Fighting in another country is no easy task and when you add altitude and smog it becomes an even bigger venture as Melinda Cooper discovered.
Cooper kept her record spotless by out-pointing Miriam Avila (11-2-2) on Saturday in Mexico City in a fight first scheduled for eight rounds, then six rounds, and ultimately four rounds. More than 7,000 fans attended the fight in Mexico City.
After spending more than a year without a fight, Cooper was eager for action in the ring and despite the last-minute changes everything went well after a trip up. Even after discovering later that Avila had 14 pro fights, not two as depicted on various record keeping web sites. She didn’t want an easy fight.
But sometimes aggression can have its drawbacks.
“I moved forward to throw a punch and there was a dip in the middle of the ring. I fell and she threw a punch,” said Cooper (20-0, 11 KOs). “The crowd thought it was a knockdown and got real loud.”
Luckily the referee ruled it a slip and the fight resumed without a knockdown erroneously awarded to Avila.
“First thing I thought was uh oh, it’s only a four round fight,” Cooper said of the slip. “Anything can happen in a four round fight,” she said.
Cooper said Avila was a pressure style fighter who moved in and fired.
“She was a typical Mexican fighter who threw a lot of hooks,” said Cooper, adding that the crowd was loud and supportive of the Mexican girl. “She wasn’t really fast, but tough.”
In the second round a body punch took the air out of Avila and suddenly she began to move backward.
“I hit her with a body shot and she grunted and dropped her hands. James (Pena, her trainer) said to jump on her,” said Cooper who may have the most knockouts in the bantamweight division with 11. “After that she started to move and I had to bring the fight to her.”
With the crowd shouting “Mexico! Mexico!” the Las Vegas fighter with the quick feet and quick hands pressured the Mexican fighter around the ring.
“Someone had a big drum and was banging it. It was just crazy,” said Cooper. “The altitude hit me. I felt it was good that the fight was only four rounds because I felt it. I could have maybe gone two more rounds.”
Cooper said it was her speedy combinations and power that changed the fight and allowed her to win all four rounds on two judge’s scorecards. One judge gave Avila one round.
“I thought it might be closer because we were in Mexico,” said the undefeated Cooper who is fighting as a bantamweight. “After the fight she told my trainer she was 11 and two with two draws now.”
It could have been a disaster for Cooper, but things worked out.
“I got sick the day before the weigh in. My throat and nose started acting up,” said Cooper who arrived six days before the fight on Saturday. “The altitude hit me, I felt it. But everything turned out ok.”
Cooper said fellow fighter Mariana Juarez greeted her in the locker rooms. Juarez was formerly based in Southern California. Now Juarez is back in Mexico City and fights in the flyweight division.
“She seemed really nice,” Cooper said.
Another female fighter, Ana Maria Torres, shared the card and won her fight by decision for the vacant WBC junior bantamweight title.
“She (Torres) was good. She pressed the girl a lot, she keeps her hands up well and throws good combinations,” said Cooper of the world champion Torres. “You can tell she’s been around and knows how to work the ring.”
After the fight the Las Vegas fighter was pleased with her performance, the judges and the crowd.
“The people were real open and they love you if you’re male or female. They love that you’re an athlete and a fighter. As long as you come to fight and don’t give up, then they love you,” Cooper said. “I liked that a lot.”