Layla McCarter – Globally the sport of female prizefighting continues to sprout new wings and was helped along with assistance from the amateurs participating in the Olympic Games in London.
Professional female boxers had numerous outstanding performances from Australia to Philadelphia and for fans lucky enough to see them perform, it was eye-opening. Slowly the world is discovering the burgeoning talent of female prizefighting.
A number of female boxers proved themselves outstanding and worthy of recognition in 2012 and the prizefighter who impressed the most comes from Las Vegas, Nevada. Her name is Layla “The Amazing” McCarter, who many including myself consider the best female fighter pound for pound. Well, she was also the Fighter of the Year for 2012.
Female Fighter of the Year
McCarter, 33, began boxing professionally in 1998 and throughout the years has proved willing to fight anyone regardless of size or weight. In the beginning she fought almost anyone placed in front of her and slowly, the female boxer with short brown hair traveled the road of the warrior. Though she looks like the girl next door McCarter has captured world titles in the featherweight, lightweight, and junior welterweight divisions, but mostly has fought as a 135-pound lightweight in recent years.
This past September, McCarter eagerly accepted an offer to jump up three weight divisions to fight South Africa’s undefeated and much taller Noni Tenge for the vacant WBA junior middleweight world title. The fight was held in East London, South Africa. It was a struggle for McCarter to fight at 154 pounds but 10 seconds after the start of round eight, McCarter caught Tenge with a left hook to win by knockout. It was another impressive win for the Las Vegas prizefighter and the most glowing performance by any female in 2012.
Others deserving recognition were Australia’s Susie Ramadan, San Francisco’s Ava Knight, Argentina’s Erica Farias, Norway’s Cecilia Braekhus and Argentina’s Yesica Bopp.
Best Female Prizefight of the Year
Ava Knight vs. Mariana Juarez (Oct. 2012) – Both Knight and Juarez held world titles in the flyweight division when they met on Oct. 13 in Mexico City. Knight, 24, held the IBF title and had defended the title twice in 2012 when asked to fight “Mexican Barbie. Juarez, 32, who held the WBC flyweight title and had defended it three times before meeting Knight. The arena was filled when both clashed. After 10 rounds of furious action Knight won by unanimous decision. Both female prizefighters showed immense skill and durability over the course of the fight. Knight proved to be more energized and was able to prove it to the judges over 10 rounds in beating Juarez in Mexico.
Other fights worth mentioning Susie Ramadan vs. Usanakorn Kokietgym; Erica Farias vs. Victoria Bustos; Cecilia Braekhus vs. Anne Sophie Mathis.
Knockout of the Year
Layla McCarter walked in the ring as the much smaller fighter but emerged with a sizzling knockout win against the bigger, stronger and heavier Noni Tenge. Most of the South African crowd felt sure Tenge was winning the fight until a single McCarter left hook changed everything. Scorecards later showed Tenge was ahead according to the judges ringside. It’s not often that women win by dramatic knockout and especially in a world championship fight. McCarter has that combination of perfect technique and timing to knock out anyone at any weight. Never was it more colorfully shown than McCarter’s perfect blow against Tenge.
Round of the Year
Ava Knight vs. Mariana Juarez round 6 – If you put two reigning world champions in the same ring fists are going to fly. Knight and Juarez let it all go in round six with both female prizefighters slugging it out. It was a furious round with each girl looking to end the fight via knockout. The unification title fight was held in Mexico City. Knight and Juarez each displayed the best of female boxing during that round. It was an example of technique, courage and raw tenacity performed on a grand scale. It doesn’t get much better than that. Both girls fired away until the final bell and each felt they had deserved the victory. A rematch in a different weight class looks to be in the planning.
Upset of the Year
After losing two fights that she was certain she won, Carina Moreno accepted a fight with former flyweight world champion Susi Kentikian in her home country Germany. The Northern Californian was not expected to win, especially in Germany. But she did. It was one of the most surprising victories in recent years and proved that Moreno still has plenty left in her boxing career. Moreno out-fought and out maneuvered Kentikian to win a split decision after 10 rounds and win the WBA female flyweight world title. It’s her third world title in a different weight division and she pretty much shocked the boxing world. Unless you had seen her perform in person. Moreno is slated to fight Kentikian in a rematch in February.
Inspirational Fighter of the Year
Australia’s Susie Ramadan, a former bantamweight world champion, was anxious to fight for the bantamweight world title. The 118-pound female prizefighter accepted the challenge to face Thailand’s Usanakorn Kokietgym, who had held the WBC female bantamweight title for several years. On July 13, the Melbourne boxer won a unanimous decision after 10 frenetic rounds. Later, drug tests allegedly showed that Kokietgym tested positive for performance enhancement drugs. It didn’t matter, Ramadan had won convincingly and now is a two-time bantamweight world champion. She’s one of the few talented prizefighters willing to fight anywhere in the world.
Honorable mention should go to Ana “The Hurricane” Julaton, who traveled to Argentina to defend the WBO junior featherweight world title against Yesica Marcos in her hometown. Some disgraceful refereeing allowed Marcos to walk away with the world title. Marcos was allowed to wear a protective belt around her stomach though rules do not allow this. The referee of that fight also would not allow Julaton to punch Marcos in the body area. Julaton lost the world title by decision but never complained though the WBO should take blame for its referee’s egregious supervision of the fight.
Southern California’s Lissette Medel (8-1-1) rarely has an easy fight and though more often than not she’s the shorter boxer, the Maywood-based prizefighter had a pretty spectacular year. Don’t be surprised if she picks up a world title in 2013. This past year she beat Holly Lawson, Sarah Pucek, Tatina Anderson and Cynthia Munoz ,who had a combined record of 16 wins and only 4 losses. Medel is a very talented female prizefighter.
San Antonio’s Celina Salazar (4-1-2) didn’t have many offers so she eagerly accepted a fight with the woman many consider the most dangerous female fighter in the world, Melinda “Maravilla” Cooper. After six back and forth rounds Cooper won by majority decision, but Salazar showed that she’s ready for anybody in the world. All she needs is a little more experience and she will be a world champion soon.
Honorable mention: Sindy Amador (USA), Shindo Go (Japan), Ogleidis Suarez (Ven.).