It was ladies night as Holly Holm pulled out a unanimous win over Mary Jo Sanders and kept the IFBA junior middleweight title among several other captivating world championship bouts on Friday.
Holm handed Sanders her first loss in front of a sold out crowd at Isleta Casino in Albuquerque, New Mexico and other winners were Chevelle Hallback, Wendy Rodriguez and Carina Moreno on a fight card televised on pay-per-view.
In a slugfest, Hallback (27-5-2) ripped punches for 10 rounds against the somewhat over-matched Jeannine Garside (7-1-1). Though the Canadian never relented she was taking much more punishment than she dished out.
On several occasions Hallback stunned Garside. By the fourth round the left-handed Canadian began looking more and more defeated as she walked back to the corner between rounds.
Hallback, who likes to look down while she punches, landed roundhouse punches from both sides, but the one punch that could have ended it, the uppercut, was seldom thrown.
Garside fought valiantly but just couldn’t muster enough firepower to keep veteran pugilist Hallback from walking in.
The judges scored it a unanimous decision win for Hallback.
In the mini-flyweight battle, it was Wendy Rodriguez (19-4-3) finding vindication against Holly Dunaway (21-6) in a rematch of a fight from last year. It was Dunaway who beat Rodriguez in the first fight by counter-punching effectively.
In this fight, Rodriguez looked for openings and fought inside when available, but by the eighth round, the Los Angeles-based fighter slipped into another gear and Dunaway couldn’t keep pace.
The television commentators were badly off in scoring this fight. Both had Dunaway winning eight rounds to two. Arnie Rosenthal, who has promoted female fights, once claimed erroneously Dunaway was out-landing Rodriguez five punches to one. She was throwing punches but not landing. As both fought inside, it was Rodriguez who almost always connected more effectively.
Maybe the commentators were fooled by Dunaway’s annoying habit of raising her fist in the air to signify she won each round?
One thing about the commentators, they talked too much. Bernstein is the most chatty boxer commentator in the business. It makes for a bad judge.
Anyway, it was Rodriguez who won by split-decision over Dunaway and claims the IFBA and IBA strawweight titles.
In the IFBA junior flyweight championship it was Carina Moreno (18-1) moving up in weight and Eileen Olszewski (5-1-1) moving down one division. Moreno dominated the bigger girl for all 10 rounds with her speed and relentless style.
The New York-based Olszewski had her moments, but Moreno just had a tempo too quick for the bigger girl who ate punch after punch for 10 rounds. It was a unanimous decision win for Moreno of Northern California who now has the IFBA junior flyweight title.
In the much anticipated main event, Holm (22-1-2) fought in front of her hometown crowd with her mixture of boxing and movement and just didn’t give Mary Jo Sanders (25-1) opportunities to set up her own punches for the first three rounds.
Sanders found her timing in the fourth round with repeated right hands that seemed to slow Holm down. But whenever the fighters got close, Sanders repeatedly failed to capitalize on the situation and let Holm tie her up or fire combinations.
Holm repeatedly used the same tactic of running in with her head down and firing punches, a poor tactic for a pro boxer, but one that works for her in women’s boxing. Any good fighter would stand their ground and catch her coming in with an uppercut or two. Not Sanders.
All three judges had Holm winning by a wide margin. It was a close fight in my estimation, but the correct winner was New Mexico’s Holm, who definitely fought her brand of boxing.
It was Sanders' first loss.
During the post fight ceremonies, Holm was awarded boxing’s best fighter Pound for Pound belt by (WBAN) Women’s Boxing web site editor Sue Fox. Holm definitely deserves to be in the top 10 but needs to fight outside of New Mexico to prove her ability. She has too much of an edge at home. The crowds definitely sway the judges. Two judges gave eight rounds to Holm. It seemed like a much closer fight than that, but who knows if the cheers for Holm’s every punch prompted judges to give her those rounds not deserved?
But Holm did fight her style and did it effectively. Sanders had many opportunities and failed to make good use.
Friday fight results
Lisa Brown (15-3-3) pulled out a split-decision win over Alicia Ashley (14-8-1) to keep the IFBA featherweight title. Though it seemed Ashley was the winner, she has a fan ugly style that forces judges to score for anyone opposing her.
Ashley likes to hit and move away with an obnoxious look on her face that probably turns off judges and fans.
In the middleweight bout Jill Emery (9-2) out-scored Anjelica Martinez (6-5-1) over 10 rounds and pulled out a unanimous decision to take the vacant IFBA middleweight title.
The six round featherweight battle between Jeri Sitzes (14-8-1) and Ela Nunez (7-3) ended in an astounding decision. Despite a fourth round knockdown of Nunez by Sitze’s right hand, the judges scored it unanimously for Nunez of New York. It goes to prove you can’t beat a New York fighter in their region. It was Sitzes' second surprising loss. She fought Lisa Brown in California and lost a close one there too. But in this fight, she pretty much hurt Nunez the last three rounds and lost.
In a six round super bantamweight bout Melinda Cooper (19-0, 11 KOs) scored a technical knockout over hard-punching Donna Biggers in the fourth round. Cooper just may be the best fighter in the world real soon.
The flyweight contest between Elena “Baby Doll” Reid (19-4-6) and California’s Ava Knight (3-0-2) ended in a draw after six rounds.