Layla McCarter has risen from the depths of losers row to consideration as one of boxing’s best female prizefighters in the world.
Yes, she truly is amazing.
After winning her pro debut in 1998, she proceeded to go winless in her next six fights. At that point, she could have quit and the world would never have known her talent.
“I’m stubborn,” McCarter confesses.
It’s that stubbornness that drove her to seek a pro fighting career that encompassed poverty, loneliness and eventually the solitary road of the warrior. Female or not, McCarter wants to fight.
“I love the skill involved in boxing. There’s nothing else like it,” she says.
On Friday, McCarter puts her accumulated skills to the test against Japan’s ready warrior Fujin Raika (18-5-1, 6 KOs) at the Southpoint Casino in Las Vegas. The WBA and GBU lightweight titles will go to the winner of the non-televised fight card.
McCarter likes to make it a point to prove that women can fight as well as men.
Whether it’s lobbying boxing sanction organizations or the Nevada State Athletic Commission for 12 three-minute rounds like men, or equal prize money, she’s always pushing for equality for women pro boxers.
Now its back to her real business of defending her world titles in a rematch against Raika. They fought before in 2002. McCarter won by majority decision in Tokyo.
“I think she (Raika) has been hungry for the opportunity to fight me. It’s a chance to avenge a loss early in her career. She’s done a lot in her career. Not too many people get an opportunity top beat someone in their hometown,” said McCarter (31-13-5, 7 KOs), who remembers it was an extremely difficult fight. “I’m giving her a chance to step back in the game. A good victory over me will put her back in the game. I’m the one that has everything to lose. It was a good offer for her.”
A lot can change in seven years, including boxing styles and philosophies. McCarter does not know exactly what to expect from the female Japanese warrior.
“She comes right forward and doesn’t give a lot of angles. She has more of a puncher’s style. Raika is a strong fighter she is very aggressive and an aggressive punching style,” said the Las Vegas based McCarter who first fought and beat Raika as a 126-pound featherweight. “My style is different than it used to be.”
The Las Vegas boxer remembers that she was eight pounds overweight and forced to run for two hours before the fight later that took place later that night. Despite the fatigue, she managed to beat Raika.
“I was miserable,” McCarter recalls. “I had the edge because I had 20 fights and more experience than her. So I out boxed her and threw angles on her. I used to have more defense than offense. It’s a different dynamic now.”
That was the old McCarter. The new McCarter likes to stand her ground, slip and counter while capitalizing on her opponent’s mistakes.
“This fight I’m going to put some power in the mix. My style is different than I used to be,” she says. “I don’t know how she is going to stand with the power that I put in the mix now. There might be some fireworks before the Fourth of July.”
Friday is also McCarter’s 50th pro fight. Less than a dozen female fighters have ever reached that mark.
“There’s only a few women like me and Belinda (Laracuente) who have fought everybody and have 50 pro fights,” McCarter says proudly. “We both have a lot of experience and a lot of fights. And we’re still young.”
Aside from McCarter and Laracuente, others who have reached 50 or more pro fights are Christy Martin, Mia St. John, Stephanie Dobbs, Kelsey Jeffries, and the now retired Regina Halmich of Germany. It’s a very elite bunch.
“A lot of people try to push me out of the game. They tell me I’ve been here forever, it’s time for the new blood,” says McCarter with a laugh. “I tell them no, no. I still got five years. Maybe I can hit 100 fights. Probably not.”
One fighter on the card is Juan Pablo Montes De Oca. What’s the significance of De Oca? He’s the guy that landed the body shot heard round the world on Floyd Mayweather. Money’s ribs needed a rest after getting tagged in sparring by De Oca who is always matched with tough opponents. He faces Brazil’s Carlos Nascimento in a 10-round fight.
Also on the same fight card is Las Vegas prizefighter Michelle Gutierrez (1-0) meeting Andrea Johnson who is making her pro debut. In men’s boxing Antonio Mesquita takes part in a junior middleweight bout against Victor Correa. For tickets call American Boxing Promotions (925) 457-5966.
Women Fight notes
Junior lightweight world champion Melissa Hernandez of New York City has been added to the Aug. 1 fight card that features Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley defending his WBO junior welterweight title against Nate Campbell at Agua Caliente Resort Casino.
An opponent has not been signed for Hernandez, but those under consideration are Ana Julaton, Jennifer Barber and Rhonda Luna. Ironically, if Hernandez and Julaton meet, it would be a battle of the Puerto Rican hurricane versus the Filipina hurricane. Both fighters use “Hurricane” as a nickname.
Moreno Valley’s Kaliesha “Wild Wild” West, a world ranked bantamweight, has been mentioned as a possible added attraction on the same card. If it doesn’t transpire, she could be fighting in Corona in mid-August, said Alex Camponovo of Thompson Boxing Promotions.
Las Vegas bantamweight Melinda Cooper, who recently won in Mexico City earlier in the month, is set to return to Mexico in late July. At press time Cooper was scheduled to fight in Cancun. No opponent has been named.
Mexico’s Mariana Juarez, a former junior bantamweight world titleholder, is in negotiations with Germany’s Alesia Graf. Juarez recently captured a regional flyweight title and is set to fight in Tijuana, Mexico on July 18 if the fight with Graf is not finalized. Juarez fights for Erik Morales Promotions and formerly fought out of South El Monte, California.
IBF middleweight titleholder Arthur Abraham (30-0, 24 KOs) knocked out Mahir Oral (25-2-2) in the 10th round in Germany last Saturday.
WBA junior lightweight titleholder Jorge Linares (27-0, 18 KOs) stopped Mexico’s Josafat Perez (12-2, 7 KOs) in the eighth round in Tamaulipas, Mexico on Saturday.
WBO junior featherweight titleholder Juan Manuel Lopez of Puerto Rico stopped Olivier Lontchi in the ninth round. And Vanes Martirosyan retired Andrey Tsurkan in the sixth round. Both fights occurred in Atlantic City on Saturday.
Scotland’s Craig McEwan (16-0, 9 KOs), an undefeated southpaw middleweight, won by split decision over clever Darnell Boone (16-11-2) in Los Angeles.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV