Kaliesha West Wants One More Title Shot
By Felipe Leon
If you follow female boxing, then you know Kaliesha “Wild Wild” West. Ultra-popular in her native Southern California, the 29-year-old righty is one of the veterans of the prior wave of female boxing in the United States.
After going pro in early 2006, West quickly made a name for herself which culminated in her capturing the vacant WBO bantamweight title in 2010 at the Staples Center.
Now West (16-2-3, 4 Kos) is gunning for another world title and returns to the ring on Sept. 23, to face Kirstie Simmons (8-2) at Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage, Calif. It may not be televised.
With a belt around her waist, charisma, a beautiful smile and undeniable talent it seemed as if the sky was the limit for West, but in the last five years her career has been a series of false starts. She has only fought twice in the last 60 months. A win over Christina Ruiz in October of 2012 awarded her the vacant IFBA 122-pound title and in her last fight, in August of 2014, she lost to journey woman Olivia Gerula at featherweight in Canada.
“Now that I am a free agent and able to fight anywhere, I am not under any promoter, I have a fight already lined up,” West told David Avila and Felipe Leon last week on the 2-Minute Round, the all-female boxing podcast. “The fight is September 23rd at Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage. That is what is next on my agenda.”
With much fanfare on May 2016 it was announced West had signed an exclusive contract with start-up Blueprint Boxing Promotions. Not only had they picked up the boxer-puncher West but also former champ Melissa McMorrow and Patricia Juarez, a sister of Mexican female boxing legend Mariana “Barby” Juarez.
The start-up never started.
The company never put on a single fight card, provided the three women with a single fight and simply vanished into thin air. It left West without many options.
“I was never semi-retired. I was never retired. That is why I never told anyone that I was retired. If anything after what happened in Canada when I lost and the whole experience, I took some time away from the sport. I knew I wasn’t finished. About eight months after I wanted to get back in there and go hard but I was caught up in a promotional contract. Even though nothing was ever provided, I didn’t want to take the chance of doing something against the contract and having it come back and bite me and my team in the butt. I guess you can say I was shelved for about a year and a half. I was promised fights, promotion and what not but it was never provided so when June came around the contract was void and we were a free agent.”
“I don’t even like to say his name or give a shout out of the name of the company because that is how nonexistent he is to me,” she continued. “I had a fight scheduled for Mexico when everything fell through because of a family emergency. I understand a family emergency. Tell me what is going on, reach out to your fighters even if it is a month later. We heard nothing. We haven’t heard anything from him.”
Since the last major “heyday” for female boxing in the late 80s, the sport has had its ups and downs with many saying that as of this year it is on an upswing.
“There have been so many changes I can’t even begin to explain. 2010 feels like yesterday but that was seven years ago when I won the world title at the Staples Center,” West explained. “The opportunities that are now compared to 2010 are night and day. It is completely different these days. It all goes back to Ronda Rousey opening up the doors for MMA and all of the Olympians opening up the doors for boxing. I am very thankful the Olympians didn’t stay amateur. Because they turned pro, they broke down all of doors with the promoters. The doors are much more opened for them but they also opened the doors for those that will compete against them.”
West has reached the mountain top of her division crowning herself world champion with a seventh round KO of Angel Gladney but for the Moreno Valley, CA, native, her bigger accomplishments were yet to come.
“For me personally my biggest moment in my career was when I defended that title,” West says of her three world titles defenses against Ava Knight, Jessica Villafranca and Claudia Andrea Lopez. “I felt becoming the champion was the easy part for me because I was already so hungry. I was doing everything right. Maintaining and staying on top when everybody wants that title was the hard part. That to me was the greater accomplishment.”
Now West wants to make one more run for it. She wants no regrets.
“I am 29-years-old, I have waited long enough,” West says of her current situation. “You never know with boxing. The circumstances now of my training camp are ten times better than what they were three years ago. I’m on a good diet; I am eating right, something I didn’t do before. I am older now, I feel the difference in my body when I eat right.”
“My dad is doing all the planning,” she says with a laugh. Juan West doubles as her trainer as well. “He mentioned to me he wants to do two fights and then get me on the rankings and go for a world title in my third fight. It is not just going to be one fight, there is going to be a couple and then see what opportunities are ahead.”
First she must get past Simmons of Colorado who with a record of eight wins and two losses is a much tougher opponent than expected for a fighter who is coming off a three year layoff. The fight is at a catch weight of 128 pounds. She mentions she is working her way back down to the super bantamweight division.
“This is a definite, contracts have been signed,” she says confidently. “I took this fight earlier than when I was planning on coming back but I thought I needed to get the wheels spinning. And if I don’t do it now, then who knows when I would. She is tough as nails. I’ve heard her only two losses are controversial. I don’t know but that is what I have heard. She is lefty, throws a lot of punches so for my first fight back it is a tough one.”
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