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Terri “The Boss” Moss on How to Build a Boxing Life

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“I was meant to be a champion when I walked into Doc Keppner’s gym. I just didn’t know it.”—Terri Moss

There is a cost to living a life in boxing. You can’t be great and be a part-timer. The sport simply asks too much of you in terms of time and commitment. You have to be willing to pay the cost, a fact Terri “The Boss” Moss knows all too well.

Moss probably shouldn’t be here. That’s something she might just tell you herself. Where is here? It’s the Buckhead Fightclub Gym in Atlanta, GA. How she got there was anything but an ordinary route.

Terri was a 34-year-old narcotics investigator when she got bitten by the bug. On a lark, Terri went with a friend to check out a boxing lesson on the way to an aerobics class and I guess you could say she never really left. Despite having no boxing experience whatsoever, Terri had found her passion. She was such a novice that even getting through three minutes with a heavy bag was a test.

“It took a lot of courage and maybe just some insanity to walk away like that.”

Making the decision to leave law enforcement was not an easy one. Between going to school part time to gain a bachelor’s degree and working as an investigator, time was already tight. Not to mention that Terri was facing legal age requirements for certain jobs she was interested in. After discovering boxing, Terri felt she had lost “that push” to beat the clock for her career goals in law enforcement. So of course, she did the sensible thing and left behind the stability of her position to enter into the not all that lucrative endeavor of near middle-aged pugilism. I suppose a regular person might question the wisdom of that choice, but as you may have guessed, Terri Moss is not regular

Due to suffering from Hepatitis C, Terri wasn’t even able to get into the ring right away. However, she indulged her boxing jones by working with Doc Keppner and becoming a cut “man” and the 2nd in the corner for male boxers. Being a woman in a man’s corner was a true rarity, but Terri found little resistance from the fighters. In fact, many took pleasure in the novelty.

“As soon as I’m off this, I’ll be cured. I can fight.”

While Terri soon proved herself to be first rate in a supporting role, she still wanted to become a fighter herself. That’s when Terri learned of interferon therapy, which is a painful and difficult remedy for Hepatitis C that can “in rare circumstances” eradicate the affliction from the host’s body. Once Terri learned this could perhaps cure her of her condition, she jumped into the treatment without much reflection. If it worked, she could box. There was little else to consider.

As good fortune would have it, the therapy did work. Terri was cured–no longer potentially infectious–and therefore able to fight. She was in the ring five days later. With no amateur background, only three sparring sessions to her credit, and at the grand age of 36, you might think Terri would have started slow and attempt to find fighters on her level. Instead, Terri’s first three fights were against WIBA Intercontinental Champion Wendy Sprowl, future IFBA & WIBA World Champion, Maribel Zurita, and #1 ranked contender, Patricia Martinez. A veritable murderer’s row for even an experienced fighter, an even more brutal gauntlet for a novice. As Terri put it, “You would think an average human would be smarter than that.” Not surprisingly, she lost all three fights. In fact, after her first fight with Sprowl, Terri thought she would never go back into the ring. That lasted a week.

“The hard ride didn’t scare me.”

Terri knew if she wanted to be more competitive she would have to step up her training, which led her to the gym of Xavier Biggs (the brother of former Olympic Super Heavyweight Gold Medalist, Tyrell Biggs). With Biggs, Moss learned she was a boxer-puncher and began to put to use her natural athleticism and timing with a true game plan for the first time.

The results were immediate. An upset victory over #1 ranked minimumweight contender Nina Ahlin served notice. The result of her hard work and dedication culminated with a victory over WIBF Strawweight Champion Stephanie Dobbs, in September of 2007. At the time, Moss was 41 years old, 13 years the senior of her opponent. As she told me, “I wish I could have been sponsored by AARP.” Her victory entered her into the record books as the oldest female world champion in boxing history.

“I never had any idea people weren’t going to see it my way.”

While Moss wanted to continue fighting, her age, trainer indifference, and the general difficulty of booking women’s matches worked against her. With all these challenges and frustrations road-blocking her career in the ring, Terri decided to continue her boxing career outside of it. Terri found herself “in mourning for three years”, but she always knew her time as a fighter would be short. That did not mean she could not have a boxing life. So she set about doing just that, this time as a trainer, a promoter and eventually, the owner operator of her own spot.

She first began training women to fight out of Xavier’s Decatur, GA gym. While there were not many women to work with early on, and Biggs was a bit old-fashioned about her training men, it did provide a start. It kept her in the game and helped her sharpen her skills as a trainer and grow her contacts as a fledgling businesswoman. Eventually, Terri would have to leave out from under Xavier’s wing and make her own path.

“I have never failed yet.”

Terri’s first major success was her creation of ‘Corporate Fight Night’ in Atlanta. The novel idea pits amateur boxers from the business community against each other. The inaugural Corporate Fight Night was held in 2010 on a shoestring budget. An instant success, the white collar charity has gone on to become a regular event and has delivered thousands of dollars to multiple beneficiaries, including Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Wounded Warrior Project. Corporate Fight Night 9 will be held on February 19 and includes the participation of Evan Holyfield, Evander’s son. With the continued success of the event, Terri says the next step is “to take it national.” I would not bet against her.

Beyond Corporate Fight Night, Terri’s benevolence extends into other areas as well. She serves as the chairman for the Champions of Dignity Association (CODA), which funds the Retired Boxer’s Foundation (RBF). A true passion for Terri, the RBF assists boxers who may be suffering from physical, mental, and financial struggles after their ring career ends. Terri pointed out, “Greyhound dogs in the country have a retirement program, but professional prize fighters don’t.” One of the surprising challenges Terri lamented over that affects her work with the RBF is the lack of participation from former fighters. She believes that too many want to have their own foundation, which dilutes the overall ability to get assistance to retired boxers in need.

Terri is also a coordinator for the Women’s International Boxing Federation and the Global Boxing Union, where she helps sanction and supervise title fights for both men and women.

“It’s a ballsy way to do business.”

Ever ambitious, Terri has been training fighters since 2004, and nine years later, she opened her own gym in Atlanta–The Buckhead Fight Club. A nearly 15,000 square foot facility, Terri’s gym caters to both men and women fighters and is one of the very few female owned and operated boxing gyms in the nation. Terri’s career as a fighter had not been lucrative. In fact, it cost Terri money to box. As well, she had limited hours she could train other fighters in Xavier’s gym and she was only training women at the time, so that lessened her potential to grow a client stable. She was maxing out at a low level, so her earning potential was very weak while operating under the roof of another. I asked Terri how she found financing for the gym and in typical Boss fashion, she replied, “Where’s the lease? Let’s sign it, we’ll get the money.”

Late last year, Terri received an unexpected phone call. Along with seven other women (including Laila Ali and Ann Wolfe), Terri learned she would be inducted into the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame this July. Terri told me while she is “thrilled and humbled”, when she picked up the phone, she thought “they had called the wrong number.” While Terri’s achievements are numerous, she finds them modest. I suspect she’s been too busy blazing her trail to take inventory of her accomplishments.

Also, Terri and her Buckhead Fight Club will be the subject of a documentary to be released later this month called “Boxing Chicks.” The film follows Terri and a select group of female fighters from her gym as they attempt to make their mark in the sport. “Well behaved women rarely make history” says Buckhead fighter Jackie Breitenstein in the trailer. Something tells me she knows from whence she speaks. I also suspect she’s seen that in the actions of her “Boss.” Directed by Frederick Taylor of Tomorrow Pictures, Boxing Chicks has been making the rounds at festivals and is looking at a multi-platform release (theater and VOD).

The main thing that has changed the game is the Olympic process.”

I asked Terri where she thought women’s boxing is right now. She pointed out that those who think it’s a dying sport are wrong. While she admitted the novelty has worn off from the early years, the depth of talent has steadily—if quietly—increased since the days of Christy Martin and Bonnie Canino. While Terri states “there are great pro fighters”, she feels the growth of women’s amateur boxing is setting the sport up for long term success. One of the knocks on women’s boxing has been the low quality of the fights, particularly in the earlier years. There just weren’t enough good fighters to make quality match ups on a consistent basis.

In 2012, the Olympic Committee introduced women’s boxing to the London games, effectively legitimizing the sport in a way the first women fighters could have only dreamed. If anything, the United States is behind other countries like Mexico, Argentina and many parts of Europe where women headline fights and fill 30,000 seat arenas. Terri believes the key is to get the women’s fights on television and then create a star. To that end, Terri even has someone in mind, recent Olympic champion from Ireland, Katie Taylor. A dynamic and wildly popular fighter back home with charisma and skill to spare, Taylor could be the “Ronda Rousey” the sport needs to break through. When Freddie Roach saw Taylor fight in the 2012 games, he said he had never seen an arena “on fire” the way he did when Taylor did her ring walk, let alone when she entered the squared circle. Terri believes this “is just an example of what’s to come.”

Of course, Terri is doing her part to make that happen. Coming up in April, in conjunction with USA Boxing, Terri will be hosting a round robin tournament with female Olympic fighters from the USA and other countries in Atlanta. Five countries will be participating over four days of boxing. There has never been a women’s tournament on that level held in the United States. All stops will be pulled out. That’s the Terri Moss way.

“A champion never thinks they are going to lose.”

Terri Moss has made a boxing life for herself. She has done it the hard way. Not one step would you call “easy.” She started late, overcame prejudice, health issues, her opponents in and out of the ring. By going to a place almost no one believed she had any business going, she ended up right where she’s supposed to be. Terri told me she “has always been up against the clock.” People say Father Time is undefeated. I suppose that’s true, but right now, he’s up against Terri “The Boss” Moss, and he’s behind on points.

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A Conversation with Legendary Phoenix Boxing Writer Norm Frauenheim

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It seems all along that Norm Frauenheim was destined to become a boxing writer.

Two critical elements were at play that led the 75-year-old scribe to that profession.

“I was always interested in boxing, even as a kid,” said Frauenheim who spent 31 years with the Arizona Republic beginning in 1977. “I’m an Army brat. I was born in January 1949 on a base, Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, a city I didn’t really see until I hit the NBA road covering the [Phoenix] Suns for more than a decade starting in 1979-80.”

Frauenheim, a longtime correspondent for The Ring magazine who writes for various boxing sites such as boxingscene.com and 15rounds.com, added more background: “One of the many places I lived was Schofield Barracks on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu from 1962 to 1966,” he continued. “I delivered The Stars & Stripes to troops with the 25th Infantry Division, which was headed to Vietnam, along with my dad.

“Anyway, boxing and Schofield have long been linked, mostly because of a novel and film, ‘From Here to Eternity’ (the James Jones novel starring Frank Sinatra on the big screen). The troops were still boxing, outdoors, at the barracks along my newspaper route. I was 13 to 17 years old. I’d stop, watch and get interested. I’ve been interested ever since.”

Frauenheim added: “From there, my father and family shipped to Fort Sheridan, then a base north of Chicago where I spent one year and graduated from high school. Then my dad went back to Vietnam and I went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville (1967 through 1971) and graduated with a major in history. I was also a competitive swimmer, pre-Title IX.

“Competitive swimming is also at the roots of my sportswriting career. I was frustrated that Vanderbilt’s student newspaper didn’t cover us. I offered to do it. The newspaper agreed. I don’t swim as well as I used to. I look at a surfboard and look at the waves I used to take on and wondered what in the hell I was doing. It’s a lot safer to be at ringside.”

After a more than five-decade stint covering boxing, Frauenheim is glad that the manly sport is still around but with more outside competition.

“It’s surely not the [Muhammad] Ali era. It’s not the Golden 80s, either. It’s a fractured business in a world with more and more options for sports fans. MMA is just one example,” he said. “Boxing is not dying. It has been declared dead, ad nauseam. I read the inevitable obits and think of an old line: Boxing has climbed out of more coffins than Count Dracula.

“Still, the sport has been pushed to the fringe of public interest. But it’s been there before. Resiliency is one of its strongest qualities. It’ll be around, always reinventing itself.”

In some respects, boxing, like the other sports, has always been dependent on rivalries like the NBA’s Celtics versus Lakers, which drives the public’s interest and storylines.

“[Larry] Bird-Magic [Johnson] was basketball’s Ali-[Joe] Frazier,” Frauenheim says. “It transformed the league, setting the stage for Michael Jordan. It can happen again, in boxing or any other sport.”

Boxing is still the same but with tweaks here and there.

“When I started, championship bouts were 15 rounds instead of 12,” said Frauenheim who began his journalism career in 1970 at the Tallahassee Democrat and worked at the Jacksonville Journal before being lured in Phoenix. “There were morning weigh-ins instead of the day-before promotional show. There was also a lot more media. A big fight in Vegas meant all of the big media people were there. The last time that happened was Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2015, a fight that failed to meet expectations and I think eroded much of the big media’s appetite for more,” continued Frauenheim whose byline has appeared in USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times.

Mexican legend Saul Alvarez is still a major draw, but there are others on the horizon who are ready to step in and take over like the undefeated super middleweight David Benavidez.

“The clock is ticking on Canelo’s career, and I think he knows it. At this point, it’s about risk-reward. The 27-year-old Benavidez is too big a risk. Canelo, I think, looks at Benavidez and thinks he’ll beat him. I don’t think he would,” Frauenheim noted. “Benavidez is too big, has a mean streak and possesses a rare extra gear. He gets stronger in the late rounds.

“Even if Canelo wins, there’s a pretty good chance that Benavidez hurts him. There’s still a chance Canelo-Benavidez happens. But I think it’ll take some Saudi [Arabian] money.”

Boxers stand alone in the ring, literally and figuratively, but have a small supporting crew.

This makes them unique compared to baseball, football, basketball and hockey.

“Boxers are different from any other athlete I’ve ever covered. It’s why, I guess, boxing has been called a writer’s sport. There are plenty of NFL and NBA players who have grown up on the so-called mean streets,” Frauenheim said. “But they have teammates. They don’t make that long, lonely walk from the dressing room to the ring.”

Stripped naked, boxers are an open book, according to Frauenheim.

“They can be hard to deal with while training and cutting weight. But after a fight, no athlete in my experience is more forthcoming,” he said. “Win or lose, they just walked through harm’s way in front of people. In my experience, that’s when they want to talk.”

Selecting a career highlight or highlights isn’t easy for Frauenheim, but he tried.

“There are so many. I was there for the great Sugar Ray Leonard victory over Thomas Hearns [1981], a welterweight classic,” he recalled. “A personal favorite was Michael Carbajal’s comeback from two knockdowns for a KO of Humberto Gonzalez in 1993, perhaps the best fight in the history of the lightest weight class. I was also there for the crazy, including Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield’s “Bite Fight” and the “Fan Man” landing in the ring like the 82nd Airborne Division midway through a Riddick Bowe-Holyfield fight behind Vegas’ Caesars Palace.”

Three boxers set the tone and backdrop for Frauenheim’s illustrious tenure as a writer.

“Roberto Duran is the greatest lightweight ever. His lifestyle sometimes got the best of him. That was evident in his infamous ‘No Mas’ welterweight loss to Sugar Ray Leonard in New Orleans,” he said of that November 1980 bout. “He told me that he took the rematch, on short notice, because of the money. “Women-women-women, eating-eating-eating, drinking-drinking-drinking,” he told me in an interview of what he had been doing before Leonard’s people approached him for an immediate rematch of his Montreal victory. But take a look at Duran’s victory in Montreal [June 1980]. Watch it again. On that night, there’s never been a better fighter than Duran.”

Frauenheim added another titan to that short list: “Leonard, who is the last real Sugar,” he said, and ended with the only eight-weight division king. “Manny Pacquiao, an amazing story about a starving kid off impoverished Filipino streets. He was a terrific fighter, blessed with speed, power and instinct. Add to that a shy personality unchanged by all the money and celebrity. He is an example of what can still happen in boxing. He’s the face of the game’s resiliency.”

That’s quite a trio, and they’re the best of the best that Frauenheim’s seen and covered from ringside.

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Aaron McKenna and Kieron Conway Victorious in Osaka

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Aaron McKenna scored a 10th-round stoppage of Jeovanny Estela today (Monday, July 15) in Osaka, Japan. The bout was one of four scheduled 10-rounders in the middleweight division in a revamped Prizefighter Tournament with a $1,000,000 prize at stake for the winner.

One of two fighting brothers from the little town of Smithborough in County Monaghan, Ireland, the undefeated (19-0, 10 KOs) McKenna (pictured) was well ahead on the scorecards when the referee stepped in and halted the match at the 2:02 mark of the final round. He entered the ring a 4/1 favorite over Estela (14-1), a 23-year-old Floridian of Puerto Rican descent who began his pro career at 147.

McKenna’s opponent in the next round (at a date and place to be determined) will be England’s Kieron Conway (21-3-1, 6 KOs) who scored a seventh-round stoppage over China’s obscure Ainiwaer Yilixati (19-2). All three of Conway’s losses were to opponents who were undefeated when he fought them with two of those setbacks occurring on Canelo Alvarez undercards.

Two Japanese fighters – Riku Kunimoto and Kazuto Takesako – were victorious in the other bouts and will meet in the semifinals.

Local fan favorite Kunimoto, recognized as the middleweight champion of Japan, advanced to 12-1 (6 KOs) with a fifth-round stoppage of countryman Eiki Kani (8-5-3). This was a rematch. The two fought earlier this year in Nagoya with Kunimoto registering a fifth-round TKO.

Takesako (17-2-1, 15 KOs) registered the lone upset on the card with a hard-earned decision over England’s Mark Dickinson. It was the first pro loss for Dickinson who had only six pro fights under his belt but was a highly decorated amateur. The scores were 98-92, 97-93, and 95-94.

The next fight for Kunimoto will be another rematch. Takesako saddled him with his lone defeat, knocking him out in the first round at Tokyo’s venerable Korakuen Hall in May of 2021.

The tournament, co-sponsored by Matchroom and televised on DAZN, offers an aggregate $100,000 per event for knockouts. McKenna, Conway, and Kunimoto scooped up $25,000 apiece.

Aaron McKenna, his brother Stephen, and their father/trainer Feargal McKenna were the subjects of a story that ran on these pages. Stephen McKenna (14-0, 13 KOs) returns to the ring next month against 14-2 Joe Laws on a BOXXER promotion that will air on Sky Sports in the UK.

Aaron McKenna entered the Prizefighter Tourney as the pre-fight favorite and Matchroom honcho Eddie Hearn has indicated that he will be in line for a world title shot if he wins his next two matches.

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Results and Recaps from Philly where ‘Boots’ Ennis Stomped Out David Avanesyan

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PHILADELPHIA, PA — On what Matchroom Boxing Promotions called the most important night in Philadelphia boxing in over 40 years, Jaron “Boots” Ennis (32-0, 29 KOs), the current IBF welterweight champion from the city of Brotherly Love, attracted a larger-than-expected crowd of 14,119 to the Wells Fargo Center where he stopped David Avanesyan who was pulled out after five rounds. In Avanesyan (30-5-1, 18 KOs), Ennis looked to impress on two fronts, both commercially and critically.

It didn’t take long for there to be some excitement after Ennis landed a clean jab that caused Avanesyan to stagger momentarily. Ennis turned southpaw and the action stopped after Ennis landed a low blow. Rounds two and three saw both fighters decide to fight on the inside. Ennis was able to land crisp upper cuts while only getting hit with a few shots in exchange. After four rounds, the evidence was clear that Avanesyan was getting hit with clean shots as his face started to get busted up. Avanesyan had a moment when he landed a right hand that got the attention of the crowd and Ennis.

In return, Ennis continued to press forward, this time behind a straight left and combinations. A huge overhand left floored Avanesyan who rose to his feet. Round five ended with Ennis landing some clean power shots that had Avanesyan looking deflated. The ringside physician called an end to the fight after the conclusion of round five.

After the fight, Ennis agreed that he would love the opportunity to fight Terence Crawford if Crawford were to win next month, this despite not having the type of performance that he would have loved to have had after having a year-long lay-off. Eddie Hearn mentioned that he would love to have Ennis return to Philadelphia sometime in October or November if the Crawford fight can’t be made in a possible unification fight.

Other Bouts

After three pedestrian rounds, what sounded like it would be a grudge match between Jahlil Hackett (9-0, 7 KOs) and Pete Dobson (16-2) finally turned into a fight in the fourth. With both fighters finally warming up, Hackett used his jab to continue to work his way inside to land power combinations. Dobson was forced to back up into the ropes and take shots after a large lump formed on his forehead above his left eye.

The action settled down after the sixth round with Hackett taking total control. He continued to work behind an educated jab that stunted any offensive attack that Dobson tried to muster. After all ten rounds, two of the judges saw the fight 97-93, while the third had it 96-94 all in favor of Jahlil Hackett.

Skye Nicolson (11-0, 1 KO), the 2020 Tokyo Olympian and current WBC featherweight champion, utilized her skills in every way to defeat Dayan Vargas (18-2, 12 KOs). All three judges scored the fight 100-90 after Nicolson completed the shutout in dominating fashion through her command of range with a sharp jab and lateral movement. Moving forward unification fights and a possible move up in weight may force Nicolson to face the type of opposition that could make for more entertaining fights in the future.

Light heavyweight action kicked off the main portion of the DAZN telecast. Jersey City native Khalil Coe (9-0-1, 7 KOs) made short work of Kwame Ritter (11-2). After an uneventful first round, Coe started to close the distance to start the second round and as a result he landed a hard straight right that hurt Ritter. A left hook dropped Ritter and he fell backwards into the ropes. When he got up, Coe was able to swarm him with hard shots and the referee called a halt to the action with just one second remaining in the second round.

Former world title challenger Christopher “Pitufu” Diaz (29-4, 19 KOs) made quick work of the game but clearly overmatched Derlyn Hernandez (12-2-1). A short-left hook hurt Hernandez and the seasoned Diaz took his time applying the follow-up pressure that forced the referee to wave off the action at the 2:36 mark of the second round. Diaz stated prior to this comeback fight that he’s looking for one more run towards a world title.

Christian Carto (23-1, 17 KO’s) looked impressive in three rounds of action against Carlos Buitrago (38-14, 22 KOs). Both fighters were happy to exchange from the opening bell. Carto took the punches he was hit with well and was able to return fire with combinations that caught and dropped Buitrago to start round three. A series of well-placed power combinations hurt Buitrago as the round came to an end, which prompted the referee to stop the bout at the end of the round.

A pair of Boots Promotions fighters kicked off the night with entertaining bouts:

It took all six rounds to decide the Ismail Muhammad (5-0, 1 KOs) Frank Brown (3-5-2) fight. Brown pressed the action early and caught the cold Muhammad in an exchange knocking him down for the first time in his career. Muhammad rose to his feet and proceeded to work the gameplan to get himself back into the fight. Muhammad scored his own knockdown in the fourth round and finished the fight strong to earn the unanimous decision victory by scores of 58-54 twice and 57-55.

Dennis Thompson (1-0) won his professional debut at bantamweight with a unanimous decision over the game Fernando Valdez (1-8).

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