The Journey of Mexico’s Kenia Enriquez

It’s a familiar story but one seldom journeyed. An aspiring female Mexican prizefighter travels to the U.S. to gain something not available in her native country.

Kenia Enriquez has dreams and they include exploring worlds outside of boxing. In the past, a few Mexican fighters crossed the border to find success. It’s not an easy travel.

Enriquez (11-0, 6 Kos) continues her trek when she faces fellow Mexican Mayela Perez (11-15-4, 7 Kos) on Thursday Sept. 4, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Diego. The female bout promoted by Bobby D Presents will not be televised.

Enriquez, 20, does not expect to cruise with a win.

“That is a fighter with a lot of professional experience against the best of Mexico,” said Enriquez about Perez. “She has proven successful, brave and currently holds the title of World Boxing Council Silver belt in boxing.”

In Enriquez’s two appearances in the U.S. the native of Tijuana, Mexico has found rapid success. Caravans of cars, vans and minibuses filled with her fans follow her across the border and in San Diego she’s picked up even more. Don’t expect it to end there.

Felipe Leon, who also lives in Tijuana, said he’s followed Enriquez’s career closely since she fought amateurs. She can best be described as a boxer-puncher who picks her spots. Her effusive personality and easy-to-smile face attracts fans on both sides of the border. She has that extra something that natural born entertainers possess.

“She was very popular before going pro in Tijuana within the boxing world because of her success. I have seen her blossom from her first pro fight,” said Leon, who works with the promoter and is a boxing writer for

Mariana Juarez

The availability of amateur boxing has provided a new avenue for many female boxers of late. In the past, there was no amateur boxing, especially during the 1990s when females were forbidden from boxing professionally in Mexico.

Mariana Juarez was one of the female prizefighters forced to fight in underground boxing events and eventually found her way to the U.S back in 2001. The Mexico City product through assistance from Marco Antonio Barrera was able to train in South El Monte with Ben Lira, an experienced trainer who had success with female boxers.

Juarez surprisingly hit the American scene like a tsunami. When her fight with America’s Elena “Baby Doll” Reid was televised in 2003, boxing fans got a glimpse of Mexico’s ferocious female boxer in a fight that ended in a majority draw. In her next fight, at Santa Ana Stadium, thousands of fans surprisingly showed up to see the talented junior bantamweight. From there on she gained popularity and eventually the world title in 2004 when she defeated Korea’s In-Young Lee by decision.

Now Juarez has picked up a nickname, “Barbie,” and another world title and acclaim in her native country. A few years back she was named “Female Fighter of the Year” by Ring Magazine.

Can Kenia Enriquez follow in her footsteps?

Like Juarez, the slender Enriquez has not embraced the brawling style adopted by most female boxers in Mexico. Instead, she has command of multiple fighting styles, including the ability to end a fight with a dramatic finish. Take her win over the very talented Jolene Blackshear last April in San Diego. For the first six rounds Enriquez used her speed and agility to keep the fight at a distance. But when Blackshear increased the pressure to take the fight inside, Enriquez held her ground and caught the American fighter with a left hook that eventually ended the fight.

Whenever a female boxer can end a fight by knockout, that’s a special skill. Very few female boxers score knockouts. Enriquez has that ability to end the fight with a dramatic flourish. But she does see a difference sparring with American prizefighters.

“The fighters have a lot of amateur experience and are more technical,” Enriquez said.

It’s just a start for the popular youngster from Tijuana who idolizes female boxer Jackie Nava.

“Boxing in (the U.S.) has provided me a way to expand my career,” Enriquez said. “I also want to expand my horizons.”

The journey is just beginning for the smiling Enriquez.