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Boxing News, March 30, 2007

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Women On The March
Female Title Unification Battle Impresses



No matter where you come down on women’s boxing (and I confess to not being its greatest advocate), you have to admit they’ve come a long way. A triple-header aired on Fox Sport Net from Isleta Casino in Albuquerque, NM, was a case in point; the evolution the so-called gentler sex was on full display.

The 10-round main event featured polar opposites in a welterweight unification bout. Hometown hero Holly “Hottie” Holm is as her moniker states; a statuesque blond with a figure worthy of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue. But unlike some of her comely predecessors, she knows her way around the ring, is technically sound, and has beaten names like Christy Martin and Mia St. John. 16-1-2 (5) going in, she’d won her last nine.

Her foil, Ann Saccurato of White Plains, NY, is decidedly butch. Her short black hair with frosted tips is spiked and her bread shoulders and back are adorned with tattoos. She snarls at her opponents and wears a Sonny Liston scowl—she looks like the last cellmate you’d want in a super max. (By all accounts, she’s a sweetheart away from the ring.) Her unruly exterior belies her discipline and dedication to craft. She’s much better than the 12-1-2 (5) record she brought with her.     

Holm, a southpaw, prefers to box at long range. She throws fast straight punches and, like Manny Pacquiao, primarily works a basic one-two. Saccurato bends her knees and swarms with effective pressure. Unlike many male pros, she is on balance and cuts off the ring well. Although her punchers are more bowed than Holm’s, her esteemed trainer Hector Roca—or whoever gave her her foundation—did a good job.

She isn’t above fighting dirty, though. She held and hit throughout the bout and received multiple warnings but never had points taken. Her favorite maneuver was to grab the back of Holm’s head and drill her with uppercuts.

Although Saccurato was in her element on the inside, Holm often spun out of danger, clinched, or just kept her hands busy, when she was getting mugged. Saccurato landed her best punch of the night—a straight right—in the fifth, which forced Holm to hold until her head cleared.  She should a strong will, getting back on her stick and never standing still for her opponent for the remainder of the rounds.

I thought the fight was up for grabs as late as the eighth, and was thoroughly impressed but both fighters’ conditioning.  They fought two-minute rounds but no doubt could handle three.

The judges didn’t have the fight as close as I had it. Scores were 98-91 twice and 97-92 all for Holm by UD. Regardless, the gifted hometown woman had been in a fight. Saccurato will be a tough outing for anyone.

I’m not sure if featherweight champ Kelsey “Road Warrior” Jeffries would take this as the intended compliment that it is, but she fights like a M-A-N. And she does a lot of things many male pros don’t do. She’s always on balance, never crosses her feet, keeps her chin down, her elbows tucked and her hands high. She slips punches fluidly and sometimes opts to block shots and in one motion come over the top with one of her own. She’s a pleasure to watch. I’d imagine her celebrated trainer, Buddy McGirt, agrees. 

At 36-9-1 (3) going in, one would think Jeffries way too experienced for Rhonda Luna, 12—0-1 (1).  But Luna gave a good account of herself and was in the fight for the 10-round duration.  One judge had her winning 96-94, the other two had it for 96-94 and 97-93 for Jeffries.

While she lacks terrific power (frankly, most female pros seem to), Jeffries uncorked at will a gorgeous overhand right that recalled the great Zaragoza. A succession of those that caught Luna on the forehead created a grotesque swelling by the fifth. Readers may recall the alien that formed on Hasim Rahman’s head when he fought Evander Holyfield…if the two ever hooked up in that condition, they could make a flick called Invaders From Mars without makeup.

I expected the fight to be stopped, but it never happened. Luna deserves much credit for never letting the horrible swelling separate her from her goal.

In an anticipated rematch of super bantams, Lisa “Bad News” Brown once again beat New Mexico’s Jackie Chavez by UD 10.




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