Germany-based Italian Lucia Morelli won the vacant World Boxing Federation Women’s World Lightweight title on Saturday night at the Ratiopharm Arena in Neu Ulm, Germany, scoring a close majority decision over local fan-favorite Rola El Halabi.
More than 5000 fans showed up to support and celebrate El Halabi, who was miraculously returning to the ring after being shot in hands, knees and feet by her estranged stepfather in April 2011, but after an inspired and admirable performance it was not enough in the end.
Both fighters started cautiously, feeling each other out, but Morelli (18-3, 8 KOs) may have nicked most of the early rounds by being more precise with her punches. Midway through the bout things got more heated and the exchanges more frequent, as both had their success.
After ten good, close rounds Morelli was declared the victor by scores of 96-95, 97-93 and 95-95, but El Halabi must still be considered a major winner for defying the odds and coming back from tragedy to perform at world class level.
“I congratulate Lucia on the victory”, said El Halabi after the fight. “She was just a little bit better than me, but I gave it everything I had and it was not quite enough. I lost the fight, but I gained so much and I am happy. I’m back in my life!”
When asked if she perhaps should have returned against an easier opponent, El Halabi, who lost for the first time as a professional (11-1, 6 KOs), didn’t want to offer any excuses for the defeat, saying:
“I was having a hard time finding my distance and it took me two or three rounds too long to find it, but I didn’t want to return against an easy opponent. I wanted to fight someone as tough as Lucia. I wanted an honest fight, and I lost honestly. That’s the way sports should be!”
El Halabi expressed her gratitude towards the many fans in attendance, and promised them that she would return soon and eventually become a world champion again. Both camps expressed interest in a rematch, and there is no doubt that the loyal fans of El Halabi will turn out again to cheer her on.
Also on Saturday night, at the Palais des Sports in Saint-Quentin, France, German underdog Mounir Toumi survived a first-round knockdown to capture the vacant WBF International Light Heavyweight title with a split decision over Tony Averlant.
Toumi, coming off four straight victories after going 10-11 in his first twenty-one starts, showed great willpower to not be discouraged by the knockdown, and came back strong to edge the local man after ten entertaining rounds of boxing.
The three judges at ringside scored the bout 95-94, 95-94 for the visitor and 97-93 for Averlant. The new champion improved his deceivingly modest professional record to 15-11 (5), while Averlant fell to 18-7-2 (4).
The fight was promoted by Bleu Ciel Production headed by Pascal Cordier.