Holly Holm: Hometown Favorite

19.09.06 - By Bernie McCoy: Last week, after a few false starts with her promoter and trainer, I caught up with Holly Holm at her home base in Albuquerque, NM where, on September 23, she will defend her IBA light welterweight title against Englishwoman Jane Couch. I spoke with her on her cell phone as she weaved her way, successfully, thru the traffic in Albuquerque. Holm has, likewise, weaved her way, successfully, thru the ranks of top welterweights in the sport of Women's boxing..

Holm has accomplished this while putting up a 14-1-2 record. Included in that record are wins over solid, quality fighters such as Terri Blair, Angelica Martinez and Shadina Pennybaker, a non-surprising shutout win over a fighter with a famous name, Mia St. John and a surprisingly one sided win over a famous fighter with a famous record, Christy Martin. Holm, initially, came to national prominence in the sport as a result of two "neighborhood brawl" bouts, a win and a draw, with Stephanie Jaramillo, another Albuquerque fighter.

The bout with Jane Couch, in this era of unrelenting hype in which every sporting event seems to require a working title, is being labeled the "Revolution." An alternate suggestion might be the "Contrast." Jane Couch is 38 years old and has been boxing professionally for 12 years. Holly Holm, 24, has been boxing for 4 years. Holm, a stylish boxer often employs silky smooth movement while utilizing the entire expanse of the ring. Couch comes straight ahead and seems as though she would be just as happy if the bout were held in a phone booth. Couch has fought across Europe, on the island of Jamaica and the bout on September 23 will be her ninth fight in the United States. Holm has, charitably, stayed close to home. Only one of her 17 bouts has been outside New Mexico, a 2004 majority draw in Ignacio, CO with Angelica Martinez.

Early in our conversation, Holm demonstrates that the boxing ring is not the only locale where she can be stylishly quick, as she smoothly segues into the "hometown" topic, "A lot has been made about that, but, quite frankly, that's the nature of the boxing business, particularly for women. I'm popular in Albuquerque (Holm is not only a stylishly quick conversationalist, she also knows how to use understatement to deftly spin, linguistically, off the ropes). All my shows sell out, so why should I travel somewhere else for the same or less money, particularly when television doesn't bother to provide us with much coverage. I'd be more than willing to go outside New Mexico and fight. I realize there are a number of good fights out there, Anani, Sanders, even Rijker, if she's still competing, but to fight in another town, in relative obscurity, without TV, it's just not worth it." It's a valid argument and one that continues to plague the sport of Women's boxing; a niche sport popular in niche markets because of talented fighters who remain, primarily, local attractions, Mary Jo Sanders, Jessica Rakoczy and Canadian Jelena Mrdjenovich to mention but three. Unless and until, television decides to provide a national venue for these type of top female fighters, talents like Holly Holm and others will continue to display those talents in a hometown venue. It's difficult to refute that marketing strategy.

That strategy continues on September 23, at the Isleta Casino in Albuquerque, when Holm boxes ten rounds with Jane Couch. Asked what she knows about Couch, Holm replies, "I know she constantly comes forward and throws hard, straight punches. She's been in with the best in the sport and I'm preparing for a very competitive bout. I'm coming off a tough ten rounds (a unanimous decision win in June) with Angelica Martinez, who I've fought three times and that last one just might have been my toughest fight so far. As a result, I feel I'm well prepared for another tough bout." Emphasizing just how tough she considered the Martinez fight, Holm turns into a bit of a promoter, "She (Martinez) has, I think, a very good shot against Christy Martin (in Worley, ID on October 6). That will be an action packed fight that I'd love to see."

Asked whether her southpaw stance is an advantage in the ring, Holm replies, "For every advantage the southpaw stance provides, there are disadvantages, so, No, I don't consider the fact that I'm a southpaw to be any kind of an edge, particularly against a Jane Couch who, like Christy Martin, has been around long enough to have seen just about everything in the ring." What's the future hold for Holly Holm? "That's up to my management, they take care of that aspect of my career. As I said, there are a lot of good fighters and a lot of good fights out there and I'm probably young enough to get to all of them."

Jane Couch is first on the list of "good fighters and good fights" and Holm has been preparing by sparring four times a week, in addition to "the usual gym work." Holm is certainly the favorite going into the bout, given the "home field" advantage of fighting in Albuquerque, boxing at a familiar venue, the Isleta Casino, where her last five fights have been held, with familiar ring officials, in front of a wildly partisan local crowd. But Holly Holm's 14-1-2 record did not come from hometown venues, familiar officials and partisan crowds. Holm has compiled that record because she is a talented fighter and those wins have come as a result of that talent. Jane Couch is next and if Holm gets by Couch there are, indeed, "a lot of good fighters and a lot of good fights." Ideally, those fights against those fighters will be available to fans outside New Mexico, either on national television or in major boxing venues. Holly Holm deserves both.

Article posted on 20.09.2006

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