Too Much Layla McCarter?

13.06.05 - By Bernie McCoy: The past weekend was a busy one in the sport of Women's boxing. On Friday night, Kara Ro, continuing to stay close to home in Detroit, out-pointed Belinda Laracuente. On Saturday, Laila Ali TKO'd a very good fighter on PPV (another in the ever lengthening list of Mike Tyson's "last bouts"); unfortunately, Erin Toughill, Ali's opponent, is a very good Mixed Martial Arts fighter, but, as was obvious on Saturday, she still needs some work in the boxing ring.. On the same night in Madison Square Garden, underneath the Cotto/Abdullaev bout, Agnieszka Rylik, not staying close to home in Poland, outclassed an overmatched Tawnyah Freeman, who has four fights to Rylik's eighteen. The busy weekend wound up on Sunday in New Mexico, where Mia St. John out-pointed Liz Drew, a 9-7 fighter, for the IFBA Lightweight title. It was, indeed, a busy weekend, but as so often happens in the sport, it was, largely, movement without much progress as far as Women's boxing is concerned.

You want busy? On June 18, Layla McCarter will climb into the ring for an eight round return bout with Jelena Mrdjenovich, in the featured bout of the third edition of Arnie Rosenthal's "A Ring of Their Own" series, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Six days later, June 24, McCarter will be back in an Albuquerque, NM ring for ten rounds with Holly Holm, with Holm's IBA Jr. Welterweight crown on the line. That's busy.

While taking two fights within a short period of time is not unknown in the sport of Women's boxing, McCarter's two bouts are not a couple of four rounders against opposition that would have great difficulty passing an independently administered "quality fighter" test. Jelena Mrdjenovich, is 11-1, her lone loss coming in February to McCarter. Holly Holm, the current IBA champion, is 9-1-2. Thus, within the period of six days, McCarter is facing two fighters with a combined record of 20-2-2, which puts them considerably above the "walkover" category. Instead, as McCarter has done for the most of her career, she is taking aim at the top of the sport, fighting two of the better boxers in Women's boxing in less than a week. Did I mention that the fights are "home games" for both Mrdjenovich, who fights out of Canada and Holm, who is from New Mexico?

Not only does McCarter, who makes her home in Las Vegas, seek out the best fighters available, she is willing to take bouts in the universally dreaded "hometowns." Too much Layla McCarter......not quite. As Mae West once said, "Too much of a good thing is..... wonderful." Cue the cloning machine and let's turn out fifty more Layla McCarters; fighters willing to go anywhere, anytime, to fight anybody. That will go a long ways towards solving some of the problems that currently inflict the sport of Women's boxing.

Facing the task of two fights in six days, both against quality opposition, both in the opponent's hometown, might raise a modicum of anxiety from even the most seasoned boxer. Not McCarter. Her main concern is her training: "....people are worried about my fights being only six days apart, but I can say that if my training continues shouldn't be a problem."

For McCarter, it's simply a matter of doing what needs to be done, "I've decided to take my fighting on the road and really put it to the test. I just want to know, once and for all, if I'm as good as I claim to be.Talk is cheap. If I desire "real" money fights in the future I must live up to it (legitimacy as a top fighter) or (else) I'll regard myself as one of the many women fighters who only talk."

McCarter has done much more than "only talk" over her 33 fight career. Her record includes bouts with a veritable "Who's/Who" of the sport: Chevelle Hallback, Laura Serrano, Alicia Ashley, Jessica Rakoczy, Emiko Raika, Kelsey Jeffries and Ada Velez. Layla McCarter could "hang 'em up" now and be secure in the knowledge that she ranks in the top echelon of the sport. Instead, she seeks out new challenges and strives to right some previous mistakes. As McCarter admits, "In the past, when the stakes were at their highest, I dropped the emotions hindered my career." But right now, she knows where she's going and how she's going to get there. If the next two bouts go well, "I have my eye on the (winner) of the Martin/Rijker" bout." In April ' 04, McCarter came close to stepping in with Rijker on the under-card of a Vitali Klitschko heavyweight championship fight in Los Angeles. McCarter remembers, "I accepted the fight with no hesitation or negotiation, as I was confident (a win) would put me in good standing. Rijker's trainer, Emmanuel Steward and Rijker's promoter said they couldn't (risk) a loss with a (Christy) Martin bout in the distant future. I can't say I blame them for being business smart."

It was McCarter's boxing skills that got her in line for the Rijker fight and, in all probability, it was those same skills that played a big part in why that bout never happened. Her skills in the ring remind some old time observers of Willie Pep and although McCarter has never won a round without throwing a punch (as Pep was purported to have done), at least not yet, McCarter ranks near the top of the class in terms of skillful boxers. And that's a class where it doesn't take a long time to call the roll.

There's a current advertising slogan that says, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." Fortunately, for the sport of Women's boxing, Layla McCarter doesn't "stay in Vegas." On June 18, she's in Edmonton and on June 24 she's in Albuquerque. From a boxing standpoint, both those towns come out winners. For Layla McCarter she's looking at a tough bout in each town. But, no matter what the results in the ring, McCarter emerges a winner simply by doing what she has always done, "go anywhere and fight anyone." Along the way, she's set the "professional fighter" bar about as high as it goes. Too much Layla McCarter......not likely.

Article posted on 13.06.2005

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