Jane Couch, Professional

12.09.06 - By Bernie McCoy: It's said, with some accuracy, that if you hang around boxing gyms long enough you eventually hear the wisdom of the world. With me, my first epiphany came during my second or third time in the old Broadway Gym in Brooklyn. I asked about a fighter who seemed to be moving pretty good, shadowboxing in the ring: "Is he a pro?", I asked one of the ringside "lifers." "Nah," the old guy replied "he jest fights for money." It took me some time in gyms to finally figure out this seemingly contradictory statement. Not every boxer who fights for money deserves the label "professional." And if you've spent enough time in boxing gyms, you can come up with four or five examples of that wisdom without having to thinking real hard..

Jane Couch has been fighting for money in rings around the world for 12 years. She's been a professional for every one of those 12 years. After initially overcoming the significant barriers thrown up in her native England to prevent females from entering the boxing ring, Couch, under the tutelage of veteran trainer Tex Woodward, embarked on a ring career against the top fighters in her weight class. After four fights against the typical "get your feet wet" opponents, Couch fought, in succession, Sandra Geiger, Andrea DeShong, Leah Mellinger and Dora Webber. For those whose Women's boxing history does not extend beyond Laila Ali, that list of fighters fits comfortably under the heading "quality opponents." Shortly thereafter, Couch fought and beat two of the top fighters of the era, Marischa Sjauw and Sharon Anyos, winning, with those efforts, two of the five title belts that Couch has held in her career.

As her career progressed, Couch continued to seek out and take fights that not many other fighters were elbowing their way to get in line for. Couch stepped in the ring with both Sumya Anani and Lucia Rijker at a time when some of the best fighters in the sport were having a great deal of trouble even pronouncing the names "Anani" and "Rijker," let alone, uttering the phrase, "lets make that fight." Jane Couch also fought Jamie Clampitt in New England, Jessica Rakoczy in California and Myriam Lamare in France. Not only did Couch seek out tough opposition, she was willing to travel great distances from England to take those bouts. She continues that path on September 23 when she travels to Albuquerque, NM to take on Holly Holm who is defending her IBA light welterweight belt.

Holly Holm, one of the best boxers in the welterweight division, has a gaudy 14-1-2 record and a year ago, used her speed and boxing skill to win an unanimous decision over Christy Martin. Since then, Holm has defeated Mia St. John, Shandina Pennybaker and Angelica Martinez. In addition to fighting in her hometown, Holm also has a 14 year age advantage on the 38 year old Couch. When I asked Couch about that age difference and whether it would be an obstacle, she replied, with a laugh, "Ask Bernard Hopkins."

To the question of whether she had "scouted" Holm on film Couch said, "I haven't seen anything of Holly. I have never watched a tape of any of my opponents and that hasn't stopped me from taking down five titles." Another daunting aspect of the Holm arsenal is the fact that she is a southpaw. Couch noted, "I'm actually looking forward to the southpaw stance. My trainer, (Tex Woodward) was a southpaw and had 114 fights and was known as a very elusive boxer who didn't get hit much. That's a big difference from my style, so he's teaching me his secrets at long last."

The trip to New Mexico, from England, takes nearly a full day, with plane connections in today's world of super security checks at all airports. Couch takes the journey in stride, "I've been to Texas, California, New Orleans, Connecticut and Atlantic City. It's pretty much the same to me, some trips are more difficult than others, but it's nothing new to me, you go where the fight is." Speaking of where the fight is, does Couch have any trepidation to, once again, going into the "home territory" of a good fighter and trying to come away with a decision? "You, of course, never know how that's going to go. I got a close win in Connecticut (over Jamie Clampitt) and I anticipate the same type of fair judging in New Mexico. In any event, you can't let where you're fighting distract you when you go into the ring, you just have to focus on the job."

A logical question to any 38 year old fighter is how long will she keep "focusing on the job." "I'm really not sure. Right now I have no thoughts of retirement, I just want to keep fighting anyone and everyone who'll get in the ring with me. As soon as that desire goes away, then maybe I'll give it (retirement) some serious thought. I've had some tough fights, including the fight to be able to box in England. It hasn't come easy to me, but because of that I've had a greater sense of achievement over what I've accomplished."

September 23 won't be easy for Jane Couch, either. Holly Holm is a very good fighter with an abundance of speed and ring skills, but Couch has been there before, in the hometown of a quality fighter, a long way from England. Couch is the decided underdog, but she's been there before, too. If only that boxing "lifer" from the Broadway Gym could be in Albuquerque on September 23 to watch Couch come out of the corner against Holm. After a time, I'd ask him the same question I asked all those years ago, "Is she a pro?" and I know what his answer would be, "Oh yeah, she's a pro."

Article posted on 12.09.2006

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