What People Say

10.29.04 - By Bernie McCoy: An editor once told me, "Listen closely to what people say, but listen even closer to what they don't say." I thought of that when reading a recent dispatch in the Detroit Free Press about local boxer Mary Jo Sanders.

The piece, a prelude to Sanders' impending bout with Rita Turrisi, of Italy, stated: "Before a possible bout with Ali, Mallo is planning fights for Sanders with perhaps Mia St. John and Chirsty Martin, two of the most dangerous fighters in the world." The article then quoted Jimmy Mallo, identified as Sanders' manager and trainer, as saying, "I think Mary Jo would knock them out. "The good thing is, she hasn't reached her best."

Not to be a contrarian, but Mia St. John is not on any of the "dangerous fighter" lists that I've seen, recently and while Christy Martin certainly has had her "dangerous" phase in the ring, she hasn't had a fight in over a year, and has fought only three times in the last three years. So, while Sanders may not have "reached her best", neither is she reaching for the best when it comes to stepping into the ring. Where, on the list of her upcoming opponents, is the name Sumya Anani?

It's not like Sanders and her manager are unaware of Anani. She has been publicly challenging Sanders for almost six months, the latest, according to Anani, "a chance to fight me, in her hometown, on Showbox, on November 19." While pointing toward Laila Ali, Sanders and her management seem determined to continue to take a somewhat disingenuous attitude towards Sumya Anani, perhaps hoping that someway, somehow, the adage "outta sight, outta mind" will come true.

In truth, a Sanders/Anani bout would be a very compelling matchup. Both fighters have a common opponent, the tough Lisa Holewyne. Sanders (12-0) stopped Holewyne in nine rounds last August in Minnesota. Anani (21-1-1) won a six round decision in April in Los Angeles and two years earlier, KO'd Holewyne in five rounds in Detroit. Sanders also has wins over Chevelle Hallback and the slick boxing Layla McCarter. Anani, likewise, has beaten Jane Couch, Fredia Gibbs, Denise Moraetes and, in December ' 98, pounded out a majority decision over Christy Martin, at a time when the word "dangerous" had a very real application to the "Coal Miner's Daughter."

Sumya Anani's problem continues to be the fact that nobody will fight her, it's that simple. In the past, it's either been "another match has come up" or "the date or the money doesn't work" or some nonsense about "Anani doesn't market well". Somehow, she marketed pretty well on ESPN on June 21, 2002, when Teddy Atlas raved "that's what Women's boxing is all about" when Anani left a very tough Jane Couch draped on the ropes in Waco, TX after four of the more marketable rounds the sport has ever seen.

It's hoped that Mary Jo Sanders and her management will not continue the very contemptuous tradition that seems to have developed in the sport; that of ignoring Sumya Anani. Early indications, in the form of a future opponents list that does not even mention Anani is not only absurd but does not portend very well for these two fighters ever getting in the ring. It's assumed that Mary Jo Sanders, who may come by her competitive nature via her father, former football star, Charlie Sanders, at one time or another, might have heard from her dad an old NFL dictum: "Step Up or Step Off."

It will be interesting to see what the future brings for Mary Jo Sanders. As far as Laila Ali is concerned when the thought of fighting Ali occurs to Sanders, I recommend it may be well to lie down for a short time all the while repeating that old boxing adage, "big fighters always beat small fighters." In the meantime, Sumya Anani is out there, waiting, and, yes, she is "dangerous." Even more interesting, will be what Sanders and her management have to say about her future opponents, or, more importantly, what they don't say.

Article posted on 29.10.2004

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