Posts Tagged ‘Lucia Rijker

02
Jan
17

Women’s Boxing Circa 2017

Women’s Boxing Circa 2017

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Amanda Serrano defending title against Calixita Silgado, July 30, 2016. Photo Credit: Behind The Gloves

While women’s boxing has been around since “modern” boxing began in the 1720s, its place in American sports consciousness began with a trickle in the 1950s and grew to a steady flow by the late 1990s before petering back in the late 2000s.

Boxer Christy Martin’s bout against Irish fighter Deirdre Gogarty on the undercard of a Mike Tyson pay-per-view championship in 1996, put women’s boxing on the “map.” Not two weeks later Martin was on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine in her characteristic pink boxing attire, and for the likes of boxing impresarios Don King and Bob Arum, it was a race to find other female fighters to add to the undercard of boxing bouts.

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Such fighters as Lucia Rijker and Mia St. John, while not household names by any means, were becoming known in the boxing community—and even sported decent pay days that could be numbered in the thousands rather than the hundreds. At the same time, women’s boxing became a sanctioned amateur sport leading to the development of a national team in the late 1990s. The beginnings of international amateur competition began in 2001 coinciding with the legalization of the sport in countries across the world.

In the United States, the entry of Mohammad Ali’s daughter Leila Ali along with other boxing “daughters” such as Jacqui Frazier-Lyde, thrust the sport into the realm of popular culture including covers of TV Guide and a myriad of talk show appearances. With Leila Ali’s ascendency, however, other American female boxers of the period such as Ann Wolfe, Belinda Laracuente, and Layla McCarter, could not find traction on pay-per-view cards or on cable, despite excellent boxing skills (frankly much better than Ali’s) and by 2010, it was hard if not impossible to find female boxing on American television.

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At the same time, internationally at least, women’s boxing was in an ascendency in such places as Mexico, Argentina, South Korea, and Japan, not only with opportunities for decent fights, but reasonable paydays, and most importantly, fights which were broadcast on television—and continue to be to this day, with female bouts routinely marketed as the “main event.”

International amateur women’s boxing was also on the ascendency culminating in the inclusion of women’s boxing as an Olympic sport in the 2012 Games in London. For such European fighters as Ireland’s Katie Taylor and England’s Nicola Adams, winning gold medals became very important national achievements leading to endorsements and other opportunities, not the least of which was recognition of their place in history and as role models for younger women and girls. For America’s boxing phenomenon, Claressa Shields, who at 17 was the first American female to ever win a gold medal for boxing, the usual promise of Olympic gold endorsements never appeared, and any sense that the inclusion of women’s boxing in the Olympics would perhaps enable a resurgence of the sport in the United States did not materialize. The other American female medalist who won a bronze in the 2012 Games, Marlen Esparza, had slightly better luck in winning endorsements, with adds for Coca Cola and Cover Girl, and a certain amount of traction in the Hispanic community, but otherwise, her Bronze had little effect on the sport as a whole.

In fact, women’s professional boxing has remained virtually absent from the airways in the United States with very, very few exceptions over the past eight years—and in fact, with respect to national exposure, i.e., network television or nationally televised cable boxing programs (ESPN, et al), such instances can be counted on one hand between 2012 and 2016.

The exceptions have been certain local fight cards such as New York City-based promoter DiBella Entertainment’s Broadway Boxing series, which have promoted and televised female bouts on local cable television channels. The same was true of a few of boxing champion Holly Holm’s fights in her local New Mexico market.

Some women’s bouts are also available live from time to time on US or internationally based internet pay channels at anywhere from $10 to $50 a pop. Otherwise, the only other means of watching female bouts has been on YouTube and other video services, where promoters may upload fights days after the bout. Viewers have also come to rely on uploads from fans that record all or some portions of female bouts. The clips are uploaded to social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram and now Facebook Live, in addition to YouTube, Vimeo, et al. Additionally, it is possible to watch international female professional boxing bouts via satellite television. International amateur female boxing tournaments are also available on occasion for website viewing, and certainly women’s boxing in the 2012 and 2016 games were available on the NBC Sports website, albeit, after much searching.

Three of the handful of professional female bouts broadcast since the 2012 London Games included, boxing champion Amanda “The Real Deal” Serrano’s six-round bout which was televised on a CBS Sports boxing program on May 29, 2015, boxer Maureen “The Real Million Dollar Baby” Shea’s pay-per-view title bout on a Shane Mosley fight card broadcast in August 29, 2015, and the last nationally broadcast women’s bout on NBCSN, which pitted two highly popular local North East fighters Heather “The Heat” Hardy and Shelley “Shelito’s Way” Vincent for the vacant WBC international female featherweight title on August 21, 2016. This latter fight was the first female bout to be broadcast under the new upstart Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) promotion arm that has brought boxing back to broadcast television on NBC and CBS, as well as broadcasting on cable television outlets including Spike TV, NBCSN, and ESPN.

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Heather Hardy (R) defeated Shelito Vincent by MD in their ten round slug fest on August 21, 2016. Photo Credit: Ed Diller, DiBella Entertainment

Four months on from the PBC broadcast, with a second Olympic cycle resulting in Claressa Shields winning her second back-to-back gold medal at the 2016 Rio Games – the first American boxer, male or female to have won that distinction – the status of women’s boxing in the United States is at a crossroads of sorts.

Since 2012, mixed-martial arts (MMA) have made significant inroads across platforms on cable, broadcast and internet-based telecasts. Moreover, this increase in visibility has come at the detriment of boxing—with more and more advertising dollars being thrown towards MMA contests. Of significance, however, has been the increasing popularity of women’s MMA (WMMA)—especially since UFC, the premier MMA league added female MMA fighters to their roster. Beginning on February 23, 2013 (UFC157), UFC began broadcasting WMMA bouts.

With the announcer declaring it a “gigantic cultural moment,” Ronda Rousey, a former bronze winning Olympian in Judo, and the Strikeforce* bantamweight WMMA champion, easily defeated her opponent Liz Carmouche with a classic “arm bar” move and in so doing, established a new first for women’s martial sports. Rousey went on to capture the imagination of country with her girl-next-door looks, winning ways, and eventual appearance in films such as The Expendables 3 and Furious 7. This catapult of a female warrior in gloves (albeit not boxing gloves) to include being only the second female fighter to ever appear on the cover of Ring Magazine (to much consternation by the boxing community), did not, however, have any particular visible effect on the fortunes of female boxing, per se,

Her first loss, however, in UFC 193 on November 15, 2015, was to a female boxer turned MMA fighter, Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm. A highly experienced female boxing champion, Holm’s boxing career of (33-3-2, 9-KOs) while very impressive, never led to the kind of breakout name recognition or big dollar paydays that should have been her due, given her talents, and caliber of many of her opponents including bouts with such boxing royalty as Christy Martin and Mia St. John (albeit later in their careers), British boxing star Jane Couch who single-handedly created women’s boxing in England, and the truly fearsome French fighter, Anne Sophie Mathis. Ensconced in her hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Holm enjoyed a loyal following and excellent local coverage, and while she was a known quantity in the boxing community; it was only with her forays into MMA that she was able to break through to a larger audience and a chance at bigger paydays and television exposure.

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The irony of a Rousy’s loss to a boxer was not lost on the boxing community (nor has the fact that Rousey’s recent loss in UFC207 was due to her inability to defend against her opponents unrelenting boxing “strikes”). A growing number of boxing writers who have also begun to champion the place of women in the sport with such features as Ring Magazine‘s monthly feature by Thomas Gerbasi.

November 2016 brought a flurry of attention to women’s boxing. Claressa Shields appearance on the November 19th Sergey Kovalev-Andre Ward fighting a four-rounder against former foe and USA National champion in the amateurs, Franchon Crews not only ended in a unanimous win on the cards, but the chance to see the fight live as a free streaming event. Shields has been quoted as saying, “It’s definitely a big deal, and it’s a big deal for women’s boxing, period …We really wanted a fight where we could put on a show.”

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Claressa Shields delivering a straight right to Franchon Crews in their four round professional debut on November 19, 2016. Photo Credit: AP Photo/John Locher

Boxing writers and Shields herself have asked if this will be the launch point for women’s boxing—and with Claressa Shields recent appearance on the cover of Ring Magazine in celebration of her remarkable back-to-back Olympic gold medal appearances, she is certainly an important figure to be reckoned with as 2017 looms—not to mention her 77-1 boxing record in the amateurs.

Ireland’s Katie Taylor also be turned professional in England in early December, and quickly racked up to back-to-back wins with the second one also broadcast live on Showtime’s streaming online service.

Additionally, in late November, Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President at Showtime stated they intended to include female boxing on the network in 2017—a first since 2009. Espinoza has been flirting with the idea of putting a female bout back on the air for the last couple of years—and has paid keen interest in the success of DiBella Entertainment’s local fight cards that have included such female fighters as Amanda Serrano, Heather Hardy, and Shelito Vincent.

In an interview with The Sweet Science, Espinoza is quoted as saying; “It’s been on our to-do list for a couple of years. It’s really at its capacity. But we made a decision we are going to prioritize it.”

The first event is slated to be a WBO women’s world super bantamweight championship with the remarkably talented Amanda “The Real Deal” Serrano (30-1-1) set to fight Yazmin Rivas (35-9-1) in what promises to be a hard fought bout between two technically proficient warriors.

AIBAs (the world international amateur boxing association) rules change just this past week may be the most far-reaching. All women’s amateur elite bouts will now be contested with in three rounds of three minutes each. The parity of the rounds and number of minutes per round is a first in the amateur world—and while elite men will still contest without helmets, there is further discussion of this otherwise controversial rules change that took effect before the Olympics in 2016.

With respect to the number of minutes per round—the normalization of the three-minute round will, in my estimation put pressure on the pros to accept this change, especially as amateurs with experience in the changed format turn professional. Given that in MMA men and women contest using the name number of rounds and same number of minutes per round, there will certainly be more impetus to push through three minute boxing rounds for women. Some states allow this already—such as New York State, but there has been reluctance to push for fights using three rounds based on the perception that women will want more money. Given the pay equity issues that already exist, there may be somewhat of a case to be made, however, with the push to three minutes, that last claim of women’s boxing being “less” than men’s because of the number of minutes in a round will be pushed aside once and for all.

Showtime’s potential entry into broadcasting female boxing along with signs that boxing sanctioning organizations are beginning to put resources into the sport led by the World Boxing Council which has now held two consecutive WBC conventions devoted solely to women’s boxing may help further propel the sport back into a more prominent place in the United States—and in place such as the United Kingdom.

Time will tell whether this actually happens, but as always, I remain hopeful!

 

*Strikeforce was an MMA and kickboxing league operating out of California from 1985-2013. WMMA practitioners such as Mischa Tate and Ronda Rousey were important champions and helped prove the case for televising female MMA bouts. They were particularly popular draws on Showtime. Strikeforce was bought out in 2011 by Dana White and its roster eventually folded into UFC.

 

 

11
Apr
15

Q and A with Boxer Federica Bianco

Q & A With Boxer Federica Bianco

Federica Bianco

Boxer Federica Bianco is making her pro debut on April 25, 2015 in Richmond, CA, Photo Credit: Shelly Vinson

On April 25, 2015 at the Richmond Auditorium in Richmond, California, a Bay area town near San Francisco, Federica Bianco will be making her pro debut at the age of 36 against a fighter named Laura Deanovic. They’ll be fighting on Squarevision Entertainment’s Night of Glory II, card with the top contenders in the Bay Area fighting for the new GBO belt. (And by the way, the promoters will also be donating a dollar from every ticket to the Race to Erase MS (multiple sclerosis research) charity—so if you’re in the Bay Area, you should think about supporting a worthy cause.) Federica came to boxing from the world of Brazilian capoeira. She got good enough to teach it, but started to get intrigued with boxing and switched over completely a few years ago. I got to know Federica in and around Gleason’s Gym, though her true boxing home is at Manhattan’s Church Street Gym. She’s been competing as an amateur with fights in and around New York City, and as far afield on Beautiful Brawlers’ cards and at Bonnie Canino’s 2014 National Golden Gloves tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where I got to Federica bang, and bang hard. As a boxer and someone who has developed a love affair with the sport, Federica helped arrange to bring IWBHOF hall of famer and boxing champion Lucia Rijker to Church Street Gym this past February. Rijker spent two days training and motivating participants in boxing and kickboxing in her unique style—prompting Federica to commit even more to the sport she loves. I had the opportunity to speak with Federica recently, and then through a series of emails, we ironed out a Q & A for Girlboxing readers. Here’s what Federica had to say.

  1. You have your first professional fight coming up at the end of the month?  What can you tell Girlboxing readers about the fight?  

I have been cuddling with the idea of going pro for some time, and I am really excited that this is happening! We’ve been trying to find a match for about a year. It is not easy: there is no money behind women’s boxing, so its hard to get an opponent from afar, or finding a promotion company that is willing to fly a debuting fighter out, and no local matches were coming up. My opponent has more experience, and is a bit bigger than me. But I saw her boxing and I think she has a style that will suite me well.

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Federica Bianco getting ready for an amateur bout, Photo Credit: J. J. Ignotz

  1. In discussions we’ve had, you’ve stated that you are “not so young.” At 36, what is prompting you to step into the ring for the first time as a pro–at an age, when on the one hand many fighters are stepping out of the ring and on the other, when it comes to female boxers, many are still finding great success.

That’s right: I am no spring chicken! I am 36, and I only started competing a few years ago.  But, honestly, I am in the best shape of my life. Boxing is physical, but also very mental, so I think age helps: I know how to pace myself better than I would have 10 years ago, I am a more experienced athlete, I know how my body is feeling through training camp, I know what diets work for me to make weight responsibly, and I know how to control my emotions way better. So much more is known about sports medicine, and how to train responsibly, that the peak athletic age has definitely shifted ahead. In fact about a year ago I was looking at statistics about title holders: the mean age for boxing title holders for males, as well as for the WBC women title holders, is over 31! Two years ago the age cut for the amateurs was 35, and as I was approaching it, with such few chances for women to compete in the master division, it became clear that I would either have to hang the gloves, or turn pro. I could not keep up the level of intensity in the training that I am used to without a goal in sight (and I am not one to do things half way…). So “pro or couch?” was the question buzzing in my head. And I feel physically great, and mentally ever so eager to continue training and learning, and fighting. So the couch is not really an option – yet. Even as they increased the age limit to 40 for the amateurs, the thought of going pro was in my head. I am ambitious, I want to continue challenging myself, and so it is time to bring it to the next level, and turn pro. In addition to that, there are some things that were frustrating about the amateurs. There are a lot of tournaments I cannot do, either because they have different age cuts (like the New York Daily News Golden Gloves which tops out fighters at 35) or because I am not a citizen. I am Italian, (I am a permanent resident in the USA), and finding matches outside of tournaments was getting harder and harder: with so few women, we all know and have fought each other in each weight class.

  1. Having started out in capoeira, the Brazilian martial arts form with roots that go back centuries, you’ve brought a background of a pretty tough form into the ring.  What prompted the switch to boxing and what adjustments have you made between the two styles?   

I got to capoeira through dance and dance-theater, and then capoeira brought me to boxing – a pretty winding path. There are many different styles of capoeira, and a few years back I had to move from Boston to Santa Barbara for work, and my school of capoeira was not represented in SB. I started teaching classes, but of course that meant I was not getting the same workouts that I was used to training every day in a large and competitive group in Boston, so I picked up boxing for the conditioning (choosing boxing over other martial arts cause I did not want to try a style that would mess with my capoeira kicks). And it stole my heart. As a capoeirista, my best assets were aggression and fearlessness, and the same goes for boxing. I love capoeira; it is such a rich art, with profound cultural depth. I love the ritual, the instruments, and the sense of community. But ultimately, it is the competition, and the confrontation swayed me, and that is on another level in boxing – you are in the corner, looking at your opponent, and she is surrounded by all her own demons. Everything about boxing is clear and plain. Unlike most martial arts, the technique is simple: there are only a few punches! So the name of the game becomes perfecting them. You get in the ring, and in most cases it is clear who is getting the better of the other. Plain and simple. I love that about boxing. And every time you step into the ring, you face yourself. As for the adjustments, I remember going to my boxing coach in California and telling him my capoeira Mestre was complaining my capoeira started to look like boxing, and him saying “well, that’s weird, cause I am still waiting for your boxing to stop looking like capoeira!.” Of course they are very different forms, but it is interesting that among all martial arts and combat sports, both capoeira and boxing put a lot of emphasis on avoiding getting hit, rather than blocking, so they are end up being more ‘fluid’ so to speak, than other martial arts. Coming from a different athletic background in general helps at the beginning, then gets in your way for a while, and only later you start being able to integrate your diverse background in your new style.

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Federica Bianco stunning her opponent with a hard right, Photo Credit, Anthony B. Geathers

  1. You’ve been a trainer and with your boxing have switched more and more into a role as a fighter?  What has this given you in terms of your understanding of the sport, and more importantly, your feelings as you commit yourself to competing on the professional level?

I love teaching and training, but I love being a student best. For me it is really all about improving and learning, that is what I like to do: I am a student for life! Of course though, looking through a coach’s eyes helps tremendously as a fighter! I enjoy every opportunity I have to coach and corner fighters, it sharpens my eye and my brain, so that I can become a smarter, and more tactical fighter! The feelings of a fighter though are always hard to deal with, and I am not sure that seeing them from the other side helps at all. Being conscious of the process does not always make it easier: as a fighter you really just want to rely on your coach for emotional guidance, and a good coach will know how to work your energy to keep emotions in control. And then again, as hard as fighting is emotionally, it is that fear, that uneasy sensation, and the fact that it dissolves as the bell rings, that draws us to fighting. 10421272_871329859575991_920216048370414717_n

  1. You had the chance to work with Lucia Rijker having helped set up her training seminars this past February at Church Street Gym in New York City. Please share your experiences and how it has affected your boxing as you look towards your first pro fight?

Meeting and working with Lucia has been one of the best things that boxing brought into my life! I met her in California for a few training sessions when I still lived there: a present from my husband. Of course I knew her from her fame – my first coach handed me Shadow Boxers [the 1999 film by Katya Bankowsky] the moment I expressed interest in competing – and my expectations were oh so high in meeting her. Well, she fulfilled and exceeded them all. Her coaching is great, but better than her boxing coaching is her vision of the sport, and of a fighter’s experience. She obviously witnessed her own journey in a very conscious way, and has such terrific heritage to share. That is why I really wanted to bring her to NYC and share her with my teammates! She taps into the kinesiological and the spiritual aspects alike. And again, boxing is mental, at least as much as it is physical. Each time I worked with her I was reinvigorated, empowered, and more focused and centered than before. I consider her a friend and her positive energy and encouragement (her motto “be your best self”) mean so much to me!

  1. As with many female boxers you also have a entire life outside of the ring?  What are your other passions and how do you integrate them with your training and the competitions you participate in?

Well in my “other life” I am a scientist – an astrophysicist. I am a postdoctoral fellow at NYU [New York University], and mostly I study exploding stars. It’s a lot of fun: I get paid to do research, which in a way means I get paid to play around and solve puzzles to improve our understanding of the Universe! Of course it is a demanding job, so juggling that with boxing is not easy – I don’t get a lot of hours of sleep, but if you really want to do something you will find the time and way to do it. Luckily my job affords me a flexible schedule and the possibility to travel, as I need to for boxing. It is interesting that both my careers are in male dominated, very competitive fields. I guess I like the challenge.

  1. Having watched you fight last year at the National Golden Gloves, I know how tough you are in the ring and have a good chin. What is your fighting style and what do you expect of your performance in your pro bout?

I do have a good chin and I am a stalker in the ring. I like working inside in phone-booth, toe-to-toe fights. I am excited to fight with smaller gloves, and no headgear: together with a good chin I have good power, and the pro style suites me better than the Olympic style of touch-and-go.

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Federica Bianco working her opponent towards the ropes. Photo Credit: J. J. Ignotz

  1. For readers who may not yet have sparred or fought competitively, what advise can you offer as they embark upon their journeys into boxing?

Keep an open mind, and if you are eager to improve yourself, there is no better environment! I have seen many people stepping into the gym thinking they will be professional fighters, and just hating it in the ring – either hating getting hit, or hating hitting the opponent. And I have seen people that were reluctant to exchange leather, only to find out they loved it and could no longer live without it!  Sparring and fighting are truly nothing like one would guess not having done it. There is no rage, it is not emotional – at least for me, it is very rational in the fight, I find myself as lucid and focused as I ever am.

  1. Once your down with boxing professionally — say ten years from now 🙂 — what’s next for you in the sport?

I enjoy the ride, it is hard for me to think ahead by years: my life keeps surprising me! But I love teaching and coaching, and I especially love how I see boxing empowers women. I would love to be involved in raising some women fighters. For ticket information to attend Federica’s pro debut, please click on the link: SquareWarriors.com

03
Aug
14

Chevelle Hallback: A boxer for all time, exclusive Q and A

Chevelle Hallback: A boxer for all time, exclusive Q and A.

Chevelle Hallback

Chevelle “Fists of Steel” Hallback (29-8-2, 12-KOs) first stepped into the boxing ring in 1997 winning by TKO. In only her second fight she battled the great Lucia Rijker, and while she lost by TKO in the 5th round, Hallback has been taking on and winning fights against the best in the business ever since. Notable fights have included her bouts with female boxing greats Layla McCarter and Melissa Hernandez.

After two disappointing and some would say controversial losses in fairly close succession in 2011 to Cecilia Braekhus and Myriam Lamare, Hallback took some time to regroup and now is back with a vengeance.

This past June, Hallback came out swinging against Dominga Olivo (8-11-1), winning by TKO in the second round in front of her hometown crowd at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Florida.

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In their first outing on December 3, 2010, Chevelle Hallback defeated Victoria Cisneros by split decision. Credit: Jose Leon Castillo III

She’s now slated to take on Victoria “La Reina de Guerra” Cisneros (11-15-3, 4-KOs), a tough, hard-nosed fighter whose won-loss record belies her strength and savvy in the ring. It will also be a WBF Female Welterweight Championship fight for the vacant title, and in a nod to Hallback’s huge fan base in Tampa will be the main event, at the St. Pete Times Forum.

The two met before in Cisneros’ back yard at the Route 66 Casino in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In that fight, an eight-rounder, Hallback won by split decision by the scores 78-74, 77-75, 75-77. Both fighters are thrilled with the prospect of fighting for a title in their rematch.

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Chevelle Hallback and “A History Of Women’s Boxing” author Malissa Smith at the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame, July 10, 2014, Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Having had the opportunity to finally meet up with Chevy at the recently held International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame event in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I was excited by the prospect of Chevy giving Girlboxing an exclusive interview about her upcoming fight.

Here’s what Chevy had to say:

Chevelle Hallback1. Boxing fans are getting excited at the prospect of seeing you in the ring again after your fabulous win on June 13. Tell us about your upcoming WBF, female welterweight battle with boxer Victoria Cisneros.

I am very excited about my upcoming fight with Victoria Cisneros. This is a rematch from when we fought about 3 years ago. I won that fight by split decision and she’s been asking for a rematch ever since so August the 22nd she gets her wish.

2. After your long lay-off and quick dispatch with a 2nd round TKO in your last bout, what is your game plan as you train for your title bout against Cisneros who brings a strong record (11-15-2) of achievement despite her won-loss record?

My game plan for August 22 is very simple, to be in the best shape of my life and be prepared to do whatever I need to to win the fight and the title.

3. You are a three-time world champion,  you are ranked in the top twelve pound-for-pound all-time female boxers in Ring magazine among other accolades, what more is there for you to achieve in the sport?

I want to make my mark in history by being the first female to fight and be televised on HBO.

4. You must be anxious to be coming back into the ring in your hometown for the second time in a year. What has that been like for you? 

It is truly a blessing to be coming back home to fight for my family, my friends and my fans once again. It is truly a blessing from above and I’m going to take full advantage of it by winning the world title.

5. I’ve heard you say for years that you want to fight on HBO.  What is it you have to do to get to that goal?

I just have to keep doing my part and that’s winning each and every fight from here on out that I put in front of me. I have to keep preparing, keep praying, believing, and having faith that if I do my part, I know God will do his part. Faith without works is dead. That means if I believe that it’s going to happen then I have to work towards it.  I have to believe it will happen even though I don’t see it.

Chevelle Hallback delivering a left hook to Cecilia Braekhus during their welterweight title fight on May 7, 2011 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

6. You had two tough losses against Myriam Lamare and Cecilia Braekhus in 2011. Lamare herself fought Braekhus earlier this year and lost in a rout, whereas your fight was hard fought and has been viewed as a controversial loss. As you enter back into championship contention, do you have particular fights in mind — perhaps a rematch against Braekhus?

Yes yes yes yes yes! I want a rematch with her so bad that it almost hurts. I’ve been asking and I’ve been pleading and I’ve been begging for a rematch against her. She has given other fighters second chances to fight her, why not me? I’ll wait as long as it takes, as long as she’s still fighting and as long as I’m still fighting. I got a very unfair shake and I just want the opportunity to erase that mistake.

7. Throughout your 10+ years career, you have fought tough, hard opponents — and the best of the best female fighters from around the world.  What is it that is inspiring you to enter into contention again?

To make history. To do something, that I was told a long time ago! I couldn’t do, accomplish, or it would never happen, and that is to fight on HBO.

Chevelle Hallback8. Female boxing continues to ride a wave of boom and bust, and in many cases, the only option for some female boxers has been to jump over to MMA in order to keep in front of fans and have an opportunity fight at all. Having been a part of women’s boxing for a long time, what is your view of this and the kinds of options available to young women as they enter the sport?

You have to do what’s best for you. But if you have a passion and a desire to do something then don’t give up on it and go to something different. Work hard and keep having faith that what you are trying to accomplish, you will succeed. Not only for yourself, but you will pave the way for the ones coming behind you or following in your footsteps.  Be a trendsetter.

9. You’ve been an inspiration to female boxers– and I know you’re known as fists of steel, but at my gym we call you “abs of steel.”  What inspires you and keeps you working so hard?  And importantly, having done so much for the sport, where do you go from here?

I AM a trendsetter. I want individuals to know, whether in boxing or whatever they’re setting out to do, that if you keep keeping on, keep the faith, work hard, believe in yourself, and don’t look back, you can accomplish anything, even when people say you can’t do it. If I can do it, hopefully it will give others inspiration to capture their goals and dreams as well.

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Chevelle Hallback’s interview with Billy C at the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame inaugural induction on July 10, 2014, in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

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Chevelle Hallback vs. Melissa Hernandez from 2/7/2008 (Part I)

 

19
Feb
14

Women Box … Wordless Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Women Box … Wordless Wednesday, February 19, 2014

shadow-boxers-lucia-rijker-film-poster-dvd-cover-world-champion-boxer-boxing-gloves-robe-ring-ropes-image

 Lucia Rijker, women’s boxing heroine! 

Shadow Boxers, feature-length documentary by Katya Bankowsky, 1999.

28
Jan
14

Boxer Diana Prazak – Bittersweet …

Boxer Diana Prazak – Bittersweet …

PosterversieMICKY0

Australia’s boxing phenomenon Diana Prazak (12-2, 8-KOs) won her WBC Female Super-Featherweight title in dramatic fashion in June 2013 when her knock out of Swedish boxer Frida Wallberg (11-1, 2-KOs) left Wallberg to suffer from a burst blood vessel at the outer edge between the meninges and the brain. What was lost in the frightening minutes and hours until word was received that Wallberg would likely recover, was the fighting brilliance of Prazak who under the tutelage of the great Lucia Rijker had come a long way in the six months since she fought a respectable bout against Holly Holm (33-2-3, 9-Kos) in December 2012, and further still from her first professional fight less than two years before that.

Prazak will be defending her title on March 1, 2014 against boxer Shannon O’Connell (8-2-0, 5 KOs) at The Melbourne Pavillion in Flemington, Victoria, and has otherwise been very busy keeping up with her training.

She’s also the subject of a documentary by Dutch filmmaker Marieke Niestadt, tracing Prasak’s experiences in the run up to her epic battle in the ring with Wallberg and its aftermath. The film is an official selection of the upcoming Macon Film Festival 2014 and the Charleston International Film Festival 2014.  If the trailer is indicative of anything, it is a sensitive portrayal of Diana Prazak’s boxing journey.

For more information on the film, click the link: www.mariekeniestadt.com/bittersweet

15
Jun
13

Women’s Boxing champ Frida Wallberg KO sends her to the hospital for emergency brain surgery.

UPDATE 3 (6/16/2013):  The Swedish press is reporting some very good news. It seems Frida Wallberg is off the respirator, awake and talking. It’s also been reported that the bleed was not an internal brain hemorrhage, but a blood vessel at the outer edge between the meninges and the brain. This is excellent in terms of her recovery and likely she will be kept in the hospital for another 5-6 days so that she can continue to be assessed and have the rest she needs. Meanwhile, the matter is being investigated by Swedish boxing authorities.

Women’s Boxing champ Frida Wallberg KO sends her to the hospital for emergency brain surgery. UPDATE 1  & 2 (below)

Boxer Frida Wallberg being assisted by Lucia Rijker and opponent Diana Prazak shortly after Wallberg's devastating KO loss to Prazak on 6/14/2013. Credit: Maja Suslin/Scanpix

Boxer Frida Wallberg being assisted by Lucia Rijker and opponent Diana Prazak shortly after Wallberg’s devastating KO loss to Prazak on 6/14/2013. Credit: Maja Suslin/Scanpix

Swedish Boxer Frida Wallberg (11-1, 2-KOs) suffered a devastating KO in her title fight against the new WBC super featherweight champion, Australian fighter Diana Prazak (12-2, 8-KOs). It has left the wildly popular Wallberg in an intensive care bed at the Karolinksa Hospital in Sweden on a respirator. She was placed in a medically induced coma after receiving emergency surgery to relieve the pressure on her brain from a cerebral hemorrhage. Surgery took place in the early morning hours after the bout.

Prazak spent the night pummeling Wallberg with bombs and rocked her in the 7th round with a sweeping left according to a report on boxingscene.com. Wallberg buckled under the force of the blow, but continued the round.  In the 8th round, seemingly still under the effects of the 7th round blow, Wallberg was on the receiving end of Prazak’s hard punching. Wallberg was knocked to the canvas by short left hook, but after getting up and receiving an 8-count from the referee, Bela Florian, she continued only to be hit by a short right hook which sent her to the deck again.  Bela Florian called the fight at that point and Prazak was given the KO win.

Wallberg was assisted to the corner by Florian, her nose bleeding and tentative in her movements. Even as she was being examined by the ring doctor, one could observe her visibly slumping and hanging on to the ropes. Still he walked away, and it was the quick thinking of Prasak’s trainer, Lucia Rijker who while celebrating her own fighter’s victory saw that Wallberg was in trouble and ran to her aid. Rijker demanded that the doctor return and that Wallberg be given serious medical aid. Wallberg was subsequently attended to and brought out of the ring on a stretcher.

Wallberg’s boyfriend, Robert Ludwig later told the Swedish press that she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage described as a stroke. In other reports, it has been said that doctors may try to revive Wallberg at some point today to assess her condition.

UPDATE 1: According to press accounts from Sweden, Frida was partially brought out of her coma and has had her medications reduced to assist in the process of bringing her to consciousness. That will reportedly happen at about 4:00 PM, 6.15.2013, Swedish Time. No word was given on the state of her injuries or likely prognosis. The press is continuing to state that she suffered a stroke.

UPDATE 2: Wallberg was reportedly awakened, was able to move her fingers and answers questions, but from what could be gleaned, she has likely been re-sedated somewhat to allow her time to heal. There is some cause for optimism, but no answer yet on whether she will make a full recovery from the stroke–and things are still very serious at this point. She remains in the hospital in intensive care.

Whatever happens, under Swedish boxing rules, Wallberg will no longer be able to box professionally in Sweden.  It is also said that she had an MRI two weeks ago as part of her pre-fight medical which showed no signs of abnormality or vessel weakness.

Wallberg’s last fight was 14 months ago against the tough Brooklyn fighter, Amanda Serrano (17-1, 12-KOs). Wallberg won the fight by decision in her native Sweden. Prazak on the other hand most recently fought Holly Holm (33-2, KOs-9) for a shot at the then vacant IBAF and WBF female light welterweight titles. It was Prazak’s only loss.

Responding to questions about Wallberg in a post-fight interview, Prazak with her coach Rijker was overwhelmed by the quick succession of winning the title after a long hard road of training — and the sense that her only way to defeat Wallberg to take the title was by KO, given that the fight was on Wallberg’s home turf in Sweden — and the devastation of knowing that Prazak was so seriously injured.  As Prazak said on her Facebook page last night, “All fighters want the win by KO … just what we had planned and trained for [came] at a big cost.” She went on to say, “My prayers and thoughts are with Frida and her loved ones. Please send your prayers and thoughts for her too.”

Ishika Lay in Recovery, Photo: Florida Times Union

Ishika Lay in Recovery, Photo: Florida Times Union

The injury sustained by Wallberg and subsequent surgery is reminiscent of the devastation suffered by Ishika Lay in November 2011. During Lay’s bid for the National Golden Gloves in the run-up to the Olympic Trials, she collapsed in the ring, the likely victim of second impact syndrome–a form of brain injury that occurs when brain injuries are not given adequate time to heal.

Whenever this happens in boxing — questions arise as to the role that coaches, managers, referees and ringside physicians play in the health and safety of fighters in the ring. The safety of fighters outside the ring, during training, is just as important, if not more so, and it is up to those who care for their fighters to take the precautions necessary to keep their boxers safe–incorporating the adage “when in doubt sit it out.”

It is helpful that in Sweden fighters are required to have brain scans on a regular basis. The fact that Wallberg was cleared two weeks prior to the fight is also good. What we don’t know is whether she sustained any serious head blows in the interval between her MRI and the day of the fight that could have compromised her in some way. By all reports both fighters had tough training camps in preparation for the bout–Wallberg had also been coming to the fight after a 14 month layoff and whether that had anything to do with the severity of her injury is also unknown.

What we do know is that boxers, hockey players, football players, MMA fighters and other athletes in close contact sports sustain traumatic brain injuries–the question is how can we all help protect these remarkable athletes from further trauma. We know that fighters in particular aim for the KO. It is the “cookies” in boxing–and let’s face it, is what garners the big money fights on the men’s side of game, and while women make a pittance by comparison, the KO remains the holy grail.

Making sports illegal is certainly not the answer, but making sports safer with headgear that can minimize the impact of such injuries, as well as vigilance in the gym, on the playing field and in the ring, would seem to be a step in the right direction. Rethinking the importance of big hits is also something to consider–though that is an unlikely change.

07
Dec
12

Holly Holm v. Diana Prazak Fight 12/7/2012!

UPDATE:  

Holly Holm defeats Diana Prazak by UD, 100-90 on all three judges score cards on 12/7/12, Credit: Jose Leon Castillo

Holly Holm defeats Diana Prazak by UD, 100-90 on all three judges score cards on 12/7/12, Credit: Jose Leon Castillo

Holly Holm v. Diana Prazak Fight 12/7/2012!

Diana Prazak and Holly Holm at weigh-in, 12/6/12, Credit:  Will Fox

Tonight’s Fire and Ice boxing card at the Route 66 Casino & Hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico promises to be full of excitement if only to see the size of the ring where Holly Holm (31-2-3, 9 KOs) will fight for the IBA & WBF Women’s Light Welterweight titles against Diana Prazak (11-1, 7 KOs).  In Holm’s last outing against Anne Sophie Mathis which she won by decision, the Holm team fought and won another decision as well, erecting a 24 foot ring. This led to considerable controversy as it favored Holm’s fighting style — and many believe tilted the “w” in her column.

Holm was also originally scheduled to fight Myriam Lamare.  Diana Prazak, an Australian boxer who is the WIBA Super Featherweight champion, took the call and canceled out of her 6-round scheduled bout against Victoria Cisneros who she was also set to fight at 140 lbs.

As Prazak put it recently: “I’m a determined fighter. I have fought at 130-135-pounds; however, I walk around at 145. I will feel much stronger at 140 because I don’t have to starve myself.”

Diana Prazak will also have former world champion, Lucia Rijker in her corner, pound-for-pound, one of the best boxers ever, never mind “female boxer.”  This has given Prazak a lot of confidence.   “I’m lucky to have the opportunity to work with some great champions, not to mention the rounds I get in with my trainer, Lucia Rijker. If I can get punched by the most dangerous women in the world, I most definitely do not have any concerns about being hit by girls in other weight classes. I’ve been training with Rijker Striker for almost eight months and I’ve learned a lot being in America and about what it takes to be a pro fighter.”

At the official weigh-in yesterday, Holm came in at 138.8 and Prazak and even 138.

Also fighting on the card in a six-rounder will be Victoria Cisneros (8-13-2, 3-KOs) versus Mary McGee (19-1, 10 KOs). Cisneros has fought some of the big names in boxing including two fights against Holly Holm (both at short notice) and rumbles with Chevelle Hallback, Melissa Hernandez and Cecilia Braekhus. She may have lost those fights, but she is none the less a very credible fighter with a record that belies her strengths in the ring.  McGee a native of Gary, Indiana has fought and won almost exclusively in and around her home town. Fighting Cisneros, who is coming off a three-fight winning streak should prove to be interesting.

Win lose or draw, the fights should be great tonight … just wish they were televised!!!




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