Two More Fans for Women’s Boxing

16.12.05 - By Aaron King: I was going to deliver a typical write up for the card I went to a week ago at Turning Stone Casino in Verona, N.Y. Instead of writing about some fighters that no one knows in the standard ringside report style, I decided to write about my first experience watching a live women’s bout because, as we all know, it’s a significant experience for all fight fans..

The car ride from Ithaca to Verona is usually about an hour and 50 minutes or so. There’s no way for me not to have known that after hearing my buddy Evan recurrently boast about making it there in under an hour and a half, if it weren’t for the minor traffic disruptions, that is. During the ride, I told him that I was feverishly looking forward to seeing this, my first, women’s bout. He was decidedly less enthusiastic.

Apparently, Evan, who writes for another boxing website, had been to another chick fight in the past and wasn’t all that impressed, to say the least. I don’t remember if he said it outright, but I’m pretty sure he at least hinted to his belief that women should not be in the ring, not while he’s there, at any rate. Just to yank his chain a little more, I told him I was probably going to lead my story with the women’s fight. He scoffed, I chuckled, and we continued to Verona, under my navigational prowess, might I add.

After getting to the event center, with an unnecessary degree of difficulty, we head to ringside. To be honest, I don’t even think the lady checked for my name to see if I was press; she just gave me the pass. We made our way to our seats right next to one of the judges, literally on the ring. The first four fights were entertaining, if not frightening at times. One downside to sitting so close is that 235 pound men aren’t held up by the ropes so well, and I don’t think I could have caught the guy if he would’ve come out.

As ladies’ night approached, I told Evan, “Here it is, my lead.” Evan shook his head and smiled. First one out was Rhonda Luna, who was 10-0 with 1 KO. She was greeted by boos, which I thought were just general boos because she was a woman. Once Cindy Serrano came out, I realized that that wasn’t the case. Serrano, 12-0 with 7 KOs, was highly touted, thus her appearance as the co-feature. The Brooklyn fighter seemingly brought her whole neighborhood with her. The very loud and pompous Brooklyn fans were chanting and clapping and screaming, and suddenly, it actually started to feel like a boxing match was being held. Compared to the last card at Turning Stone, a televised one featuring Joshua Clottey, this felt like De La Hoya-Vargas, or at least Arturo Gatti in a ring by himself.

When the bell rung, it was obvious that Cindy Serrano was the more schooled boxer. She was much more skilled, threw straighter punches, and her movement was far superior to Rhonda Luna’s. Luna, however, was very aggressive and tough. Her wide, lunging punches seemed to land, and really she was just as effective as Serrano. Serrano, whose nickname is the not-so-apt “Checkmate,” won the early rounds strictly on her ring generalship and crisper punches.

It seemed to my friend and I, and quite possibly Serrano, that Luna would have her moments early, only to tire and yield to the more skilled fighter. By this point, the third or fourth round, Evan’s view of women boxers was beginning to turn a little. As the very entertaining fight went to the middle rounds, it became evident that Serrano, who looked much better conditioned, was beginning to tire. She had spent much of the fight moving and picking off punches. Luna was beginning to look stronger. Serrano was content to open up on the inside, cutting Luna above her right eye. However, in the sixth, “Checkmate” began to look like she had been touched up, and she was obviously tiring.

At this point, I think even Evan was beginning to think that this may be his lead. Despite her technical superiority, Serrano had failed to be more effective than Luna, and now that that technical edge was gone, Luna began to take over. She landed overhand right and overhand right, even wobbling the New York fighter. Instead of Serrano’s straight punches beating her opponent’s wide punches, it was working the other way around. Then came the last two rounds.

Round nine saw the two combatants trade right hands through much of the round. Serrano was falling apart, but she had done enough in the ninth to win it, despite being out muscled by Luna. As they came out for the final round, Evan was clearly impressed, if not more, by the action he had seen to that point. Round ten was the round of the night to cap off the fight of night. They traded punches literally from bell to bell. It was the way a final round should be fought. For my buddy, it conjured up memories of Ken Norton and Larry Holmes (an “estrogenical Norton-Holmes” I believe he called it).

Both fighters’ faces were marked up quite a bit – Luna’s head was lined with some grotesque swelling – as they awaited the decision. The ring announcer, who was some hack job from a local TV station, muffed up his call, but the decision was clear, in a murky sort of way – majority draw. The decision was met with boos, of course, which ceased when the shabby announcer proclaimed that a rematch would take place very soon. The scores read 96-94 (Luna), 98-92 (Serrano), and 95-95. Evan and I both had it 96-94 for Serrano.

My jokes about revolving my story around the women’s fight actually had some truth to them after that, and Evan didn’t think I was a lunatic. My interest before seeing it was born out of curiosity. It was as if I was going to see the bearded lady or a sword swallower. However, after the impassioned efforts I witnessed from the ladies, I can now call them boxers with some conviction. I found out after the fight that Rhonda Luna was a late replacement. With that discovery, I also found a new sense of respect for women’s boxing. Not to say that I didn’t take it seriously before – it’s just been verified. I know I’ll be in Verona when they fight again, and you know what? I bet Evan will be too.

Article posted on 17.12.2005

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