- BOXING - State of women's boxing: Plenty to watch

Tuesday, June 3
State of women's boxing: Plenty to watch

Women's boxing took a giant step forward at the end of 2002 as the Big Four strapped female prizefighting on their backs and brought excitement to the sport dormant for so long.

And just who are the Big Four?

We're talking Laila Ali, Jacqui Frazier-Lyde, Mia St. John-Rosales and the durable Christy Martin, who almost single-handedly kept lady fisticuffs afloat for more than a decade. Furthermore, this quartet make the most money in the sport.

  • Ali (13-0), whose father Muhammad Ali was the Halley's comet of his generation, has sculpted herself into a first-class fighting machine that makes her the focal point for women's boxing. With her eye-popping beauty and much-improved boxing skills, the female boxing world only benefits from her image being plastered on TV commercials and billboards nationwide.

    The super middleweight world champion has three world title belts and is bent on obliterating the 168-pound competition before taking on Martin and Frazier-Lyde for the super jackpot.

    "I want to win all the titles in my division," said Ali after beating Valerie Mahfood. "I don't care who they put in front of me."

    Mia St. John and Christy Martin
    While Mia St. John wants to be an advocate for the sport, Christy Martin does not.

  • Frazier-Lyde (10-1) has also stepped up to the spotlight. Despite losing to Ali in a slugfest two years ago, the daughter of heavyweight great Smoking Joe Frazier has proved to be as tough as her dad. Her plans are similar to Ali and include a rematch with her that will surely demand more attention than the first, when both were considered fighters on the level of Celebrity Boxing, but no longer.

  • St. John-Rosales (26-2-1), another eye-catching beauty of boxing, surprised -- no shocked the world -- with a boxing exhibition that few knew she had in her. Against the "Coal Miner's Daughter," St. John-Rosales deftly circled and counter-circled the always dangerous Martin. Keenly aware of the power of the West Virginian, California's Mexican-American boxing queen proved she is no princess in the ring.

    "Emanuel Steward said I wouldn't last 30 seconds, that made me so mad," St. John-Rosales said. "In the middle of the fight I yelled in my corner to Emanuel that I lasted more than 30 seconds."

    The fact it had reached a decision was a shock to many and found Martin actually worried she might lose the fight. It was a predicament that she hadn't experienced in quite a while. But the judges overwhelmingly ruled her the winner. Some fans were not so sure.

    "Oh, she won, but not by much," said Ralph Lardizabal, owner of a Mexican cultural art store in Montebello, Calif., and avid follower. "Mia showed Christy that she wasn't just a pretty face."

    St. John-Rosales said Martin immediately asked for a rematch. Both fighters are considering a match sometime in May.

    "Christy definitely wants a rematch. We've been talking a lot but nothing has been finalized," said St. John-Rosales. "We are going to fight again, we just don't know when."

    Offers for fights with various ranked fighters have been bandied about, but the brunette fighter wants to assure that it's a lucrative fight. She had been thinking of retiring after the Martin fight, but her moral victory has forced her to reconsider.

    "I've been getting so many offers. If I can keep doing well then I may stay a little longer than I first thought," St. John-Rosales said.

  • Then of course there is Martin, who has pioneered the sport and made more money than any other woman fighter so far.

    "Everybody thinks it was easy, but I had to sacrifice a lot to get to this point," said Martin, who is considered by many the best female fighter in the world. "I don't see many good young fighters. A lot of them think it's going to be handed to them."

    Lucia and others

    Just below the Big Four is Lucia Rijker. Though most knowledgeable boxing fans consider her the best of all women prizefighters, to the average fan the Dutch import remains a mystery despite her undefeated record and being featured in a documentary film.

    Rijker has been chasing Martin the last several years but it seems the fight just can't be made. Rijker even tried entering the ring during Martin's fight with St. John-Rosales to entice a future fight. But for some reason it doesn't appear the fight will happen.

    Aside from the undefeated Rijker, 15-0, there are several other women fighters who are very talented but remain unknown to the average boxing fans. They include Sumya Anani, Laura Serrano and Ada Velez.

  • Anani, 21-1-1, for example, has beaten Martin and owns the WIBA and IBA junior welterweight belts. She's an aggressive fighter who welcomes a fight with any of the Big Four, but do any of them want to tangle with her? We'll see. Though fearless in the ring, it would be ill-advised for her to jump in with someone like Ali or Frazier-Lyde, who are powerful punchers and outweigh her by more than 20 pounds.

  • Serrano, 14-0-2, is a Mexican fighter who always has a sunny disposition. In her pro debut she was paired against the Coal Miner's Daughter. I guess she was supposed to lose but fashioned a draw. She has one other draw and remains undefeated. Fighting anywhere from 130 pounds to 142 pounds, Serrano is a boxer whose skills trouble all of her opponents.

    Best women's divisions
    Jacqui Frazier-Lyde
    It's not just Ali who follows in her famous father's footsteps, as Jacqui Frazier-Lyde shows.

    Right now the two best divisions are the junior welters and the junior bantamweights. With fighters like Martin, Rijker, Anani and others, the 140-pound division could be like its male counterparts. The problem is money. No one wants to put up a justifiable purse for a tournament of this talent-laden group.

    The 115-pound junior bantams, on the other hand, have been fighting each other, as seen at the tail end of last year when Bridgett "Baby Doll" Riley, Para Draine, Marilyn Salcido and Yvonne Gonzalez all paired up.

    Draine, a tall and gritty performer, emerged as the winner of the ultra-competitive tournament. But there are more junior bantamweights that are equally talented to wrest her title, such as Elena "Baby Doll" Reid and Lisa Brown.

    "I know I can win a title but it has to mean something for me," said Reid, who at press time was scheduled to fight veteran Linda Tenberg in Phoenix. "There are a lot of fights that I'd love to have, but I want it to mean something. I don't want to win a title and know one knows about it."

    Reid, 12-1-2, a southpaw, carries knockout power in her small frame and is trained by former world champion Cornelius Boza-Edwards. Together the pair have managed an impressive eight-fight winning streak but have their focus on a marquee fight, possibly against Riley or Salcido which could produce extreme fireworks.

    Riley, 14-3, a petite blonde from Missouri, has rebounded from her points loss to Draine and wowed a fight crowd in South Carolina with her penchant for unbridled fury inside the ring. With her ready smile and ultra competitive drive fostered during her career as a kickboxing champion, Riley loves to battle. But she also has quickness and skills that seldom are highlighted because of her lust for exchanges. She may not look like a warrior but it's exactly what she is.

    "I know I can do more inside the ring, but when I hear the crowd I just want give the crowd what it wants," said Riley, who works as a Hollywood stunt woman. "In my last fight I had such a good time. It allowed me to shake the rust from not fighting enough."

    A possible showdown against Reid or Salcido looms for Riley, who is a former world champion as a featherweight. She now trains at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, Calif., and is prepared by Freddie Roach's talented team.

    The future

    For several years it looked like women's boxing was eroding with few young fighters emerging. But the last two years saw a spike in talent and the amateurs look pretty impressive.

    In East Los Angeles a quartet of fighters from the same gym that produced Francisco "Panchito" Bojado have been winning tournaments with skill, precision and power. Led By Elizabeth Quevedo, a tall, brunette welterweight, the female fighters are gunning for the Olympics in hopes of their sport being included.

    "I want to fight in Greece," said Quevedo, who won numerous amateur titles within the last year. "If I doesn't happen then I will turn pro."

    There are others in Southern California who seem to be headed toward professional prizefighting such as Leanna Romero, Lillian Marquez, Lily Avetyan and Maia Kahaunaele.

    With all this talent coming from California alone, it's certain that the rest of the country is producing its share of talent. Look out.


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    Historical Events in Women's Boxing

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