After 24 entrances into the boxing ring does Melinda “La Maravilla” Cooper still get nervous?
“Yes, I do get nervous before fights,” admits Cooper.
Cooper (22-2, 11 Kos) faces Mexico’s Zenny Sotomayor (10-7-2, 8 Kos) in a bantamweight clash set for six rounds on Wednesday Nov. 5, in Tijuana. It’s the Las Vegas resident’s first boxing match in more than two years and it takes place at Discoteca Hangar 27. It won’t be televised.
Always confident, Cooper has traveled far and near to find willing competitors throughout her career. It’s one major difference between men and female fighters, that willingness to travel overseas in pursuit of a fight. The petite bantamweight’s confrontation with a much taller Daniela David in the French countryside back in 2006 is a good example of Cooper’s willingness to prove herself in the boxing ring.
“I was excited when I fought in France. I had never been in France so just being in France was exciting,” Cooper said. “The people were so nice.”
American female prizefighters as a whole are willing to fight anywhere at any time. This will be Cooper’s third foray on Mexican soil. She’s also fought in Costa Rica and though she suffered her first pro loss in Central America, it doesn’t deter her from traveling abroad.
Her trademark has always been speed and power and it’s that blend that brought fans to the arenas in droves early on. But when the local Las Vegas fight cards dried up for various reasons, the brunette speedster was forced to find different venues.
“My proudest moment was when I won my first professional fight,” she said.
Cooper’s journey has familiar tones to other female prizefighters. But in her case, the lack of other female boxers willing to meet in the boxing ring remains. This past year a supposed fight with Heather Hardy was arranged, then scratched by her promoters. No explanation. A subsequent injury forced Cooper out of action another six months.
Now she travels to Mexico to face Sotomayor, a gritty Mexican girl with knockout power. Eight of her 10 wins have come by knockout. She twice fought for the world title, in losing causes against Katy Castillo and Alicia Ashley last year.
The Las Vegas female prizefighter began her pro career back in 2002 and since then she’s zoomed up the charts to become one of the most talented and feared boxers in the sport. She’s seen the changes and the setbacks for not just her but others. It hasn’t stopped her.
“Boxing has improved. More females from the amateurs are turning professional and better trainers are interested in training women,” Cooper says.
Fighting in Mexico this Wednesday is one step toward her goal of grabbing a world title again.
“My goal in boxing was to become a world champion and I did that at 19,” said Cooper who won the title in 2005. “Now my goal is to become a WBC world champion before I retire.”