Although two-time world champion Melissa “Missy” Fiorentino is one of the world’s most accomplished female fighters, she is much too professional to take any of her opponents lightly.
As the mandatory challenger for the immensely popular WBC featherweight champion Jelana Mrdjenovich, Fiorentino is all but guaranteed a bout with the Canadian superstar by the spring of 2008.
Still the 30-year-old Fiorentino, 16-1 (6 KOs), of Cranston, Rhode Island, has opted to take on the always tough Ela “Bam Bam” Nunez, 5-2 (1 KO), of Jamestown, New York, in a fight being billed as “The Ultimate Showdown II” on January 26 at the Mansfield Sportsplex in Mansfield, Massachusetts.
At stake will be the vacant IWBF super featherweight title. Fiorentino, whose only loss was a disputed 10 round decision to Emiko Raika for the WIBA featherweight title in Raika’s home country of Japan, has won the IWBF lightweight title from local rival Jaime Clampitt, as well as the NABF super featherweight crown from previously undefeated Cindy Serrano in her very last fight this past summer.
“Missy is one of New England’s most exciting fighters – male or female – because of the way she attacks her opponents,” said Peter Manfredo Sr., who is promoting the January affair. “Nothing can stop her from coming forward. She’s going to get hit and probably will get cut and bruised, but nobody’s going to stop her. She always gives fans what they want – real fights. Ela Nunez is tough too, so it’s going to be an all out brawl.”
Just about all of Fiorentino’s fights are action-packed. Because she is only 5’1” tall, she likes to mix it up on the inside. She gives no quarter and expects none in return, so it is not easy for even the slickest and tallest of boxers to escape her onslaught.
She has already beaten four previously undefeated fighters, including Serrano, who was 15-0-1, and one of the most lauded females in the game.
“I love to train and I love to fight,” said Fiorentino. “The best part of it all is when I win and see that all of my hard training paid off. That is very gratifying.”
One aspect of the sport that is not so gratifying is the difficulty so many American female fighters encounter on the road. Because female boxing is much more appreciated in countries like Germany and Japan, Americans are often forced to go on the road where they wind up on the wrong end of bad decisions.
“There’s no way I lost the Raika fight,” said Fiorentino. “They didn’t even give the score at the end. A lot of Japanese people told me afterwards that I won the fight. [The promoters] don’t want to see the titles taken out of their country, so it’s always tough to go overseas.”
Fiorentino is the only woman who trains at Manfredo’s Gym, so she regularly spars with men, most of whom are amateurs. Although super middleweight contender Peter Manfredo Jr. is much heavier than she is, she has even sparred with him on a few occasions.
Like so many other women boxers, the level of dedication Fiorentino displays on a daily basis is awe inspiring. A graduate of Roger Williams College, where she earned a degree in criminal justice, Fiorentino is employed as a Rhode Island sheriff.
She regularly transports prisoners from jail to court, and has also done many extraditions in locations as far away as Florida and California.
She regularly squeezes in a three to five mile run during her lunch hour, and then heads to the gym after clocking off duty at about 5:30 P.M. She normally trains until about 8:30 at night.
“I’m always in great shape because I throw punches from bell to bell,” said Fiorentino, who is known by her stalwart fans as “The Fury” because of her relentless offensive style. “Everyone is taller than me, so I really can’t box with them. I have to work inside by applying constant pressure. And when I get inside, I have to stay there or they will just use their reach to keep me at a distance.”
For that reason, Fiorentino says her style is fairly predictable. She will utilize the same method of attack against the relatively inexperienced Nunez that she will against the much more experienced and battle-tested champion Mrdjenovich. Because of her diminutive stature, Fiorentino really can’t fight any other way.
For much of her career, Fiorentino fought under the banner of Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment and Sports. She was unceremoniously dumped from his stable when she carried out Mia St. John’s belt during St. John’s ring walk for a fight against Jaime Clampitt.
Fiorentino had already beaten Clampitt in a 10 round title world lightweight title fight when both were promoted by Burchfield. The promoter felt that Fiorentino’s actions were treasonous, so he released her from her contract. Fiorentino is now managed by her mother, Shirley Ouellette.
While initially saddened about the release, she is now happy to be able to fight anywhere in the world.
She still doesn’t understand what all the hoopla was about. She said that she had met St. John at the weigh-in for her fight, and was honored to carry her belt because she felt that St. John had been responsible for bringing female boxing such a long way forward.
Right now Fiorentino is only focused on the future, not the past. And her future begins in late January against Nunez, who has never been stopped and has shown plenty of mettle of her own.
“If I beat Nunez, I will have won three world titles,” said Fiorentino, who has also participated in karate, kickboxing and track and field. “Knowing I am one of the best female boxers in the world means a lot to me. It feels great when people say I am one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the sport.”
The January 26th show is being presented by Manfredo Sr., in association with Bash for Cash. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, which assists men and women of the armed forces who have been severely injured during conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the world.
Also scheduled to appear on the card are three of New England’s top pro prospects: New Hampshire cruiserweight Rich Gingras, 7-0 (4 KOs); undefeated super middleweight Mark “The Italian Bazooka” DeLuca, 3-0 (2 KOs), of Whitman, MA; and Worcester, MA, middleweight Edwin Rodriguez, who will be making his pro debut.
Rodriguez, who won 89 of 93 amateur bouts, earned gold medals at the 2005 U.S Championships and the 2006 National Golden Gloves Championships.
Seven amateur matches will round out the card, including one between Foxboro, MA, police officer David Fascaldo and Eric Flaherty, who is an officer with the Massachusetts Department of Corrections.
Also scheduled to appear is Tony “The Tiger” O’Brien, a retired Navy Seals captain, and another Foxboro police officer named Frank Acevedo.
Tickets range from $175 to $25. To purchase tickets or get more information, call 401-723-1359 or go online to: www.bashforcashllc.com.