Lamare, 143, of Marseille, France. Braekhus, the consensuses #1 ranked pound-for-pound female fighter in the sport, moved to (24-0, 7 KOs) with the victory that included a seventh round knockdown of the well thought of French challenger. "The only reason Lamare was still standing was her twenty years of experience,’’ said Braekhus. “Me and my new coach Otto Ramin have trained explosively, and that came through in this fight.” Immediately after the fight, the 39-year-old Lamare ended her eleven-year professional career announcing her retirement.

“Cecilia was very strong, an incredibly good boxer,” said Lamare. “For me, the time has come to step down. I wish Cecilia all the best.” Lamare (22-4, 10 KOs), a three-time, light-welterweight champion, exits the sport having defeated several contenders during career losing only to Braekhus, Holly Holm, and Anne Sophie Mathis. Matched against an excellent opponent, Braekhus, at the age of 32, looked better than ever and appears to have reached the height of her career.

Mighty McMorrow dropped a decision to Barbie
On February 22 in Puebla, Mexico, Mariana “Barbie” Juarez, 114 ¾, Mexico City, Mexico, defended her WBC International female super-flyweight title for the first time with a ten-round unanimous decision over “Mighty” Melissa McMorrow, 112 ½, San Francisco, USA, by the scores (96-94 x 3). McMorrow, the WBO female flyweight champion, elevated to super-flyweight for this contest and showed well against the larger and immensely popular Juarez. This super-fight featured an excellent contrast in styles with Juarez having enough success from long-range to stave off a late rally from McMorrow, an extreme volume-puncher, who tried to take the fight to the inside. McMorrow, the tough-luck loser in this fight, at a minimum earned a draw.

Quick hits from February:

Esmeralda “La Joya” Moreno (25-7-1, 9 KOs) once a pound-for-pound ranked fighter, is attempting recapture top form after a year hiatus from the ring due to childbirth. She moved to (0-1-1) since her return dropping an eight-round, split-decision (77-76/75-77/75-77) to Maribel Ramirez (9-6-2, 3 KOs). Kristin Gearhart (3-0, 1 KO), a bright American light-welterweight prospect out of Chicago, scored a stoppage victory over Allanna Jones (RTD-3). Mako Yamada (7-0, 2 KOs) won the WBO female minimumweight title with a ten-round, split-decision over hard-punching slugger, Su-Yun Hong (9-1, 5 KOs) by the scores (96-94/97-93/96-97). Yamada, at the age of 19, becomes the youngest female world champion. Fernanda Soledad Alegre (18-1-1, 9 KOs) defended her WBO female light-welterweight title for the ninth time with a sixth-round technical knockout of Marisol Reyes (13-8-1, 6 KOs). Although underrated, Alegre is one of a long line of female world boxing champions from Argentina and is one high profile victory away from pound-for-pound mentioning. In a battle of two elite flyweight prospects, Kenia Enriquez (10-0, 5 KOs) emerged winning a six-round unanimous decision over Noemi Bosques (4-1-2, 1 KO). The scoring (60-53/60-53/59-54) was not indicative of the competitiveness of the fight. Enriquez scored a knockdown in the first round.

La Loba is an Avenger
On March 1 at the World Trade Center, Naucalpan, Mexico, WBC female super-flyweight champion Zulina “La Loba” Munoz,115, of Mexico City, Mexico, successfully defended her title for the fifth time with a six-round technical decision (59-55/ 58-56/58-56) over 33-year-old Alesia “The Tigress” Graf, 115, of New South Wales, Australia, by way of Belarus. Graf (26-4, 11 KOs), in September 2007 claimed Munoz as one of her victims (UD-10) during her nearly five-year stint as the GBU female super-flyweight champion. Since, the 26-year-old Munoz (41-1-2, 26 KOs), has gone undefeated, winning world titles at bantamweight and super-flyweight and she has developed into one of the most exciting and popular fighters in all of women’s boxing.

Clearly, “La Loba” Munoz treated this highly anticipated rematch as an opportunity to avenge the only loss of her career stated, “I can say that I feel much more mature and experienced defeating Alesia. I have thoroughly prepared to give my audience a memorable fight, which I dedicate to Don Jose Sulaiman.” In contrast, Graf, who has not defeated a world-class opponent since 2009, was confident that she would defeat Munoz and leave with the title.

From the opening stanza, the ultra-aggressive Munoz dominated with her left hand consistently landing jabs and hooks keeping Graf off-balance, unable to mount an effective counterattack. After sustaining a cut over her left eye from an accidental headbutt at the end of the third, Munoz stepped on the accelerator in the fourth leading with left hooks, some of which had a noticeable impact on Graf. The aggressive nature of the bout caused referee Kenny Bayless to have his hands full with the two fighters constantly clashing heads. Graf, who suffered a cut over her left eye from an accidental head butt earlier in the fight, with a minute remaining in round six, sustained a severe cut over her right eye from yet another accidental head butt. After evaluating the damage, the ringside doctor called a halt to the contest resulting in the technical decision victory for Munoz. The fight was co-promoted by Canelo Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions and was televised on Mexico Televisa and USA Fox Espanol. Newly installed WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman Saldivar, stated that the fight for the WBC female super-flyweight title between current champion, Zulina Munoz and challenger Mariana Juarez (39-7-3, 16 KOs), is mandatory. The WBC has set a deadline for promoters to reach an agreement on the details of the fight, and if no agreement is reached, a purse bid will be conducted at a future date.

Winner and still champion Christina Hammer
On March 1 at the GETEC Arena, in Magdeburg, Germany, Christina Hammer, 159, defended her WBO & WBF female middleweight titles for the seventh time each with a one-sided unanimous decision victory (100-90 x 3) over former two-division world champion, Jessica Balogun, 156 1/4. The 23-year-old Hammer, who simultaneously with her middleweight titles holds the WBO super-middleweight belt, enjoyed a four-inch height advantage over the 25-year-old Balogun, a trait which she exploited over the course of the 10-round fight. Hammer appeared relaxed throughout keeping her hard-charging opponent at arm's distance landing at will with straight punches from the outside. Balogun, best known for winning three rounds on two scorecards against welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus in 2012, tried to take the fight to the inside against Hammer, but ran into uppercuts and hooks when Hammer adjusted to her tactics.

With the win, Hammer improves to (17-0, 8 KOs), whereas Balogun falls to (23-3, 11 KOs). Hammer has essentially cleaned out the middleweight division. Her next title challenger will likely elevate from the welterweight or light-middleweight classes. This match up was promoted by SES Boxing and televised live in Germany on SAT1.

Prazak fires her guns at Shotgun O'Connell
On March 1 at the Melbourne Pavilion in Flemington, Victoria, Australia, Melbourne native and two-time world champion, Diana Prazak, 127 ¾, successfully defended her WBC female super-featherweight title for the first time with a fifth round technical knockout over former featherweight title holder, Shannon “Shotgun” O’Connell, 129 ¼, of Slacks Creek, Australia. At the time of the stoppage, Prazak was leading (39-35) on each scorecard. The Prazak title defense originally received second billing on the card to a male middleweight bout between modestly ranked fighters. It was elevated to the main event when the middleweight bout was reduced in rounds.

The 34-year-old champion, a slugger with ever-improving boxing ability, nearly ended the fight early knocking the elusive O’Connell down twice in the second round with crushing right hands. The knockdowns were a harbinger of things to come as Prazak's physical strength, coupled with a two-fisted attack caused O’Connell to wilt under the pressure eventually prompting a referee stoppage at 1:56 of the fifth round. Prazak, who is currently based out of Los Angeles, California, moved her record to (13-2, 9 KOs). Under the tutelage of her trainer, Lucia Rijker, Prazak has developed from a one-handed banger into a two-fisted fighter boasting a left-hook that not only complements her right-cross, but essentially won her the WBC super-featherweight title with a knockout of popular Swede, Frida Wallberg (KO-8) in June 2013. It is no coincidence that the counter left hook was the signature punch of Prazak’s trainer during her active boxing career. The 31-year-old challenger won the WBF female featherweight title in June 2013 by knockout over Gabisile Tshabalala (KO-7). Before Prazak, her most significant fight was a decision loss to then WBA featherweight champion, “Defector Girl” Hyun-Mi Choi in South Korea. With the loss, O’Connell drops to (8-3, 5 KOs).
She is trained by former IBF lightweight champion, Philip Holiday.

Quick hits from March:

Hardy brings the Heat
Heather Hardy (9-0, 2 KOs) took a significant step in her maturation into a world-class, super-bantamweight with an eight-round unanimous decision victory over former world title challenger, Nydia “Dha Phenomenal” Feliciano (7-5-3)by the scores (78-74/78-74/79-72). Flyweight prospect Joselyn “Princesa Tapatia” Arroyo-Ruiz moved to (16-0, 7 KOs) by stopping Leidis Martinez (KO-2) who drops to (4-4) with the loss. The 19-year-old prodigy, who started punching for pay in 2011, has already won a minor title (NABF flyweight) and is on the cusp of making serious noise in the ultra-talented flyweight division. In a stunning upset, Yazmin Ortega (2-2-1, 1 KO) scored a ten-round unanimous decision over former two-division world champion, Irma Sanchez (28-7-1, 8 KOs). Ortega earned the Sanchez fight by knocking out Lourdes Juarez, the sister of Mexican boxing superstar, Mariana Juarez in February. In a non-title bout, heavy-handed WBC featherweight champion, Jelena Mrdjenovich (32-9-1, 16 KOs) won a ten-round unanimous decision (100-89/99-90/98-91) over survivalist Fatuma Zarika (24-7-1, 14 KOs). Zarika hit the deck in the first round courtesy of a left-hook from Mrdjenovich and looked to survive the rest of the fight. In anticipation of her super-fight with Delfine Persoon, in April, “La Pantera” Erica Anabella Farias stayed active improving to (19-0, 9 KOs) with a ten-round unanimous decision (98-91 x 3) over Maria Eugenia Lopez (8-8-2). Farias scored a knockdown of Lopez in the tenth. Sonya “The Scholar” Lamonakis (9-1-2, 1 KO) won the vacant USA New York State female heavyweight title with an eight-round unanimous decision victory (79-73/78-74/77-75) over Tiffany Woodard who drops to a deceiving (4-8-3, 3 KOs). Marcela Eliana Acuna (41-6-1, 18 KOs) defended her WBO female super-bantamweight title with a sixth-round technical knockout of Estrella Valverde (9-4-1, 1 KO).

The Sweet Side Previews Erica Farias vs Delfine Persoon:

KO Digest breaks down Farias vs Persoon
On April 20 in Zwevezele, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, Erica Anabella “La Pantera” Farias (19-0, 9 KOs) of Virreyes, Argentina, goes on the road to make her twelfth defense of the WBC female lightweight title facing her toughest challenger to date, Delfine Persoon (28-1, 13 KOs) of Roeselare, Belgium. In this battle for supremacy of the lightweight division, both fighters are 29-years-old and are currently among the pound-for-pound best in women’s boxing. Farias, from the rich women’s boxing hotbed of Argentina, receives less attention than fellow Argentine fighters Marcela Eilana Acuna and Yesica Yolanda Bopp, but has carved out a niche in her home country displaying elite power-punching during her current four-year reign as WBC champion. First appearing on the radar in 2012 with devastating stoppage victories over Lucia Morelli (TKO-5) and Erin McGowan (TKO-7) winning the WIBF and IBF lightweight titles respectively, Delfine Persoon has developed into a very dangerous puncher with her right hand.

With the momentum of a stellar 2013, that witnessed her post a record of (7-0, 3 KOs) including knockout wins over Eva Halasi (TKO-3), then the IBF welterweight champion and Lucia Morelli (TKO-10), which secured her the WIBF, WBF, and WIBA lightweight titles, Persoon poses a serious threat to Farias’s reign as champion. Stylistically, Persoon aggressively moves forward behind a jab in a straight-line looking to deliver her hard right hand. As with most European boxers, she needs room to punch and is an ordinary at best infighter. She often reaches with her punches leaving herself open to counters. She has elite power, good hand speed, and is exceptionally strong. Of the two, Farias is the more complete fighter adding long-range boxing ability and movement to her impressive arsenal recently. She throws a wide left hook, ordinarily considered a technical flaw, but it works to corral her opponent into her right hand. The most prominent common opponent is former WIBA featherweight champion, Irma Balijagic Adler (14-5, 7 KOs). Adler lost a lopsided decision to Persoon (UD-8) in October 2013 but suffered a stoppage loss to Farias (TKO-1) in June 2012.

Here is how the two female fighters break down in ten important categories. 
Farias holds a key advantage in 6 out of 10 of them with 1 even:

Power: Farias                        Speed: Farias  
Chin/Durability: Farias      Size: Persoon   
Accuracy: Persoon               Skills: Farias                            
Conditioning: Even             Punch Volume: Persoon
Defense: Farias                    Quality of Opposition:  Farias

KO's Sweet Side Prediction: Persoon, early in her career suffered a stoppage loss to Zelda Tekin, who, in her next fight received a two two-year suspension for refusing the post-bout doping test. Farias has knocked down six of her previous ten opponents stopping five of them. With the venue in her home country, Persoon could possibly obtain a decision win if she lasts the distance; however, I see this as doubtful and believe Farias lands early and often earning a stoppage victory in the mid-rounds.

Three Questions - Sweet Side Q&A with Sarah Kuhn

The Knockout
Welterweight contender Sarah “The Knockout” Kuhn, ranked as high as #4 by the IBF, turned professional in 2010 after a brief, but successful amateur career winning the New York State Golden Glove title at 152 lbs. in 2009 and 2010. Since turning professional, Sarah has pounded out a deceiving record of (7-4-1, 1 KO) with three of her four losses resulting from razor-thin decisions. In 2011, Sarah went on the road for the first time leaving the cozy confines of Albany, NY, for Mableton, Georgia, where she secured the WIBC light-welterweight title with a ten-round unanimous decision over Lisa Garland. As with most boxers, Sarah holds down a full-time career and recently signed with an upstart boxing equipment company to promote their products.

Q: How did you get your start in boxing?

A: In 2008, I wanted to change up my workout routine. I was stuck in the world of dieting and going to a gym with no direction, no one pushing me and no results. I've always been a heavy girl and pushed over 200 lbs in my late teens. I just couldn't figure it out. I tried all the fad diets, crash diets, treadmill routine, and swimming. As a child I took ballet, tap and jazz for about 10 years, so I decided I would give that a try again! A few doors down in the same plaza I saw a sign for Sweeney's Boxing and Fitness. I thought "hey why not" and I walked through the door. This would change my life. Rick Sweeney, the owner and my trainer looked at me, and one of his first questions was "how much do you weigh?" followed by "do you want to fight?" All he saw was a girl walking into a boxing gym. I made an appointment for a free trial, and that's where it started. I worked my butt off that day. I proved to myself that I could get through that workout and after a long talk with myself, I decided to stay. My 3 times a week turned into 6 days a week. I trained 4 hours average every day, trying to learn this sport that I knew nothing about. It's the first athletic thing that I've been really good at. I played a lot of sports growing up, but I just wasn't very good at any of them. For some reason this sport came naturally. Six months later I had my first amateur match. I walked into the gym weighing 178 lbs., and I stepped on the scale at 152 lbs. that night. The first round of that fight was a whirlwind. I've never been so scared in my life! My opponent had a little more experience, all I remember in the first round is taking a beating. I remember thinking to myself "Sarah, mom is watching you get punched in the face right now, she must be so worried and upset." After the first round ended I walked back to my corner. Rick says to me "are you tired?" "No," I said. "Well look at her, because she is exhausted. Now go punch her back." And that's exactly what I did. In the 3rd round, the ref stopped the match, and I won my first fight and the Adirondack Regional Golden Gloves. I went on to win NYS Golden Gloves the following month. My amateur career was pretty short. I finished with a 6-3 record, my last fight being in the National Golden Gloves, which was a great experience in being there with all of those amazing women.

Q: The Albany, NY area has several successful boxing gyms. 
Which is your home and who is your trainer?

A: I train with Rick Sweeney at Sweeney's Boxing and Fitness in Delmar, NY. There are a few gyms in the area, but even less with female boxers, and even less than that who want to work with female boxers. Rick happens to prefer working with female fighters. We both knew my style was a little more conducive to professional boxing. I'm not the quickest boxer, and endurance is definitely my strong point. So here I am 5 years later, still following this journey. I’m just a small-town, home schooled girl from Schoharie, NY, who is ranked in the top 10 in the world, getting ready for my 13th professional fight. I truly believe our lives will take the path that they are meant to; we just have to be willing to take that turn. We have to trust our souls, even when we don't know why it's leading us that way. This has been the most difficult and rewarding journey of my life. I'm looking forward to seeing what the future brings me, and no matter what it does bring, because of this experience I know I'll be able to conquer it. I don't believe I would have had these opportunities at any other gym. Rick is a special trainer. He's been like another Dad to me. He's sacrificed a lot, time, money and taken me all over the country to fight, and all over the state to spar. I was meant to find him. I work very hard for him, and he works very hard for me. We both do it for the love of boxing. It's certainly not for the money! It’s great to see more and more females coming in over the years too. I'm very proud to know that I share a part in that.

Kuhn has a hand in Machina Boxing equipment
Q: Recently, you signed with Machina Boxing of Philadelphia to promote their line of boxing equipment. Can you please describe your relationship with this upstart business?

A: My role is to basically give ideas on what styles I do and don't like as a professional boxer. The fit of their gloves are engineered to fit a woman's more narrow hand, the clothes are flattering and supportive, and their new sparring equipment is some of the best I've ever used. Before I signed on they didn't have headgear or 16 oz. sparring gloves. I was able to tell them what I thought was the best fit, most comfortable, practical and protective. I try it out and give feedback which goes to the designer. Machina is breaking into the professional competing side of it, and I'm very proud that I've had a hand in that. They are going to provide stylish and good quality equipment, and I am excited for what they bring to the table. It's wonderful to know that there is a company out there that believes in 'us'. Sometimes I feel like the bigger companies just think of women's boxing as an afterthought. I think products from Everlast, Title, and so-forth are great, but just because you make something the same way and color it Pink or Purple (girlie colors) don't mean it's designed for a woman! That's where they are different. I'm very happy for the opportunity to represent them and women's boxing. Thank you for this chance to tell a little bit about myself. I love this sport; I love the ins and outs, the ups and downs. I love the challenges, and the victories that I have gained whether I won or lost the match. I try to live the other parts of my life like I do boxing.
Take chances, train hard, FIGHT and then no matter the outcome, learn.

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

Braekhus is still #1 Pound For Pound

1- Cecilia Braekhus (24-0, 7 KOs) Norway
2- Erica Anabella Farias (19-0, 9 KOs) Argentina
3- Marcela Eilana Acuna (41-6-1, 18 KOs) Argentina
4- Christina Hammer (17-0, 8 KOs) Germany
5- Diana Prazak (13-2, 9 KOs) Australia/USA
6- Yesica Yolanda Bopp (26-1, 12 KOs) Argentina
7- Ann Sophie Mathis (27-3, 23 KOs) France
8- Jelena Mrdjenovich (32-9-1, 16 KOs) Canada
9- Jessica Chavez (19-3-3, 4 KOs) Mexico
10- Delfine Persoon (28-1, 13 KOs) Belgium
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