California’s Jennifer Barber doesn’t have time to fiddle around with preliminaries and move slowly up the rankings. She wants action now.
That’s why Barber and Brooke Dierdorff (4-3-1, 3 KOs) are tangling for the vacant NABF featherweight title on Saturday, Sept. 20, at the Mile High Event Center in Denver. The fight will not be televised.
For Barber, the rugged and unforgiving road of female prizefighting is not going to stop her from zipping through on her own freeway because she has plans. And in four years the featherweight boxer is hanging up her gloves.
“I have a four-year plan,” Barber, 26, (7-0, 4 KOs) says. “By the time I’m 30 I’m going to call it a career.”
It all began for Barber as a young girl in a martial arts studio. She took classes in various fighting arts like karate and judo and learned how to defend herself. But after a number of years she left that world to pursue a college degree.
While in the halls of education she spotted an event taking place on television. It changed her life.
“I was watching TV and saw Freda Foreman box,” said Barber. “I didn’t know women could box too.”
Despite attending college and working simultaneously, Barber quickly got hooked into delving into the fighting art. No doubt about it, she wanted to try it out.
“I never was very good at basketball,” says Barber who stands five feet six inches in height and weighs 126 pounds. “If I’m not good at something then I don’t want to do it. I’m good at boxing.”
Though she got a late start, boxing quickly became a passion though she was already a student at Cal State University of Northridge majoring in deaf studies.
“I would get up at five in the morning to go run,” said Barber, who would also do other exercises before going to class.
Stan Ward, a former California heavyweight champion, has trained her since her amateur career and now as a professional.
“She’s very dedicated,” said Ward, who beat former world champion Mike Weaver in 1978 for the California heavyweight title and held the state title until he retired in 1989. “If she weren’t that disciplined I wouldn’t waste time training her. She does everything I ask her to do with no complaints.”
Two important components are instilled in Barber that Ward values.
“First you have to have endurance, especially in the elite level,” said Ward, who fought three former heavyweight world champions in his career. “And, you have to have good defense.”
Ward also trains men but feels female fighters, especially Barber, are willing to learn all phases of the boxing game.
“Men are so interested in demonstrating their power so they lack discipline,” said Ward who fought from 1974 to 1989. “Women are more disciplined than guys. They want to learn everything, not just power.”
As an amateur Barber captured two national titles in winning the U.S. Golden Gloves. But she was never given an opportunity to fight overseas in international competition.
“I always thought if you won a national title you would get invited to fight in the international tournaments, but I was never invited,” said Barber, who was among the dozens of female boxers anticipating the Olympics that recently passed. “It was a little disappointing.”
After giving up on amateurs, her views of the professional boxing world were quite different than reality.
“I thought it was going to be easier,” said Barber about moving into the pro boxing world. “I thought I’d be picked up by some promoter for a lot of money.”
The offers never came and boxing promoters were just not interested in female prizefighting.
In a year’s span Barber has fought seven opponents and captured four knockouts. Now she’s fighting for the NABF featherweight title against Illinois’s Dierdorff, an all action boxer who is a former kick boxer.
“She punches hard,” said Barber about Dierdorff. “I’m going to have to box her.”
Southern California’s Kaliesha West often spars with Barber and likes several things that the number three-ranked featherweight does in the ring.
“She knows how to put combinations together and put them together fast and get out,” said West. “She can easily frustrate and beat a fighter with her combinations. And she is usually in tremendous condition.”
Dierdorff, 27, like Barber, started her boxing career late. But she’s beaten several good female boxers, including Mia St. John and lost a decision to Alicia Ashley.
“Brooke is a good puncher and is real strong,” said West who witnessed Dierdorff fight to a draw against Liz Villarreal in Temecula a year ago.
Barber will be fighting for her first title opportunity. It’s Dierdorff’s second attempt at the regional title.
“This is the first step for me,” said Barber. “Hopefully I can fight for a world title sometime next year.”
The San Fernando Valley boxer doesn’t have time to waste.
“There’s more to life than just boxing,” says Barber. “I want to do the most I can in boxing in four years.”
Tomorrow can’t wait.
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