Lucia Rijker: "Of Course I'm Fighting Again!"

12.09.05 - By Bernie McCoy: "Of course I'm going to fight again and that fight is going to happen." The speaker was Lucia Rijker and that was her emphatic answer to my question about her future in the ring, during a telephone interview late last week. The "that fight" she was talking about was, of course, the canceled July 30 bout at the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas between Rijker and Christy Martin. It was, quite simply, the most anticipated fight in the sport of Women's boxing, with a million dollar purse going to the winner.

Shortly before the bout, Lucia Rijker suffered an Achilles tendon injury during a training session. It was her "first major injury" from which she says she is now well on the way to recovery. "The cast came off recently", Rijker said, "and, while I've been in the gym, I, obviously, haven't done any leg work. At this point, my goal is to be fully on my feet in about two months." So much for the speculation that Lucia Rijker's career in the ring had come to an end.

As far as the Martin bout is concerned, Rijker is certain, as she is about most things in her life and career, that it will happen. "How and when is up to the powers that be (in the boxing world), but it will happen. I want it and I know Christy wants it. We've waited long enough. Early next year would be an ideal date, February or March. In fact, that would really be a better date, weather wise, than July in Las Vegas, where we might have been fighting in 100+ degree temperature. I don't know whether Bob (Arum) will be involved, I hope so, but, if not, someone is smart enough to realize just how big this fight will be. It's Ali/Frazier and I don't mean Laila and Jacqui."

Asked about the talk that the sales for the July 30 bout had been slow, both on-site and PPV, Rijker indicated that she thought that the pre-fight build-up for the bout might have been a bit slow in developing. However she was convinced that a big final week push would have resulted in a surge in sales. "Just one example: I was scheduled on Jay Leno on the Monday before the (Saturday) fight and that's huge. Not only are you talking about millions of people (in the "Tonight Show" audience) but it's exactly the right type of young person who would be attracted to the fight." As far as the timing of the bout, Rijker agrees with Martin that the July 30 date was a good one. "The movie, ' Million Dollar Baby ' got the fight out of the gate and the DVD was about to be released, but, bottom line, it was all about Christy and me
finally getting in the ring after all these years."

Martin, following cancellation of the bout, quickly scheduled a fight on September 16 with Holly Holm in Albuquerque, N M. Rijker admitted she was not familiar with Holm, who boasts a 10-1-2 record. When told that Holm was a southpaw, Rijker noted, "....southpaws are never easy, but Christy has a big edge in experience and that's a huge advantage no matter where you're fighting. And of course, I'm rooting for Christy because of the effect the bout would have on our fight. If she loses, it takes a lot of the air out of a Rijker/Martin fight, but I'd move ahead."

As far as moving ahead, what does Lucia Rijker see in the future, before the inevitable "end of my career in the ring"? There has been talk of a Rijker/Laila Ali match-up, but Lucia admits "you have to be realistic (about that fight)". She realizes that after Ali/Martin, there might not be much of a groundswell for another over-the-weight bout. Sumya Anani? Lucia is again, realistic, in her assessment, "Sumya is a good fighter, one of the best in the sport, she reminds me of Marciano. In fact, I told her exactly that, the way she throws punches from all angles and keeps coming forward. Is it the right fight for me from a business standpoint, because that what boxing is, a business? If it is, then let's do it."

I changed the conversation from the sublime match-ups of Lucia Rijker in with Christy Martin, Laila Ali and Sumya Anani to the somewhat more ridiculous bout that Ann Wolfe has impending with a male fighter. Rijker has "been there, done that" with a male martial artist, Muay Thai champion, Somchai Jaidee, in 1995, Jaidee winning via a second round KO. Lucia remembers, "(Jaidee) was not some guy off a barstool, this was a world champion. The problem with Ann fighting a male boxer, and I understand her frustration with not being able to get in the ring with Laila and I certainly recognize the financial considerations, is that if she goes up against a good fighter she's got the toughest fight of her life and if she gets some guy ' off a barstool ', well then it's just a farce. I don't believe women athletes have any need to show how strong we are by fighting men. It hurts the sport and it's a lose/lose for all concerned."

However, what primarily concerns Lucia Rijker right now is "getting back on my feet in the gym, taking a tune-up fight and getting in the ring with Christy Martin." Laila Ali and Sumya Anani may or may not figure in the future, but Christy Martin is, as far as Lucia Rijker is concerned, the next step. The author, Marabel Morgan, has said, "Persistence is the twin sister of excellence. One is a matter of quality, the other a matter of time." Lucia Rijker has long exuded persistence in her quest of excellence as an athlete. She was on the verge of reaching for that excellence in the ring in July with another of the great fighters in the sport of Women's boxing. An injury intervened, but for those type of fighters and that type of fight, there should always be a second chance.

Article posted on 12.09.2005

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