Two Fights and the Wrong One on TV

14.01.05 - By Bernie McCoy: As the year begins, there are two bouts on the immediate horizon in the sport of Women's boxing. One bout features a fighter who many consider the best pound/pound boxer in the sport in with another very good fighter. The other bout matches the current "face" of the sport against a fighter who is currently on a three fight losing streak. Now take you time, think it through and make a guess which of these bouts will be broadcast on "live" television. While you're deciding, I'll turn up the Shirelles long-ago hit, "Mama Said" (There'd be days like this)..

Next Saturday, January 22, in a casino outside Lake Charles LA, Sumya Anani defends her IBA welterweight championship against Belinda Laracuente. This is the type of bout that the sport of Women's boxing is in dire need of and yet seldom gets with any frequency; two very good fighters climbing into the same ring. Anani, sporting a 23-1-1 record, saw very limited action in 2004 and that was one of the reasons that the year was not a "keeper" as far as the sport of Women's boxing was concerned. Last December, Anani won a ten round decision over a game, but overmatched, Stephanie Jaramillo. It was Anani's first fight in eight months and only her third in twenty months. The sport of Women's boxing, not coincidently, went through a distinct "down" period during Anani's inactivity. The fact that she is coming back so quickly after the Jaramillo bout and against a quality opponent such as Belinda Laracuente, who has a 21-5-2 record, is among the best news the sport has had in quite a while. One of the only facts you need to know about this matchup is that Anani and Laracuente have one notable opponent in common: Christy Martin. Anani holds one of the rare wins over Martin, a majority decision in December ' 98, while Laracuente lost a very close, and to some observers, controversial decision to Martin in March, 2000. The downside is that this fight will be held in the relative obscurity of northwest Louisiana, without the benefit of "live" television, and that's a disgrace.

A wit once noted that television is called a medium because it's seldom well done. ESPN seems determined to prove that point. The network, which is, at this point in time, the lone, non premium cable outlet televising "live" bouts featuring women boxers, will showcase their first female bout on February 11. Laila Ali, sporting a nineteen fight winning streak, will "risk" her WIBA super middleweight title against Cassandra Geigger in Atlanta GA. Ostensibly billed as a celebration of Valentine's Day, such a matchup is not, remotely, the cause of anything resembling a celebration within the sport of Women's boxing. Geigger has lost her last three fights to Monica McGowan, Erin Toughill and Anne Wolfe. Only the McGowan bout could, charitably, be labeled competitive. Quite simply, this is not a bout of championship caliber, it is a mismatch between an unbeaten fighter, one who is at or near the top of her weight class and a fighter who has been badly outclassed in her last two bouts. Unfortunately, however, Laila Ali has recently exhibited a penchant for just these kinds of bouts. Her last three fights against Gwendolyn O'Neil, Monica Nunez, and Nikki Eplion were, in fact, mirror images of the Geigger matchup; mismatches masquerading as title fights. Make no mistake, Ali is a talented fighter, who, in point of fact, has beaten everyone who has climbed into the ring with her, including Christy Martin. Sadly, Ali demeans that considerable talent by taking such fights as the three previous bouts and the one coming up on February 11. Such matchups only prompt questions as to when Ali will step up in competition with fighters such as Ann Wolfe and Letitia Robinson. One thing is certain and that is the answer will not come on February 11 when Ali and Geigger come together on ESPN.

Thus, the year starts with two Women's boxing bouts featuring two of the sport's best fighters. One of those fighters comes together with another of the very good fighters in the sport. The other fighter chooses, distressingly, once again to matchup with an overmatched opponent. And, as a final compound, television, in the form of ESPN, gets it wrong in it's choice of which bout to televise. The lone consolation is that the year has a lot of time left. Hopefully, those who, ostensibly, direct the fortunes of the sport, the promoters, the matchmakers, the sanctioning bodies and television "suits" will get it right, eventually. When and if, they do, I'll put away my old Shirelles records.

Article posted on 14.01.2005

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