A Wish List for 2019 – Part I
By Felipe Leon
Another year in the books for the wonderful world of female boxing and although 2018 was not as good as 2017 as far as action we did see some historical fights including the debut of female boxing on HBO. We can only hope that next 12 months are as good as the last year and can only dream of them surpassing 2017 but if some of the following fights are made, we can be sure it will.
Anyone vs Anyone – The heavyweight division in female boxing took a turn for the worse in 2018. The WBC champion and biggest name of the division Alejandra “Tigre” Jimenez decided she wanted to go after bigger named prey in the lower divisions and has left the weight class making her way towards 168 pounds. Besides Jimenez, who is still ranked at heavyweight, all other fighters in the division have less than ten fights. Somebody has to fight somebody so we can establish a new nave in the category. It is there for the taking.
Franchon Crews-Dezurn (4-1, 1KO) vs Alicia Napoleon (10-1, 5KO) – The only fight from last year’s list that was actually made was in this division with Claressa Shields defeating Tori Nelson via unanimous decision in January. If Crews versus Napoleon is the only fight that is made from this list, there will be no complaints. Female boxing is picking up steam mostly on the back of the aforementioned Shields, but you cannot build a sport with only one super star. The winner of this fight would be way on their way. Crews, the WBC champ, and Napoleon, the WBA queen, are fan-friendly fighters with great personalities which would translate great for TV audiences.
Honorable mention – Alejandra Jimenez, the heavyweight champion, has stated numerous times she is on her way down to 168 pounds. Mexican female fighters already dominate many of the lighter weight classes, so to have one in this range can be very interesting. A fighter against any top ten contender would make sense.
Hardly anybody has seen the undefeated 15-0-1 Ema Kozin but she already holds some regional titles as well as being highly ranked by many organizations, it is about time we see her on American TV.
Raquel Miller from San Francisco, CA, can also be a contender at the weight class despite campaigning eight pounds south. She can easily go up and snatch a title and then go back down to middleweight.
Claressa Shields (8-0, 2KO) vs Christina Hammer (23-0, 10KO) – Shields keeps winning titles and is now in her second division. A fight with Hammer makes more and more sense. It has been more than a year in the making and it almost happened in 2018 but Hammer had to pull out of the scheduled date due to an unforeseen medical issue. All those involved say it is unavoidable in 2019. Despite dominating all her opponents in 2018 Shields did look vulnerable in her fight against Hanna Gabriels going down to the canvas for the first time in her career, while Hammer is very confident she can defeat the seemingly indestructible Shields.
Honorable mention – Nobody can take the spotlight away from Shields at 160 pounds but other opponents can be developed. The aforementioned Miller is one while the popular Maricela Cornejo can be another if she makes a stop at 160 pounds on her way down to 154.
Hanna Gabriels (18-2-1, 11KO) vs Marie Eve Dicaire (14-0, 0KO) – Despite losing a unanimous decision to Claressa Shields this year, Costa Rica’s Gabriels gave a good showing of herself and sparked interest with an aggressive fan-friendly style. Canada’s Dicaire recently dethroned the long reigning Chris Namus of Uruguay so it is only fitting we have a title unification fight between the WBA’s champ Gabriels and the IBF’s champion Dicaire. The popular Gabriels with her fight against Shields has proven for the right opportunity she is willing to travel out of her home country.
Honorable mention – Ewa Piatkowska is the WBC champion but she has never fought outside of her country of Poland let alone somebody of note. Would love to see her take a challenge from Mikaela Lauren who despite announcing her retirement looks like she is staying on.
Cecilia Braekhus (35-0, 9KO) vs Layla McCarter (42-13-5, 11KO) – Will this fight ever happen? Braekhus has not mentioned McCarter as a potential opponent for quite some time now. The Norwegian based Colombian has a banner year with three wins, two of them on HBO, as well as being named the first ever female Ring magazine pound for pound champion. McCarter hasn’t really done much to force Braekhus to make the fight besides having the IBF name her the mandatory challenger. Nothing much came from that. Instead McCarter fought only twice in 2018 with once being in Germany. Regardless, the fight has to happen to determine who in fact is the best female fighter in the world. If it doesn’t happen, both Braekhus, McCarter and the rest of the boxing world will always wonder.
Honorable mention – if somebody deserves a fight against Braekhus as much as McCarter does it is Kali Reis. Both waged an exciting battle back in May in Carson, CA, in the first televised female boxing bout by HBO. Reis sent Braekhus down to the canvas for the first time in the pound for pound queen’s career and some questions need to be answered. If Braekhus vs McCarter doesn’t happen, then Braekhus vs Reis II should occur before any other fight including Cyborg.
Jessica McCaskill (6-2, 3KO) vs Ana Laura Esteche (13-5-3, 2KO) – Another fight that we called for in last year’s wish list and it was made was Farias vs Esteche but it wasn’t for any of the titles which defeated the purpose. Farias came up on top of that one with a unanimous decision in Argentina in the last days of 2017. Farias did go on to put her WBC world title on the line against McCaskill back in October which the American promptly snatched via a unanimous decision. The fight McCaskill really wants is the rematch against lightweight champion Katie Taylor but until she gets it, why not unify the 140 pounds? Esteche would be the perfect opponent, a come-forward pressure fighter from Argentina, wouldn’t take much from McCaskill to defeat like she did Farias. Another Argentinean, Victoria Noelia Bustos is the IBF champion.
Katie Taylor (12-0, 5KO) vs Delfine Persoon (42-1, 17KO) – The fight at 135 pounds that everybody is talking about is one that more than likely will happen by the end of 2019, Taylor vs multi-divisional champion Amanda Serrano. The truth of the matter is that fight doesn’t really do anything for the division. But it does pit two of the considered best in the sport in the ring. Serrano has not fought at 135 pounds since capturing a title there, the WBO, back in 2014. Can she deal with the speedy Taylor. The fight that truly moves the needle at lightweight is pitting the two best fighters in the division in Taylor and Delfine Persoon. Persoon never fights out of her home country of Belgium but it looks an offer to bring Taylor to her homeland wasn’t enough. So if Persoon truly wants to fight Taylor it’s going to be outside of her comfort zone. A neutral territory could be the USA.
Honorable mention – Rose Volante, the WBO champion, can get in the mix or at least get a career high payday by facing either Taylor or Persoon. The offer would have to be a good one to get the 36-year-old out of South America.
Mikaela Mayer (9-0, 4KO) vs Eva Wahlstrom (22-1, 3KO) – the former US Olympic team member Mikaela Mayer, who is promoted by Top Rank, has been hinting for some time that in 2019 she wants a shot at a world title. She took a step in the right direction by capturing the NABF 130-pound vacant title two fights ago. That gets her ranked within the WBC. Although she is a threat against any other of the other organizations’ champs, WBA’s Choi, IBF’s Hamadouche or WBO’s Brodnicka, more than likely she should, go after Wahlstrom.
Honorable mention – if Mayer doesn’t get her shot at Wahlstrom then New York’s Melissa St. Vil should definitely get her rematch. The first fight was hotly contested and ended in controversy with a knockdown of Wahlstrom being ruled a slip. St. Vil has been campaigning for a return fight and deservedly so.
Hamadouche should also get a high profile fight, preferably in the states and on TV, so that everybody can enjoy her high-pressure all-action style.
Look out for Part II soon where the atom to featherweight divisions will be dissected.