The Prizefighters Best of Female Boxing for 2016
Female Fighter of the Year
It was a busy year internationally for female prizefighting. Around the world a number of the best showed off their talent.
In Norway, a glass ceiling was burst by welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus who ended a ban on women’s boxing in that country with a triumphant knockout win in October.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields made her pro debut in spectacular fashion with a riveting win over another amateur standout Franchon Crews. The two proved that a new wave of American prizefighters are primed for the pro game.
In New York, sisters Amanda and Cindy Serrano set a record for holding world titles at the same time. Cindy Serrano won the vacant featherweight title in Puerto Rico while younger sister Amanda grabbed the vacant super bantamweight title after dropping down in weight. It was an amazing year for the sisters.
Meanwhile, in Mexico, a flyweight named Jessica “Kika” Chavez battled three strong opponents and emerged victorious. In one of those fights Chavez was engaged in one of the best fights anywhere in 2016. She also defeated Japan’s feared Naoko Fujioka and Argentina’s Vanesa Taborda. No small feat in beating two opponents considered among the top pound for pound list. For her outstanding performances she is named the “Fighter of the Year” according to the Prizefighters.com staff. Chavez is trained by boxing wizard Nacho Beristain.
(Runner up) Amanda Serrano for winning her fourth division world title, two in one year. First, she destroyed Olivia Gerula in one round to win the featherweight title. Then she dropped down in weight to beat Swiss fighter Alexandra Lazar. It was quite a year for the Puerto Rican from Brooklyn. Expect big things from Serrano in 2017. She will be fighting in January against Mexico’s Yazmin Rivas.
Jessica “Kika” Chavez met Esmeralda “La Joya” Moreno in Cancun, Mexico in July 23, to decide the WBC flyweight world title. After 10 tumultuous rounds between two highly skilled fighters that saw several momentum changes, the judges awarded the fight by majority decision to Chavez. The win avenged a loss to Moreno five years earlier. Tremendous interest in the battle led to the current flyweight tournament that could ultimately lead to another meeting between Chavez and Moreno in 2017. It’s a stacked tournament.
(Runner up) Heather Hardy met Shelly Vincent at the Ford Amphitheater in Coney Island in a battle of undefeated featherweights. The non-title fight was televised nationwide in the U.S. and fans for the first time in many years saw females in a prize fight. It wasn’t the main event but it surpassed a large fight card with fans riveted to the action between the two women. After the nonstop action the judges awarded Hardy the win, but fans of female boxing were the real winners. Hardy and Vincent put on a great show.
(Runner up) Zulina Munoz versus Vanesa Taborda in Juarez, Mexico was an action-packed four rounds that saw each fighter knock the other down with left hooks. First, Mexico’s Munoz unloaded a check left hook that sent Argentina’s Taborda stumbling to the floor in the opening round. Then Taborda caught Munoz with a double left hook in the third round. The fourth round saw Taborda looking for the left hook but instead running into the lead right cross and down she went face first.
(Runner up) Jelena Mrdjenovich versus Edith Matthysse II after a controversial first fight in Argentina ended in a win for Matthysse, the rematch in Canada was equally controversial. Both were evenly matched and now have split two fights. A rematch should be made in neutral territory. Winner fights Amanda Serrano.
Zulina Munoz KO4 Vanesa Taborda – After four terse and action-packed rounds Mexico’s Munoz unloaded with a lead right cross that rendered Taborda face first on the canvas. It was a dynamic ending to their title fight that was evenly matched until that conclusive blow ended the battle. The knockout blow by Munoz ended the fight brutally and was voted a tie for Best Knockout of the Year.
(tied for first) Marcela Acuna KO10 Yesica Marcos – The battle between the two Argentina featherweights was a rematch. The first encounter ended with Marcos winning by decision. In the second fight, Acuna left no doubt with a decisive knockout in the 10th and final round. A right cross by Acuna beat Marcos to the punch and down she went for the count. Decisive win.
(Runner up) Cecilia Braekhus KO2 of Anne Sophie Mathis – It was expected that Braekhus would do her normal hit and run tactics against the fierce punching Mathis who is best known for knocking out Holly Holm cold. It was a rematch. But this time Braekhus attacked and pressured Mathis. During a clinch inside, Mathis let her guard down and she was caught with a right that ended the fight.
Upset of the Year
Catherine Phiri beats Yazmin Rivas to win the bantamweight world title in front of a surprised crowd in Tijuana, Mexico. No one expected Phiri from Zambia to upset Rivas last January. It was considered to be mere formality when Rivas and Phiri met in Tijuana during the WBC female boxing convention last January. During the fight Phiri basically dominated Rivas who could not get going. Phiri was not considered a threat and took the title back to Zambia and is that country’s first world champion.
(Runner up) Esmeralda Moreno beat Austria’s Eva Voraberger in her hometown by majority decision which is especially difficult to do in Europe. One score gave Moreno every round, another had it even and still another gave the Mexican fighter one more round than Voraberger. Although Moreno is considered one of the top female fighters pound for pound, it was still a toss-up fight.
Claressa Shields had just won her second Olympic gold medal for the U.S. in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Instead of waiting another four years she entered the pro ranks and she did it with a bang. Shields fought former amateur foe Franchon Crews in a super middleweight fight at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and lit up the crowd. Both fighters fired combinations like there was an expiration date. The crowd loved the fight and it proved to be a spark that’s carrying on toward a big year for women’s boxing. Shields gets the credit for firing up the attention to female boxing in 2016.
Best sister combo
Serrano Sisters – Amanda and Cindy Serrano both won world titles in 2016 and they both did it in their native Puerto Rico. For decades that country had not featured female fighters but with the arrival of the two Serrano sisters how could they resist. Amanda is the first female to win four world titles in four weight divisions. Cindy has captured three world titles in three weight divisions. No other sisters can make that claim.
(Runner up) Juarez Sisters – Mariana “Barbie” Juarez has long been the queen of boxing in Mexico. Now she has a companion in her younger sister Lourdes Juarez who is fighting at super flyweight. Both sisters won fights in December with Mariana defeating former bantamweight champion Irma Garcia and Lourdes “Lulu” Juarez stopping Noemi Bosques in the fourth round.
Trainer of the Year
Jordan Maldonado trains both Amanda and Cindy Serrano who now simultaneously hold world titles in the super bantamweight and featherweight divisions. The two Puerto Rican fighters had a dynamic year and credit must go to their trainer Maldonado who is based in Brooklyn, New York. It was quite a year for Maldonado and his two charges as they dominated competition the entire year with all eyes on them.
Promoter of the Year
Lou DiBella gets the nod for his signing and actual promoting of female boxing. No other major promoter has been involved in female boxing until now. Just recently three other major promoters have signed women prizefighters, but it was DiBella who started the chain reaction. Not only did he sign several East Coast-based fighters but he lobbied to put their fights on television. It was a major coup for female boxing and a statue of DiBella should be erected on his behalf. No joke.
(Runner up) Zanfer – For the last several years Zanfer has been pushing female boxing in Mexico and has made women the main events. Many of those fights are televised in Mexico and the U.S. on Spanish language television.
(Runner up) Promociones del Pueblo – is another Mexican promotion company that has made women fights the main events in Mexico.
Showtime’s executive Stephen Espinoza gets special recognition for recognizing the time was right to televise female boxing. It was a gutsy decision that most television executives in the past 30 years had been unwilling to risk. It was a very brave move by Espinoza who deserves immense credit.