Boxing often mixes seemingly odd partnerships.
Claudia Ollis, who owns several ?high end? women?s ware boutiques in Redlands and Laguna Beach, has embarked on a crusade to lead women?s boxing toward a more visible and lucrative market in the United States.
?Other countries like Germany, Mexico and Japan already have huge support for women?s boxing,? said Ollis, who grew up in Redlands. ?It?s time for the U.S. to catch up.?
Last Saturday, in Las Vegas, Ollis sponsored a meeting between several of the top female prizefighters in the world and members of the media. Mia St. John hosted the small event that showcased Melinda Cooper, Layla McCarter and Kaliesha ?Wild Wild? West. About two dozen journalists met with the female pro boxers.
Also attending was former junior middleweight world champion Sergio Mora who had just finished a press conference to announce his own fight with Sugar Shane Mosley on Sept. 18 at Staples Center. The East L.A. prizefighter attended the informal affair to lend support.
That was the first step for Ollis and women?s boxing. Many expect the 2012 Olympics in London to give women?s boxing tremendous exposure and eventually boost it to the levels of women?s pro tennis.
?It?s a new women?s movement,? Ollis says.
It all began with Kaliesha West, a female prizefighter who lives in Moreno Valley and trains in Riverside, California. The current number one ranked bantamweight fighter in the world had been road blocked repeatedly in simply obtaining fights. Ollis?s son had previously trained at West?s gym.
?My son Bobby said I should help Kaliesha,? said Ollis, whose son trained under Juan West who is Kaliesha?s father. ?I really liked her spirit.?
Ollis agreed to sign with West as a public relations agent regarding endorsement opportunities. After signing an agreement, the petite business woman immediately discovered the pot holes the bantamweight fighter was tripping over as she pursued obtaining fights.
Finally, a fight took place in Denmark between West and former world champion Anita Christensen last March. The world title clash ended in a majority draw though it?s pretty clear from a video that the Californian dominated the last half and nearly dropped the taller Danish former world champion.
?It was amazing to see the support women?s boxing had in Europe. They really wanted to see it,? said Ollis who traveled with West for that fight.
Just last June, West fought in Lima, Peru against a tough Argentine fighter Vanessa Guimaraes who lasted until the fifth round before losing by knockout to the Riverside prizefighter. It was featured as a supporting fight for the main event of Peru?s sole world champion Kina Malpartida who is that country?s super star.
?We couldn?t even go to the mall without hundreds of people asking for autographs and photos,? said West who spent a week with Malpartida in Peru. ?Paparazzi followed her every where she went. It was crazy.?
In Peru, the entire country tunes in whenever Malpartida fights. Ironically, the Peruvian star who has the WBA junior lightweight title trains in Maywood, California under virtual anonymity.
?We just don?t support women?s boxing like other countries,? said Ollis who also witnessed first hand the affection the entire South American country has for Malpartida. It sparked an idea in Ollis to introduce herself and a few chosen women to members of the media.
At the Las Vegas luncheon most of the journalists present had never seen the female fighters though their names and accomplishments are somewhat known.
Melinda Cooper, 25, a pretty undefeated Las Vegas boxer is considered one of the best female punchers and is feared in the junior featherweight division. She recently signed a promotional contract with Sampson Lefkowitz and is fighting on Aug. 14 in Jalisco, Mexico against that country?s featherweight champion.
Cooper last fought a year ago and despite her talent and looks has not fought in over a year. Knock out wins are her specialty that she achieves through her blend of speed, balance and timing. She?s an intelligent boxer-puncher who blitzes through most opponents who constantly under-estimate her ability until it?s too late. Despite few fights in the past three years many experts tab her among the top 10 female prizefighters pound for pound.
Layla McCarter, 30, is seen as the top female prizefighter in any division. Her skills can be seen in a 20-second Youtube.com video where she knocked down a martial arts expert who claimed no female could beat him in the ring. A quick left hook floored the much bigger muscular blowhard in comical fashion. It was no contest.
?Layla McCarter in my opinion is the best woman boxer in the world,? said St. John.
KalieshaWest, a prizefighter of African-American and Mexican-American descent, has quickly risen to the top of the bantamweight rankings in the world with her blend of speed, power and defense. It?s the latter that has enabled her to go overseas and mix it up before lowering the boom with her eye-popping combinations.
The perky prizefighter revealed a similar tale of fighting a man who entered their training gym one day claiming he could beat the best boxer in the gym. He made the challenge and Juan West pointed to Kaliesha. Once inside the boxing ring, the attractive prizefighter proceeded to batter the much bigger man until he ran out of the ring and out of the gym.
Never under estimate the power of a woman.
Fights on television
Fri. ESPN2, 6 p.m., James De La Rosa (20-0) vs. Michel Rosales (28-3).
Fri. Showtime, 11:30 p.m., Chris Avalos (16-0) vs. Christopher Martin (18-0-2).
Fri. Telefutura, 11:30 p.m. Antonio Escalante (23-2) vs. Edel Ruiz (34-22-4).
Sat. Fox Sports, 8:30 p.m., Gennady Golovkin (18-0) vs. Milton Nunez (21-1-1).
Sat. HBO, 10 p.m., Devon Alexander (20-0) vs. Andriy Kotelnik (31-3-1).