Twice they’ve crossed paths and each time it ended differently. Layla McCarter and Melissa Hernandez represent two of America’s best female prizefighters, yet fly under the radar of most boxing fans in the U.S.
“I find it frustrating because I know I’m one of the best and don’t get half of the attention that’s needed to make be able to live off of my hard work,” said Hernandez.
Very few boxing fans realize that Hernandez and McCarter are among the top female fighters pound for pound. They don’t have undefeated records but have a skill level far beyond most of the current female boxers holding world title belts.
McCarter (35-13-5, 8 Kos) meets Florida’s Hernandez (19-5-3, 6 Kos) on Friday, Nov. 21, at the Orleans Casino in Las Vegas. The last time they met was seven years ago and it’s the last time McCarter lost a fight. Both have a lot of pride and are fearless in the boxing ring.
Hernandez, 34, usually enters the ring as the shorter fighter but has honed her boxing skills to razor sharpness over the years. The Puerto Rican-born prizefighter has won super bantamweight, featherweight, junior lightweight world titles and lightweight world titles. She’s traveled to other countries like Panama, Canada, Australia and Argentina. Wherever she’s offered a fight Hernandez has been willing to show off her skills.
She also knows who can fight and which boxers are merely fabricated champions.
“I see Jelena Mrdjenovich, Delfine Persoon, Ana Sophie Mathis, Cecilia Braekhus, Marcela Acuna in no intended order as the top pound for pound fighters,” said Hernandez.
Another pound for pound boxer is McCarter, who many consider at the top of the list.
McCarter, 35, is one of the few female fighters in history with over 50 professional fights. The Las Vegas-based boxer has won world titles in the featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight, junior welterweight and finally the junior middleweight division.
The last time McCarter entered the boxing ring was two years ago, when she traveled to South Africa to face Noni Tenge for the vacant world title in the junior middleweight division. She stopped the South African in the eighth round to win the WBA title.
Efforts to meet Cecilia Braekhus for the welterweight world title were unsuccessful as were attempts to fight Holly Holm, who is now solely participating in mixed martial arts. McCarter has confidence the long period of inactivity will not affect her skills.
“It has been 2 years since I fought last but have always been in the gym. Catching up physically was not too difficult but getting my head back into the game was tougher. I’m there now though, 100%,” said McCarter, who trains in Las Vegas.
It’s rare when McCarter or Hernandez is able to perform in front of home crowds. Instead, both are often invited to other countries in South America, Asia or Africa, where winning decisions can be very difficult. So keen is their skill that both have been able to capture victories abroad.
“I think the current culture in the USA encourages an inflated male ego and keeping women down,” said McCarter. “In some other countries I’ve been more respected as a champion… regardless of my sex.”
Here they are finally back in the boxing ring to decide who’s best. Each has a victory over the other and knows the formula to winning the fight.
“You beat her by fighting your fight. Not falling into her boring spell. Off-set her,” says Hernandez, who won their last encounter back in April 2007. “She’s a veteran in the game. (Need to) change her speed up.”
Very few female fighters can exchange with Hernandez and come out on top. Plus, her defense can be perplexing to opponents.
McCarter remembers the keys to victory when she defeated Hernandez in their initial encounter.
“Defeating Melissa starts with a good jab. With my reach advantage footwork and speed I should be able to establish a distance that benefits my counter punching style, making her reach and taking advantage of her mistakes from every angle,” said McCarter, who defeated Hernandez in February 2007. “Plus, I am punching way too hard now. When I land the first good punch, whatever plan she had will fall out of her head.”
Those lucky fans that attend the untelevised female bout will be treated to something special.
Hernandez and McCarter are proven skilled fighters and definitely among the best pound for pound fighters in the world.