Layla McCarter seeks to stamp her footprint on boxing history when she meets Belinda Laracuente for the GBU lightweight world title in three-minute rounds. All previous female fights in the last 20 years have been two-minute rounds.
Already a featherweight and junior welterweight world titleholder, the impish McCarter out of Las Vegas fights Puerto Rico’s Laracuente at the Orleans Casino on Friday Nov. 17. The 10-round contest will be televised a week later on several worldwide cable stations.
The fight was scheduled for 12 rounds but due to Laracuente’s record of not winning in her last six bouts, the Nevada Athletic Commission would not sanction a 12-round bout. But it did consent to three-minute rounds. No other state or nation sanctions three-minute rounds.
“It’s a matter of principle,” says McCarter, 27, who spars with men as well as women despite looking like a normal college student. “We train as hard as men and our fights are sometimes better than men’s so we should be allowed to fight the same amount of rounds and minutes.”
The Las Vegas prizefighter has gained recognition as one of the most skilled female fighters on the planet and always looks to set precedents in her sport. Seven years ago she became the youngest woman to win a world title when she beat Sandra Yard for the IFBA featherweight title in July 2000. This past October she willingly put on 20 pounds to meet junior middleweight Dakota Stone in an eight-round match in Rochester, Washington; the fight ended in a draw.
“I really thought I won that fight,” said McCarter who normally walks around at 130 pounds but accepted a match against Dakota Stone who weighed 154 pounds. “It really made me mad that it ended in a draw.”
At five feet, four inches in height, McCarter does not strike fear in her opponents. She doesn’t look like the fighting machine capable of beating talented fighters such as Lisa Holewyne, Tracy Byrd, Emiko Raika and Elena Reid.
“Layla is very strong mentally,” says Luis Tapia who trains and manages McCarter. “She’s not afraid of anyone.”
McCarter’s dream is to fight her namesake Laila Ali. Though the daughter of the great Muhammad Ali weighs 175 pounds and is considered one of the best fighters in the world, McCarter insists she can beat her.
“I’m too fast for her,” McCarter says of Ali who stands at five-feet-ten-inches. “It’s all about skills.”
Before she can jump up to bigger opponents, she must pass through the very capable Laracuente.
“This is going to be a tough fight,” McCarter says of Laracuente. “Most of her losses have come to good fighters in their hometowns.”
Though the Puerto Rican fighter has been unsuccessful in six bouts, the quality of her opponents has been world champion material.
Laracuente met former lightweight world titleholder Jessica Rakoczy at the Staples Center last September, but an accidental clash of heads left her opponent bleeding profusely and the bout was stopped during the third round. For two rounds fans got a glimpse of Laracuente’s talent.
Back in 2000, Laracuente first showed her talent when she met the Christy “The Coal Miner’s Daughter” Martin at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. For 10 rounds a surprised crowd saw the Puerto Rican display her boxing moves in a losing effort. But a star was born that night.
“I saw that fight,” said McCarter. “She’s a really good boxer.”
Chevelle Hallback, the WIBA junior lightweight titleholder, fought both Laracuente and McCarter. She rates both highly.
“Layla has a great right hand,” said Hallback who fought McCarter two years ago at Pala Casino in Southern California. “I had to be careful and use combinations to beat her.”
Laracuente and Hallback fought to a 10-round decision for the WIBA junior lightweight title a year ago.
Inside Johnny Tocco Boxing Gym in Las Vegas, McCarter spars with Tapia for 10 rounds to get her footwork and defense sharpened. Every time Tapia fires a blow it seems as if it could possibly knock her out of the ring. But the female prizefighter is one of the most adept fighters at slipping punches.
“She’s the best,” Tapia says.
McCarter moves left or right with split-second timing that gets her out of trouble. Her feet move purposely and her eyes almost never blink inside the boxing ring. Outside of the ropes she’s willing to stump for female boxing equality.
“Whether it’s for a world title or not, it’s the principle,” McCarter says. “We deserve more recognition.”