MORENO VALLEY, CA.-Not since her pro debut has Kaliesha West fought within 30 miles of her Moreno Valley home. It’s difficult to build a fan base when you’re fighting overseas or in another country.
On Thursday, at her old high school Canyon Springs High, West held a meet and greet along with Sugar Shane Mosley for the media and the public inside the gym.
100 degrees couldn’t stop several hundred people from attending the semi-workout.
“It’s great to be close to my home,” said West to the students sitting in the bleachers after school.
West (15-1-3, 4 KOs) will be relinquishing the WBO bantamweight title to move up in weight and challenge San Antonio, Texas’s Christina Ruiz (6-4-2, 4 KOs) for the vacant IFBA junior bantamweight title on Oct. 6. The match will be held at the Finish Line Sports Grill in Pomona.
Sugar Shane Mosley Promotions will be staging its first fight card and the effervescent female champion West will be the first main event on the future Hall of Fame fighter’s debut card.
“I just feel really blessed, it came from out of nowhere,” said West about getting the call from Mosley to headline the fight card.
For the past two years the 24-year-old West has been fighting primarily for Mexican promoter Hector Garcia. Twice she’s fought south of the border in defense of the WBO bantamweight world title. Now, after three title defenses, the Moreno Valley prizefighter, who’s trained by her father Juan West, is moving up one weight division to the 122-pound junior featherweight level.
“I’ve been making weight since I was 13 or 14. I’m 24 now. Women’s bodies naturally change over time. I’ve been sucking down to make 118,” said West through a microphone as mostly students listened under the sweltering heat. “I feel at 122 I’m going to be a lot stronger. It’s almost like night and day fluctuating between the weights.”
Three years have passed since she fought above 121 pounds and that was against a natural featherweight, Rolanda Andrews. West won by unanimous decision after six rounds.
Her father believes that her strength will increase.
“At 122 I’m hoping to unleash the power. K-West has a lot of power,” said Juan West.
When the fighter known as “Wild, Wild” West captured the WBO title it was by a sizzling knockout against Angel Gladney at the Staples Center in September 18, 2010.
“I wasn’t looking for the knockout,” said West. “When she went down I was a little surprised but I wanted her to stay down.”
Though she has the power, the former Moreno Valley track star does not concentrate on knockouts.
“When a knockout comes you don’t really force it. I want it to come naturally,” she said.
“I don’t think knockouts, I’m looking for it to go 10 rounds.”
The world title fight will be against San Antonio’s Ruiz, a heavy punching junior featherweight known for her tenacity and strength.
“She will be tough,” said West.
West is anxious to fight in the Inland Empire once again. The closest she ever fought was in her pro debut against Suzannah Warner at the San Manuel Casino about 12 miles away. She was only 18 and since that fight, no one under 21 is admitted in the casino. She has never fought that close again. But on Oct. 6, she’ll be fighting a mere 30 miles from her home in Pomona.
“I’m just thankful for being here and everybody being here. The chamber of commerce, the students,” said West to the crowd. “Champions are made here.”
The students roared their approval.
Tickets are now on sale. The outdoor venue is small and doesn’t hold more than 1,000 people, so a quick sellout is possible. For tickets and information call (909) 622-9092.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV