When Kaliesha ?Wild? West and Angel Gladney step in the ring before more than 15,000 fans they?re not only fighting for a vacant world title they?re also breaking down a barrier stronger than any concrete.
West and Gladney fight for the vacant WBO bantamweight world title on Saturday at Staples Center in Los Angeles on the non-televised under card of Sugar Shane Mosley and Sergio Mora. Plus, it?s the first time in 10 years that both the Staples Center or Golden Boy Promotions host a female world title bout.
?We want to give females an opportunity to perform in front of venues and crowds like you?re going to have on Saturday night,? said Richard Schaefer, CEO for Golden Boy, adding that the 2012 Olympics in London will include female boxing for the first time.
It?s never happened before.
Ten years ago both Pomona?s Mosley and now business partner Oscar De La Hoya of East Los Angeles rocked the Staples Center in its inaugural boxing event with a terse 12 round clash that showcased both fighters in their prime. It was electric.
De La Hoya remembers that fight fondly and so does Mosley. Now the Golden Boy is giving an opportunity for female boxing to showcase their boxing skills. The boxing icon is familiar with West who twice fought on his smaller shows near Palm Springs.
?She?s an exciting fighter, she?s a skilled fighter, fights with a lot of passion a lot of heart,? De La Hoya said of West. ?This is a very important and historical day for women?s boxing. So we?re very happy to be a part of it.?
That statement alone had more impact than a dozen wrecking balls and could be the start of a new era in female boxing.
Now it?s up to West and Gladney to display their fistic abilities in front of one of the most critical boxing crowds on the planet. The Los Angeles area along with several key spots like New York City, Mexico City, Miami Beach, Chicago, Houston, and Las Vegas have boxing crazy fans who expect excellence.
One female fighter knows what the crowd can expect from West.
?The time I fought her, she was the toughest, and to date she still is. Out of all the talented, and more experienced fighters I have fought, she by far was the best I have fought and I dont see anyone in my current weight classes that will give me a tougher fight than her,? said Ava Knight who beat West by decision two years ago in a six round fight. ?Her strengths…well it was a while ago, but she has great speed.?
Gladney fights out of South Carolina and has five knockouts in six wins.
Unlike men, the female professional ranks find it difficult to find promoters willing to put on their fights. Though often women bouts surpass men?s bouts in intensity and excitement, most promoters are unwilling to deal with them. Thus you have someone like West (12-1-2, 3 KOs) with an extensive amateur background having only 15 pro bouts after four years as a professional. Plus, women make just a fraction of what men make even in world title bouts.
Both Gladney (6-2-2, 5 KOs) and West have experienced the pot holes laid out for women?s boxing.
?Trouble with fair bouts being sanctioned, fighting for little money against top ranked women,? are some of the things West has experienced as a professional.
Because it?s difficult to obtain match ups and also due to the dearth of female fighters available, women are forced to fight anywhere from three to five different weight divisions in a year.
Gladney, though only 5-feet, 1-inch in height, has fought as a junior lightweight, featherweight and junior featherweight and knocked out five opponents. Now she is fighting at her natural weight for the first time as a 118-pound bantamweight.
West has fought as a junior bantamweight, junior featherweight and as a featherweight. Her very first pro fight came against Suzannah Warner that she won by unanimous decision. Ten months later Warner captured the NABF title. Imagine someone like Mosley fighting an NABF champion in his first fight?
Those are the dangers that women face as pro boxers but are forced to accept.
?Women?s boxing is going to be huge,? says Claudia Ollis, a new face in the boxing world who worked tirelessly lobbying and promoting this fight. ?This is just the beginning.?
West?s last two fights took place in Denmark where she fought to a draw with former world champion Anita Christensen for a vacant bantamweight world title and in Lima, Peru where she knocked out Brazil?s Vannessa Guimaraes in the fifth round.
When Gladney and West hear that bell ring fans can expect the South Carolina boxer to look for the knockout and the Californian to use her wide array of boxing skills including one of the best uppercuts in the business.
?That adrenaline rush hits after they announce my name, the crowd roars, then the bell (goes)?ding,? says West in her usual excited manner.
That?s also what fans can expect when West and Gladney clash in the ring: an adrenaline rush.