By David A. Avila
Regardless of gender, all prizefighters should fight outside of their native soil to prove their abilities as Canada’s Jelena Mrdjenovich did last week in Europe.
Mrdjenovich (37-10-1, 19 KOs), who holds the WBC and WBA featherweight world titles, traveled to Cergy-Pontoise, France and handed Gaelle Amand (14-1) her first pro defeat. It was yet more proof of superiority by a female fighter considered among the top 10 prizefighters pound for pound.
So why aren’t others doing this?
A debate exists concerning who is the top pound for pound female fighter among Norway’s Cecilia Braekhus and Layla McCarter of the U.S.A. One is undefeated with all her fights occurring on the small continent of Europe; the other has several losses but none in eight years and has won fights in five foreign countries.
Shouldn’t the best fighter pound for pound be someone that can beat anyone in any continent?
Lately, certain countries have been monopolizing particular belts by staying within their national boundaries. Argentina, Mexico, Germany and South Korea have been doing this for decades. They have their reasons: most promoters cannot afford the expenses of bringing someone from another country, nor they do not want to risk losing it in another country due to hometown judgements.
Mrdjenovich proved she can win no matter where she fights.
“I can say I have been on both ends of the stick where I have won in other people’s hometown and I have also lost. Taking that challenge of going on the road is always something I enjoy doing in my career,” said the lean 126-pounder from the city of Edmonton, Canada.
Against France’s Amand she took control early and nearly floored the brunette with a well-placed right to the chin that turned her around.
“When the fight started I thought we weren’t going to get out of round one or two,” Mrdjenovich, 34, said.
But 33-year-old Amand proved to be resilient and stronger than anyone could know. Midway through the fight Amand began finding her rhythm and range and a real struggle emerged.
“Amand was good, strong and could take a lot of punishment. She kept taking punches to move in to stuff my left hook,” said Mrdjenovich. “I couldn’t quite seem to move my feet enough into the proper distance to land that clean left hook that I’m used to finishing people with. So I had to use other skills to win.”
Mrdjenovich was able to pinpoint her jab early on. Then she aimed lower and was landing thudding rights to the body. Then she added left hooks to the head. A left uppercut in the third round supplemented by a stiff one-two punctuated the round for the Canadian champion.
Still, Amand survived.
From rounds five through seven the French featherweight increased her punch output and kept pressuring Mrdjenovich. It resulted in numerous entanglements and stops in the action but Amand was the busier fighter and possibly won all three rounds. The scores were tightening.
“I’m not sure, there were moments in many rounds. I would have to watch it to be certain,” said Mrdjenovich about which rounds she felt she dominated. “Although I know I decisively won rounds 9 and 10.”
In the 10th round in particular, Mrdjenovich connected with three consecutive left hooks in succession. Amand tried to rally but the champion was too forceful in her attack and did not allow an opening. Two judges scored it 97-93 for Mrdjenovich but the third saw it 96-94 for Amand. It was a split decision victory for Mrdjenovich who returned to Canada with her WBC and WBA titles in tow.
Mrdjenovich proved again that real world champions are willing to fight in enemy territories in foreign continents.
“Other than the one score, the experience as a whole was great. Being in someone else’s back yard was different, but I was fortunate enough to have over 20 people make the long trek to France to support me,” she said.
Hopefully, this will inspire Norway’s Braekhus to venture across the Atlantic Ocean to challenge America’s McCarter. Or maybe Germany’s Susi Kentikian to cross over to Mexico to challenge Ibeth Zamora or vice versa.
Of course a lot is dictated by promoters who need to be willing to pay for these fights.