Holly Holm leaving Ring for Cage after Saturday night
The true “Queen of Boxing,” 14-time world champion Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm, may be hanging-up her gloves Saturday night but she’s only switching from a ring to a cage as she pursues her very promising mixed-martial-arts career.
Holm (32-2-3, 9 KOs) will defend her International Boxing Association (IBA) and World Boxing Federation (WBF) junior lightweight titles against former NABC World lightweight title-holder “Merciless” Mary McGee (20-1, 11 KOs) in the 10-round main event headlining the “Mayhem” card, presented by Fresquez Productions, at Route 66 Casino Hotel in Albuquerque.
Rather than announce her retirement from boxing right after Saturday’s fight, Holm went public several weeks ago, in order to let her boxing fans realize that this would be their last opportunity to watch her box. It certainly would have been easier and less stressful to wait, but the New Mexico sports icon has always appreciated her fans to the maximum. Plus, she’s still going to be fighting, only in a different combat sport.
“I am dealing with some pressure being in my final time in boxing,” she explained, “and knowing that I’ll be in MMA. So, I’m focusing on this last fight and feeling some pressure, but there’s always some pressure in a fight. I want to end things on a good night. I didn’t want to just cruise through my last fight in boxing. This isn’t bad pressure. I did want to let people know and there will be a lot of people there Saturday night who may not have been if I hadn’t made my announcement.”
Holm nearly retired two years ago but, at that time, she wasn’t quite ready to make the fulltime switch to MMA. Her plan was to first fight and defeat European starts, Ann Sophie Mathis and Cecelia Breakhus.
“This has been a long time coming,” Holm noted. “I talked with my coach (Mike Winkeljohn) about leaving boxing for MMA back in 2011. I told friends how much I really enjoyed MMA. In a perfect world, I would have but I still wanted to fight Ann Sophie and Cecelia. Then, I could focus 100-percent on MMA. I’ve always been excited about MMA. Plans changed, though, when I lost to Ann Sophie. I knew I had to have a rematch (Holm won by decision). I started enjoying MMA training even more but thought I’d be fighting Cecelia in April, and then would focus on MMA. That fight didn’t go through and when she chose to fight Mia (St. John), I jumped at an MMA fight in February. I really enjoyed it. The fight with Cecelia didn’t happen and here we are. I always told myself I’d stop boxing if my passion wasn’t there 100-percent. I found myself getting less motivated in the gym to box, more motivated by MMA.”
Holm met every challenge during her 11+ year boxing career, finally exhausting all of her options, in terms of fighting world-class opponents. She has an incredible 21-1-1 record in world title fights (212 of her career 275 rounds fought have been in world championships), and 14-1-1 against other world champions, defeating a virtual Who’s Who list of woman boxers from the 140 through 154-pound weight classes, including Mathis, Christy Martin, Mary Jo Sanders, St. John, Jane Couch, Duda Yankovich and Chevelle Hallback (twice).
Her promoter, Lenny Fresquez, negotiated with Braekhus’ promoter, Sauerland Boxing, for two years but the final straw for Holm was the announcement that Braekhus would instead be fighting 45-year-old St. John, which came one day after the World Boxing Council mandated a mandatory title fight between WBC champion Braekhus and No. 1 contender Holm.
Like most elite athletes, seeking a new challenge was paramount in her decision to leave boxing for MMA, in which she is undefeated in three fights with three knockouts. Now, her ultimate challenge is to develop into a world-class MMA fighter, one worthy of challenging UFC champion and MMA superstar, Ronda Rousey. “A new challenge was a big part of it,” Holly explained what thinking went into her decision. “She (Rousey) has opened doors for women in MMA. She’s the one to beat and she’s in my weight class, but I’m not ready to fight her tomorrow. I have MMA strengths but I need to build on my weaknesses. She’s world champion now and but that next girl may take her out (before Holm fights Rousey). I do think she’ll be champ for a long time….but you never know.
“I’m also going to turn 32 soon and, if I’m going to make it in MMA, I need to start now. I don’t know where I’ll be in a year, two years, or five years. I’m also married now and someday I want to start a family. Maybe not now but that was another consideration (to now go into MMA fulltime).”
Her fight with McGee had been signed prior to Holm making her decision to leave boxing. She will bring the same class and dignity into the ring against McGee that she has for her previous 37 professional fights.
“I had told my dad, ma, coach and friends what an honor it would be for me to be able to be in the ring with Mary McGee for my last fight,” Holm concluded. “She’s not only a great champion, but a good person, a tremendous person, both in and out of the ring. This fight was scheduled before my (retirement from boxing) decision and that was it. I’m glad to be sharing the ring with her. She’s accomplished a lot and stayed humble. I’m very happy.”
Also fighting on “Mayhem” is a group of New Mexico’s most promising prospects. Albuquerque lightweight Matthew Baca (2-1, 2 KO’s) takes on Armando Gonzales (2-2, 1 KO) in a six-round bout. On the undercard in four rounds matches are welterweight Rocky “El Torito” Romero (2-0, 2 KOs) vs. 11-fight veteran Michael Coca Gallegos, light middleweight Cris Leyva (1-0) vs. Manuel Eastman (1-3), lightweights making their professional debuts, Gabe Gabaldon vs. Brandon Salazar, and cruiserweights making their pro debuts, Manny Rocha vs. Floyd Olguin, Jr. All fights and fighters are subject to change.
Tickets, ranging between $25.00 and $200.00, are on sale and available to purchase at the Route 66 box office, going online to www.rt66casino.com, or calling 505.884.7484.
Doors open at 5:30 p.m. MT, first bout scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. MT.