April is proving to be a busy month for the growing sport of female professional boxing. This Saturday, April 16, is particularly busy. New Zealand is the hot spot. At the Trusts Arena in Auckland, 14 ladies are in action in one of the deepest cards in the history of the sport. The lineup is equally balanced between New Zealand fighters and those from the United States. The invaders hail from New York, California, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Florida. Promoter Lisa Lewis must have deep pockets. Her travel expenses are enormous.
The featured bout is a 10-round featherweight contest between Ronica Jeffrey and Gentiane Lupi. From Brooklyn by way of Grenada, the 33-year-old Jeffrey is 14-1. The long trip shouldn’t faze her. As an amateur boxer, Jeffrey competed in such far-flung places as Buenos Aires and New Delhi. Her opponent is a 40-year-old mother of three from Wellington, New Zealand. Lupi is 4-1-1, but has a strong background in the martial arts, a common thread in the history of most women boxers. In 2014, her busiest year, she had 14 fights overall – nine kickboxing, one MMA, and four boxing.
An intriguing middleweight contest pits Kali Reis against Maricela Cornejo. Reis is 8-5-1, but don’t be fooled by that record. She has been swimming in the deep end of the pool, locking horns with such notables as Christina Hammer, Hanna Gabriels, Mikaela Lauren and Tori Nelson – women whose combined ledgers stand at 73-4-4.
Her situation isn’t unusual. Because there are fewer opportunities for female boxers, they tend to take whatever fight is available. Very few women have had the luxury of advancing in baby steps, of being “moved” in boxing lingo. In her short pro career, the 30-year-old Reis has competed in Bermuda, Costa Rica, Spain, and Germany. “Have gloves, will travel,” could be her motto.
Kali Reis fights out of Providence, Rhode Island. Her odd nickname “KO Mequinonoag” (don’t ask us to pronounce it) pays homage to her Native American heritage. Her opponent, Maricela Cornejo (4-1) comes from Las Vegas via Grandview, Washington.
Kali Reis is a notch below the top female fighters in the world. Layla McCarter, who is also in action on Saturday, is among the elite. The Las Vegas based McCarter (36-13-5) opposes veteran Yolanda Segura (16-12) at Arena Neza on the outskirts of Mexico City. Their 10-round fight gets top billing on the seven-fight card.
McCarter, who has competed mostly as a lightweight, isn’t getting any younger; she turns 37 next week. But she has been aging like fine wine and is currently riding a 13-fight winning streak.
McCarter has a lot in common with the great “chitlin’ circuit” fighters of yesteryear. As a member of a marginalized group, she keeps bumping into the same opponents over and over again. During her current winning streak, she won rubber matches with stalwarts Jelena Mrdjenovich and Melissa Hernandez.
Saturday’s cards at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and at the Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut showcase female boxers on their respective undercards. At Brooklyn, local fan favorite Heather Hardy (15-0) meets Sweden’s Anna Donatella Hultin (8-2) in an 8-round super bantamweight contest. At Foxwoods, Shelly Vincent (16-0) of Providence opposes Elizabeth Anderson (4-7) of Salt Lake City in a 6-round featherweight affair. Neither of these matches is particularly interesting, but they bear witness that female boxing is blooming.
Check out The Boxing Channel video “Kali Reis Pre Fight Interview – Auckland hosts womens boxing card Apr 16”.