Pilates just weren’t the answer for Wendy Rodriguez who was looking for a means to keep fit 11 years ago, so she followed her older brother to a boxing gym and aside from keeping trim worked her way to several world titles.
>Now the South-Central Los Angeles prizefighter faces Germany’s legendary Regina Halmich (52-1-1, 16 KOs) for the WIBF flyweight title on Saturday, July 28, in Dusseldorf, Germany. The fight will not be televised on U.S. television.
Halmich, 30, has become the true Million Dollar Baby in her native country and has never lost in Germany.
“I know she’s a very good fighter,” said Rodriguez, 28, who captured three world titles as a mini flyweight.
The blonde German fighter has fought in front of large crowds and has reportedly garnered more than $1 million as a prizefighter. She may be retiring soon.
“Right now it’s bad to talk about the last fight or parting,” stated Halmich, 30, who was born in Karlsruhe, Germany. “There won’t be any further professional fights for me in Dusseldorf.”
Fighting since 1994, Halmich has amassed 54 professional fights with only one loss in her career despite facing some of the best female fighters in the world. For some reason Las Vegas remains an unlucky city for Halmich.
In 1995 she received her first and only loss to date against Yvonne Trevino at the Aladdin Hotel in the gambling Mecca. She was stopped by technical knockout due to a severe cut on her left cheek. Three years ago she fought Las Vegas boxer Elena Reid and was given a draw.
Las Vegas spells bad luck for Halmich.
“It’s pretty much impossible to beat Regina in Germany,” said Reid, the WIBA and IFBA flyweight champion who fought a rematch against Halmich and lost by decision. “You pretty much have to knock her out there.”
Two years earlier in 2002, Yvonne Caples lost a majority decision to Halmich too. Caples also lives in Las Vegas.
Rodriguez stands an inch under five feet in height. When you see her it’s hard to believe she’s one of the top female prizefighters in the world. But once she’s in the ring the skill, speed, agility and focus are razor sharp.
The first day she walked into a boxing gym as a 17-year-old and saw the people hitting the bags, sparring and shadowboxing, she loved it immediately. Soon the training for fitness became training for fights.
“I had wanted to lose a little weight. I wasn’t feeling good about myself,” Rodriguez (18-3-3, 3 KOs) said.
Now she has the IBA, IFBA and NABA mini flyweight world titles.
Unlike the new wave of female fighters, Rodriguez didn’t have an extensive amateur background where she could gain experience facing different styles throughout the country. All of her experience came as a professional.
“It was hard to find opponents in the amateurs. My trainer told me I’d get more fights as a pro so I turned professional,” said Rodriguez, who was 20 when she obtained a pro license in California after six amateur fights.
Rodriguez made her debut in 1999 against Lisa Butler at the Pechanga Casino and showed a penchant for using her legs and speed to stay way from her opponent’s return fire. It was difficult for Butler to land any semblance of a combination against the fast-moving Rodriguez who won by unanimous decision.
“My first pro fight went really fast,” she recalls. “I was so nervous and excited I didn’t even feel the punches.”
Two fights later she met Yvonne Caples who would later win a world title. Rodriguez lost a four round fight by decision. In her first eight pro fights she would fight to three draws against Anissa Zamarron, Margaret Sidoroff and Marylyn Salcido. It was all a learning experience that propelled her to the world title.
Outside the ring Rodriguez pursued a degree in Child Development at Cal State University of Los Angeles and worked at the LA Boxing Gym near the historic Olympic Auditorium. Whatever free time she had was given to boxing.
Though she graduated a few years ago, she’s much too busy to do anything but run to the boxing gym and work. She also helps with her family restaurant in downtown L.A.
Recently she sparred with Moreno Valley’s rising star Kaliesha West, already a contender in the bantamweight despite still being only 19.
“It was great sparring with a world champion,” said West, who is undefeated. “It took a while to figure her out. She’s really good.”
A week ago Rodriguez also sparred with Julie Rubalcava, a bantamweight who is moving down to flyweight.
“It was good experience for Julie,” said David Martinez, who trains Rubalcava at the La Habra Boxing Club. “Wendy has a lot of speed.”
Speed is Rodriguez’s greatest asset. She’s also gained a lot of experience fighting different styles.
One thing she has learned is to fight her fight. It was a lesson she gained from her last loss that came against Holly Dunaway this past March.
“I tried to please the crowd and I didn’t fight the way I usually fight,” Rodriguez says. “I definitely want a rematch.”
Halmich has already beaten Dunaway and a score of fighters that include many notable fighters. This could be her last professional fight.
“I wouldn’t like to say goodbye from boxing with a loss,” Halmich said. “Wendy Rodriguez will be a tough challenge for me.”
For the California fighter it’s a dream come true.
“Since I turned pro I wanted to fight her because she was the best,” said Rodriguez. “I’m looking forward to fighting her in Germany. I hear they really love women’s boxing.”