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Articles of 2009

Female Prizefighters: The A(vila) List

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The center of women’s boxing has shifted to Europe with the most lucrative bouts occurring in places like Germany, France and Bosnia. But despite the struggles of the American female fighter to gain popularity, a number of the best fighters remain in this country.

Just as with their male counterparts, not all female boxers are exciting, but in most instances the women fight at a faster pace because of the two-minute rounds.

Here is a list of the best female fighters that I’ve seen in the ring or on television that you probably don’t know about. If you like women’s boxing these are prizefighters you should watch if they’re fighting on a boxing card near you.

Hopefully, some promoters can take a look at this list to add to one of their shows. It won’t cost much and you’ll be attracting a different fan. Boxing fans who follow female prizefighting are willing to travel more than 300 miles to watch female boxing.

Here’s my list in alphabetical order:

Jennifer Barber (8-1, 4 KOs) – Barber, 26, fights out of Los Angeles and is a classic boxer with power. She uses her height and jab to punish opponents. She recently fought in France where she lost by decision. No surprise there. When an American fighter goes to Europe, you better knock them out or down a few times. Otherwise you’re coming home with an L. Barber is talented nonetheless.

Carly Batey (4-4-2) – Batey, 28, is a former amateur star out of San Diego. Whenever she fights it's fast-paced and toe-to-toe. Don’t go by her record. She’s faced good fighters and always gives a good account of herself.

Terri Blair (10-13-2, 6 KOs) – Blair, 33, has a deceiving record too. She captured the IBA lightweight title by stopping Sumya Anani twice in two fights. That’s a tremendous feat considering that Anani couldn’t beg somebody to fight her. She was the most feared female fighter at the time but Blair stopped her twice. Blair doesn’t play around. She fires bombs.

Lisa Brown (15-3-3, 4 KOs) – Brown, 37, has a slick counter-punching style. The Canadian is the current junior featherweight champion. It seems every fight she’s in turns into a life or death battle that’s difficult to determine who wins. But she will not quit even when tagged on the chin.

Melinda Cooper (19-0, 11 KOs) – The petite Cooper, 23, is a former flyweight world champion and wants to add a couple of more world titles. She’s one of the few electrifying boxers who light up an arena once the bell rings. Cooper has blazing speed and heavy hands. She’s one of the few women who possesses knockout power.

Stephanie Dobbs (25-26-4, 14 KOs) – Dobbs, 28, has proven she will fight anywhere against anybody between featherweight and minimumweight. With 55 pro fights under her belt, she’s one of the most experienced prizefighters in the country. She’s a wee little Oklahoma girl with a big heart.

Hollie Dunaway (21-7-1, 10 KOs) – Dunaway, 24, has improved greatly since beginning in 2003. The junior flyweight now fights out of Las Vegas. She’s a strong fighter who boxes smartly in the ring. She’s about to fight in Korea in a few weeks.

Jeannine Garside (7-3-1, 3 KOs) – Garside, 30, will fight anybody at any time. The Canadian boxer is always in brutal battles. Her manager Jackie Kallen said her loss to Bosnian boxer Irma Balijagic-Adler for the WIBA featherweight title by split-decision in that fighter’s country was a travesty. But not unusual. Garside has three losses in a row but all to top tier fighters. She’s a must if you like action.

Chevelle Hallback (27-5-2, 11 KOs) – Hallback, 37, is probably the most exciting female boxer in the world. Her fights are always considered for Fight of the Year. In 2008, her fight with Garside was a brutal affair with Hallback’s power proving the difference. Hallback was in another Fight of the Year in 2007 when she fought Blair. She shows no signs of slowing down.

Melissa Hernandez (9-1-2, 3 KOs) – Hernandez, 28, is one of the slickest boxers in the world. The Bronx fighter is the current featherweight world champion and has the guts to match the skills. The Puerto Rican boxer will fight anybody. Some of the male fighters say they’ve seen her knock down guys in sparring sessions. Look out.

Holly Holm (22-1-3, 6 KOs) – Holm, 27, is a very athletic boxer who uses speed and agility to pummel her opponents. The New Mexico redhead boxer is the welterweight world champion. For several years she mostly fought in her home state where questionable decisions are common. But during the past two years Holm has ventured to other states and proved she’s ready for any challenge. A win and draw against Mary Jo Sanders has given her big time credibility.

Kelsey Jeffries (41-9-1, 4 KOs) – Jeffries, 33, has been boxing for quite a while. She has great ring skills and endurance. Jeffries fights out of Northern California and has no problems fighting as long as she gets to fight. One of the masters of the craft.

Mariana Juarez (18-5-3, 9 KOs) – Juarez, 28, currently fights out of Mexico City. Now fighting at flyweight, she plans to move back to California. That’s good news for boxing. She does things in the ring that are hard to teach. Only real skilled boxers can do what she does in the ring. Plus, she’s willing to fight anybody.

Ana Julaton (4-1-1) – Julaton, 27, proved she doesn’t want to dawdle. The Bay area fighter has bigger plans for more fights in 2009. Her loss to Domingo Oliva was not an embarrassment. Every round was competitive and in the end it was experience that prevailed. But Julaton doesn’t want easy matches. She’s going for the prize as quickly as possible. Her fans will follow her anywhere.

Belinda Laracuente (23-24-3, 9 KOs) – Laracuente, 29, has fought seemingly every top prizefighter in the world. It seems like yesterday when she fought Christy Martin in front of more than 12,000 fans. Though very skillful, she relies on counter-punching too much. Most of her losses could have been wins. But fans love her bravado, win or lose.

Rhonda Luna (13-1-1) – Luna, 30, returned to boxing after attending graduate school in San Francisco. She wants another shot at a world title. The brawler recently pulled out a close decision after a long layoff. She’s ready to fight for a world title soon.

Layla McCarter (31-13-5, 7 KOs) – McCarter, 29, is a lightweight world titleholder. She may be unifying the titles this year against Ann Saccurato. The only way to describe McCarter is to compare her to James Toney. She’s got skills and know-how inside the ropes. Her fight against Hallback five years ago is one of the greatest female fights of all time.

Carina Moreno (20-1, 6 KOs) – Moreno, 27, has been blowing by opponents the past three years. She defends her world title next month in Lemoore, California. Too bad there are only a few women in her weight class that can run with her. Maybe it's time for Moreno to head for Europe or Asia?

Dominga Olivo (7-4-1) – Olivo, 37, captured her first title last year. The New Yorker has plans to add a world title in 2009. Her fight against Ana Julaton was a showcase of women’s boxing. Too bad it wasn’t televised nationwide. Look for Olivo to make big strides in 2009.

Elizabeth Quevedo (1-0, 1 KO) – Quevedo, 24, fights out of Los Angeles and could probably beat any junior welter in the world today. She just can’t seem to get a fight. The problem is she won four U.S. National titles in four successive years and that probably scares away the competition. Just get her several fights to shake out the rust and she could fight for a world title within a year. She’s that good.

Elena Reid (19-4-6, 5 KOs) – Reid, 27, now fights out of Phoenix, Arizona. She currently holds a flyweight world title. She is one of the more experienced boxers in the world. Despite her good looks, Reid loves to fight and will jump in the ring against any body in her weight class. But she needs a decent payday for her sacrifice. She’s been fighting for peanuts. Promoters take advantage of her good nature.

Wendy Rodriguez (19-4-3, 3 KOs) – Rodriguez, 30, injured her shoulder and has not fought since this past summer. Plans for a rematch with Carina Moreno are on hold. Inside the ropes, Rodriguez is a canny boxer who can fight inside or out. She’s the current IFBA and WIBA minimumweight world titleholder and one of the top fighters in any weight class.

Ann Saccurato (14-3-2, 6 KOs) – Saccurato, 31, is a pressure fighter out of upstate New York. Her bout against Holly Holm proved she can give anybody trouble. She’s close to a fight with Las Vegas wiz Layla McCarter in the spring. It should be fireworks.

Mary Jo Sanders (25-1-1, 8 KOs) – Sanders, 34, got tired of ho hum wins and went after the glory in two fights with Holly Holm. A loss didn’t deter her so they fought again to a draw a couple of months ago. Sanders is a strong fighter who always moves forward and has a lot of fighting spirit.

Melissa Shaffer (10-7, 5 KOs) – Shaffer, 30, is a southpaw from Van Buren, Arkansas who takes no nonsense in the ring. She displays good skills, a killer instinct and good power in her fists. Never boring.

Jeri Sitzes (14-8-1, 6 KOs) – Sitzes, 29, is a former kick boxer from Missouri who ventured into pro boxing. It’s a good thing. She gives everybody a tough time. The first time I saw Sitzes she was banging with Melinda Cooper in a hell of a fight. All of her featherweight fights are compelling.

Kaliesha West (10-1, 2 KOs) – West, 20, has an aggressive and pleasing style that attracts boxing fans wherever she fights. A world title bid could come this year for the Moreno Valley boxer. West lost her first fight in Northern California a few months ago. No shame in a loss. It only proves she’s willing to fight anywhere against anybody. West aims to please and has the talent to excite fans.

Here’s a list of 15 female prizefighters I’d like to see one day:

Crystal Delgado (7-0) of Houston, Sandy Tsagouris (9-1) from Toronto, Jackie Nava (19-2-2) from Tijuana, Marcela Acuna (31-5) of Argentina, Vanessa Juarez (9-0) of Fort Worth, Ava Knight (5-0-2) of Northern California, Zulina Munoz (19-1) from Mexico City, Ana Marie Torres (16-3-2) of Mexico City, Susi Kentikian (23-0) of Germany, Jelena Mrdjenovich (23-3-1) of Canada, Melissa Fiorentino (17-2) of Rhode Island, Franchesca Alcanter (18-8-1) of Missouri, Maureen Shea (13-0) of New York City, Chika Nakamura (8-0) from L.A., and Ana Pascal (11-1) of Panama.

Articles of 2009

UFC 108 Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva

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Former champion Rashad Evans meets Brazil’s venerable Thiago Silva in a non-title belt that can lead to a return match with the current champ, but first things first.

Evans (15-1-1) and Silva (14-1) meet in Ultimate Fighting Championship 108 in a light heavyweight bout on Saturday Jan. 2, at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. A win by either fighter could result in a world title bid. The fight card is being shown on pay-per-view television.

Events can change quickly in the Octagon and anybody can beat anybody in the 205-pound weight division. Just ask Silva or Evans.

Silva and Evans are both experienced and can vouch firsthand about the capriciousness of fighting in MMA and especially as a light heavyweight. On one day this man can beat that man and on another day, that man can beat this man. It can make you absolutely daffy.

Evans, 30, is the former UFC light heavyweight world champion who only defended his title on one occasion and lost by vicious knockout to current champion Lyoto Machida of Brazil. It’s the only defeat on his record.

Silva, 27, is a well-rounded MMA fighter from Sao Paolo, Brazil who is versed in jujitsu, Muy Thai and boxing. He can end a fight quickly in a choke hold just as easily as with a kick or a punch. His only loss came to who else: Machida.

Evans and Silva know a win can push open the door to a rematch with current UFC light heavyweight champion Machida.

“A win against Rashad would put me in the track against Lyoto,” said Silva, in a telephone conference call. “That's what – what I want to do.”

When Silva fought Machida the two Brazilians were both undefeated and feared in the MMA world. The fight took place in Las Vegas and with one second remaining in the first round a perfectly timed punch knocked Silva unconscious.

“I was humbled big time, man,” says Silva who fought Machida in January 2009. “I learned a lot from that fight.  I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight, not overlooking anything else right now, but just I want to get the chance to fight him again.”

For Evans it was a different circumstance. The upstate New Yorker held the UFC title and was defending it after stopping then champion Forrest Griffin by knockout. Still, many felt Machida was far too technically versed. Evans was stopped brutally in the second round.

“I've made it a point to not – to not get distracted on what I want to do, because you know Thiago (Silva) is a very hungry fighter,” said Evans who has not fought since losing the title to Machida last May. “My focus is just on Thiago so much.  You know I don't want to overlook him, you know, not even a little bit.”

Dana White, president of UFC, says the winner of this fight could conceivably fight Machida in the near future. Evans and especially Silva are motivated by the open window.

“I learned a lot from that fight. I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight,” says Silva. “Not overlooking anything else right now, but I just want to get the chance to fight him again.”

What a prize. The winner gets to face the man who beat him: Machida.

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Articles of 2009

Ten Boxing Wishes For 2010

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As 2009 comes to a close, one reflects on what went well and what went wrong during the year in boxing. There were many highlights. Pacquiao vs. Cotto and Showtime’s Super Six tournament were part of the best that boxing had to offer. But there were some low points too therefore the industry has some work to do in order to keep generating fans. Here are some suggestions for 2010:

10. Better pay per view cards

Paying 40 to 50 bucks to watch the main event gets old real quick. Why do we have to sit through a horrible under-card to get to the main course? It’s like being fed spam appetizers before the Thanksgiving turkey. It seems that the pay per view promoters just don’t get it. Are they watching what they put on or do they only watch the “big fight” as everyone else is slowly being conditioned to do so?

9. Time to make Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fight

Okay, I understand he’s the son of one of the greatest fighters that ever lived. But he’s had 42 fights against low to mid level competition and has never managed to look spectacular. It’s time to throw the 23 year old out of the nest to see if he can fly. My suggestion is a fight against Sergio Mora or maybe even Yuri Foreman. Neither of these guys can punch. They may outbox Junior but they won’t totally humiliate him.

8. No more ridiculous Pay Per View mismatches

Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Juan Manuel Marquez should’ve never been made. It was a ridiculous fight when it was announced and it was more ridiculous when it took place. Unable to bring Manny Pacquiao to the bargaining table for a third match against Juan Manuel Marquez, someone figured that pairing up the 135 pound champion against a natural 147 pounder like Mayweather would be a great idea. The pay per view generated over a million buys but the fact that millions of people were treated to an incredibly boring mismatch is what’s truly worrisome. I can guarantee you one thing about this card. The sport of boxing lost fans once the show was over and done with. Talk about short term thinking.

7. Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola shows up for a fight in amazing shape

It was painful to see Chris Arreola take a beating from the Ukrainian giant, Vitali Klitscho. The champion certainly earned his “Dr. Ironfist” moniker as he plowed his powerful shots into the former #1 WBC heavyweight contender’s face. He reddened and bloodied the young Mexican American with an assortment of weapons and foot movement seldom seen on a six foot seven inch heavyweight. Arreola was brave and unrelenting in battle. He never stopped coming forward and took chances when he could. His work in the ring at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles wasn’t the problem. Where Arreola let himself down was outside the ring. His unwillingness to condition himself into a finely tuned athlete cost him certain immortality as the first ever heavyweight champion of Mexican descent. Arreola has the heart and skills but it was his mental fortitude that broke down. Anyone who’s followed the Riverside fighter knows that his best weight is somewhere in the 230 pound range. It certainly isn’t at the 252 pounds he registered on the scale at the Staples Center.  Those fifteen to twenty extra pounds might have made all the difference in the world. Maybe he would’ve been a little quicker, maybe he could’ve sustained a faster pace in order to tire out the champion. In his most recent fight against Brian Minto, Arreola weighed in at a career high 263. It looks like “The Nightmare” isn’t willing to change for anyone. At this pace, the only nightmares he’ll be providing will be to the management of Hometown Buffets all across Riverside.  Just kidding “Nightmare”!

6. More respect for the lighter weights

Real boxing fans know that the most exciting fighters in the sport are usually found toiling in weight divisions south of 154 pounds. Pacquiao, Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez, Edwin Valero, Israel Vazquez, Juan Ma Lopez, Vic Darchinyan, Rafael Marquez and countless others have been the real driving force behind this sport. It’s those great fighters that have made boxing fanatics out of casual fans. The heavyweights may get all the money and glory but it’s the little guys who make the sport shine and it’s time they received greater compensation. It’s dismaying to think that a mediocre heavyweight can make three or four times as much as the great Rafael Marquez.

5. An American Heavyweight champion

Speaking of heavyweights, two Americans tried and failed at dethroning Vitali Klitschko this year. Both Kevin Johnson and Chris Arreola did their best to wrestle the belt away from “Dr. Klitschko” but came up short since they were easily outclassed. What happened to the great American Heavyweight? Where’s our new Joe Frazier or Ali? Even a new Gerry Cooney or a Ken Norton would do at this point. I’ve got a feeling that the only way we’re going to see an American champion is if Klitschko retires. My money is on Arreola. Although undisciplined and rough outside the ring, he’s got tons (no pun intended) of natural talent. He’s without a doubt the most talented American heavyweight on the scene.

4. More ShoBox

The Showtime Cable network gave us the best boxing on TV for the price of a cable television subscription. Their ShoBox series has been a proven hit for Senior VP of Sports Programming Ken Hershman. The concept is simple yet brilliant. Match up two up and comers with great records and let’s see what happens. Sometimes the results are surprising. Many have passed the ShoBox test and went on to bigger and better things. Others have been exposed as having padded records and eventually their careers stall and take a dive.

3. More safety in Mexico so I can attend a show without a gun battle breaking out

Having lived near the Tijuana border all my life I’m dismayed at the war zone that the city has evolved into. Every day there are reports of shootings fueled by the drug war trade. Believe it or not, there was a time when Tijuana was safe and most wouldn’t have thought twice about crossing the border for some seafood and nightlife. No more. Having covered several boxing cards on Revolucion Avenue many years ago, I got a taste of just how important the sport is to Mexican fans. It’s also important to me but not that important. For now I’ll stick to covering shows at the Pechanga Casino and in the less dangerous city of L.A. I never thought I’d say that.

2. Pac Man vs. Mayweather

This is the fight everyone wants to see. Seeing how Mayweather dominated Pac Man’s arch enemy, Juan Manuel Marquez, you have to wonder if the Filipino can handle Lil’ Floyd’s speed and size. One thing is for sure, betting against Pacquiao doesn’t usually work out for me. It never has. There’s no future in it. So if the fight gets done it’s Pacquiao by TKO in ten.

1. And finally

One final wish is reserved for all the readers of TheSweetScience.com I wish you all a healthy and happy 2010. Thank you for your continued loyalty to the site. It’s very much appreciated.

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Articles of 2009

A Very Special New Year's Day Column

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It has been just over four months since Nick Charles, the play-by-play announcer for Shobox: The New Generation, was diagnosed with stage IV bladder cancer and forced to take a medical hiatus from the monthly show that has aired since 2001.

Since then he has undergone grueling chemotherapy treatments that have resulted in him losing all of his hair as he forces himself to live as normal of a life as possible. Through sheer force of will, as well as the strength and support that he receives from his wonderfully loving family and his strong Christian faith, the 63-year-old Charles has managed to keep his weight up while not falling prey to the always lingering threats of depression, cynicism and negativity.

If one was unaware that he was battling such an insidious disease, you’d never know from talking on the phone to him that he has been to hell and back. He has lost none of the inspiring energy that has endeared him to members of the boxing community and legions of worldwide viewers.

“I’m doing great,” Charles said during a telephone conversation on December 30th. “I’ve been off the chemo for a month, and the doctors have told me that I’m 80 percent in remission. I’m going to see them again in three months. It may come back, but if it takes one year, or two years, or however long, I’m going to make the most of the good time.”

As physically and emotionally wrenching as the grim diagnosis and subsequent treatment has been, even for someone as perpetually positive as Charles, the longtime announcer said a lot of good things have come from it.

Having been married three times, Charles is the father of four children: Jason, 38, Melissa, 34, Charlotte, 22, and Giovanna, 3 ½.

While Charles is not big on regrets, he is the first to admit that he wasn’t always there for his older children. For many years he traveled the world as a CNN correspondent, often putting the demands of his career above all else, including those closest to him. Nowhere was the strain more evident than in his relationship with Melissa.

Having been divorced from Melissa’s mother since 1977, Charles said his relationship with that daughter has been especially “hot and cold, all of our lives.”

His illness has enabled them to forge a relationship that has been “based on a massive amount of forgiveness and understanding.”

“This has had a tremendous healing effect on both of us,” said Charles. “My illness has had a fortifying effect on a lot of things, the most important of which is my relationships with my family.”

That also includes his first wife, with whom he has had an often acrimonious relationship over the past three decades.

“It took a long time for the scab to become a scar, but we had lunch one day and it was so great to once again see the gentle, soft sides of each other,” he explained. “The whole divorce process creates a hardness that doesn’t always go away.”

Charles is also the grandfather to three children, some of whom are about the same age as his youngest daughter. He jokes that he has a “nuclear 21st century family” because of the similar ages of two generations of children. One of the hardest things for him has been the realization that he can’t always play with them in manner in which he would like.

“The hemoglobin is the fuel in your tank, so when it’s low you can’t will yourself to do things no matter how much you want to,” said Charles. “You can’t just sleep it off or work through it. I don’t want the kids to wonder why I can’t play in the backyard with them, or kick a soccer ball, or throw them in the air.”

Particularly difficult is when Giovanna reminds her father of how handsome he is, but then innocently asks him what happened to his hair, eyebrows and lashes.

“You try to keep things on a need to know basis, which is not easy when dealing with curious kids,” said Charles.

While Charles might look like the kind of guy that things have often come easy to, the reality is that his beginnings were far from auspicious. But, he says, his often challenging Chicago childhood blessed him with the steely resolve that has helped him so much during the arduous journey he is now on.

“I had it pretty rough growing up,” he explained. “I remember the lights and the heat being shut off and eating mustard sandwiches. I went to work at 13 and always had insecurities about the future. But I always expected and saw the best in people, so when I got sick, never once did I say 'Why me?”

Since taking a leave of absence from Shobox, the outpouring of support from the boxing community has warmed Charles’s heart. For a guy that is battling for his life, he actually considers himself fortunate to be surrounded by so much goodness in both his personal and professional lives.

“I always hear that boxing people are ruthless, but I couldn’t disagree more,” said Charles. “I’ve probably received about 1,000 e-mails, and people are always following in sending their best wishes. From the relatively unknown people in boxing to many of the more famous people, there has been an outpouring of true affection.”

Charles said that the Top Rank organization has been exceedingly kind and gracious. He was touched beyond description when he learned that officials in Oklahoma got special permission to have a seamstress sew “Keep Fighting Nick” onto their sleeves. He chokes up when talking about cut man Stitch Duran giving up an endorsement opportunity so he could put Charles’s name on his outfit. He never tires of hearing shout-outs from fighters on television.

Charles has always been a people person with an inordinate faith in the goodness of his fellow man. Battling this illness has only made his already strong faith in humanity even stronger.

“Adversity is a great teacher, and it really teaches you who your genuine friends are,” said Charles. “I have a lot of friends.”

He also has a remarkable wife, Cory, a CNN producer to whom he has been married for 11 years. She is the daughter of an electrician, a self-made woman who exudes all of the warmth of her native Brooklyn. She has reinforced her husband’s spiritual base by her love, optimism and strength of character.

“If I get down, she reminds me to not get too caught up,” said Charles. “I believe in eternity, and that has put me pretty much at peace.”

More than anything else, Charles wants to get himself back behind a microphone sooner rather than later, and hopefully on Shobox. He is the first to admit that viewers “don’t watch the series to see Nick Charles,” but he is proud of the fact that he was “part of the identity” of such a popular show.

“And people love comeback stories,” added Charles. “That’s the message I’m getting from the people out there.”

In boxing the word “champion” is often overused because it pertains only to winning belts and receiving worldwide recognition for being the best at your craft. The reality is that life’s real champions have other qualities, such as the innate ability to treat people well and always make them feel better about themselves, especially when the recipients of the goodwill are in no position to give them anything back.

By that standard of measure, Charles is as much, if not more of a champion than all of the boxers he has covered during the nine years that Shobox has been on the air.

I know I speak for scores of others when I say, “Happy New Year, Champ. We hope that you are the comeback story of the year in 2010.”

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