Layla McCarter Leads Women’s Best Pound for Pound Fighters
By David A. Avila
Making a pound for pound list, of course, is very subjective. But for the last nine years Layla McCarter has been at the top of this list.
Since 2009 McCarter has pinned herself at the top of the pedestal and dared anyone to beat her. She’s traveled to half a dozen countries and returned with victories every time. That in itself is a testament to her incredible boxing skills.
Number two is Amanda Serrano whose titles in five weight divisions can only be matched by Japan’s Naoko Fujioka. Both fighters have power and speed and somehow can move up and down in weight and still win.
Cecilia Braekhus opened the door for women to be televised on HBO and that was quite a feat. She is an incredible athlete and has been adding the finer points of boxing to her war chest. A showdown with McCarter would satisfy everyone over who deserves the number one spot. McCarter has her staunch supporters and Braekhus does too. No sense arguing, fighting it out would be the answer to the debate.
Others like Argentina’s Yesica Bopp, Mexico’s Mariana Juarez and Canada’s Jelena Mrdjenovich have been their respective country’s idols for many years. Despite being in their 30s they continue to dominate their respective weight divisions.
Newcomers to this pound for pound list are Claressa Shields, Daniela Bermudez and Kenia Enriquez. These three will be stars for many more years. Shields recent win over Hanna Gabriels was one of the best 10-round fights in a decade. She firmly entrenched herself among the top boxers in the business. Likewise, Bermudez recently knocked off her fellow Argentine Marcela Acuna and takes her place on this list. Mexico’s Enriquez has become feared and avoided by other fighters in her own country and beyond.
Two remaining fighters on this list come from Europe and have excellent boxing skills. Belgium’s Delfine Persoon and Germany’s Christina Hammer are both on the list but could easily go higher.
One fighter not on this list is Katie Taylor. The reason for the omission: every opponent she’s face so far has been at least a 5 to 1 underdog. She needs to face a fighter with a good chance of competing like Delfine Persoon, Amanda Serrano, Jelena Mrdjenovich, Melissa St. Vil or Layla McCarter who has no problem dropping down to 135. Only then will the Irish fighter be considered. Once she beats any of these fighters mentioned she will immediately be placed. Until then, she’s talented but unproven.
Best Fighters Pound for Pound
- Layla McCarter – (USA) has not lost in 11 years despite fighting in six countries. The Las Vegas fighter has won titles as a featherweight all the way to junior middleweight. Now 39, she has fighting skills and knowledge that allow her to compete and win against much bigger opponents. She has not lost a fight since 2007. Think of McCarter as a female James Toney. She can defend, maneuver and knock out opponents and has done so for two decades. Don’t be fooled by her innocent appearance, she can fight.
- Amanda Serrano – (USA) has won five weight division world titles and is definitely the best puncher on this list. Serrano, 29, somehow manages to go up and down in weight with little problem from bantamweight to lightweight. That in itself is impressive. The southpaw slugger with boxing skills is also fighting in MMA and that could be the only chink in her armor. It’s a tough transition to fight in both combat sports. The Brooklyn-based brunette wants big paydays and nothing less.
- Cecilia Braekhus – (Norway) has dominated almost all the welterweights, but has not fought McCarter. Braekhus, 36, has great speed, power and a willingness to fight anywhere. Her win over Kali Reis brought excitement to the crowd watching in Los Angeles. It was also great to see a female fight on HBO for the first time. She’s talked about fighting Cris Cyborg, but boxing fans would first like to see her against McCarter. It’s a fight that has been talked about for several years. Cyborg can wait.
- Claressa Shields – (USA) The former two-time Olympic gold medalist has won world titles in two divisions and defeated Hanna Gabriels in the best female fight in years. Shields, 23, has a fearlessness that is engaging to fans eager to see her on television. The fight against Gabriels showed the entertainment value of her offensive repertoire. Shields fights at 100 miles an hour and dares anyone to keep up. She may not be the biggest fighter physically, but she fights with an attitude and loves what she does.
- Naoko Fujioka – (Japan) has won five world titles in five weight divisions. The Japanese fighter has won world titles from mini-flyweight to bantamweight and has fought all over the world. Fujioka, 42, has speed and power and has never backed away from a challenge. Her dream fight would be to contest in the USA against any world champion from 112 to 118. Japan considers her their best female fighter of all time. She even has a win over Mariana Juarez who she defeated in Mexico City. Fujioka is a firecracker.
- Yesica Bopp – (Arg) has only one loss in her career and dominates opposition with speed. The diminutive flashy blonde has run out of opposition in her native country. She would love to fight in the U.S. against any of the top fighters in her weight class. Bopp, 34, who is known as “La Tuti,” has exceptional boxing skills and her lone loss came against Mexico’s talented Jessica Chavez who is not on this list because she was out of action due to pregnancy. Both Bopp and Chavez have a win over each other. A fight between them in the U.S. would make sense if someone would put up the money. The popular and cheery Bopp is beloved in Argentina.
- Mariana Juarez – (Mex) The fighter known as “Barby” has captured three world titles in three divisions. She is a Mexican icon and was able to lure 400,000 fans to her fight last year where she won the bantamweight world title in Mexico City. Now 38, Juarez remains boxing crazy Mexico’s top female fighter and could be looking to retire soon. She is known throughout the world but is a major celebrity in her country. Juarez still can fight and is scheduled to fight Tijuana’s Jackie Nava in a battle of Mexico’s two most popular fighters. A world title bout in the U.S. could cap an already hall of fame career.
- Jelena Mrdjenovich – (Can) has long been Canada’s best fighter for decades. The lanky featherweight has managed to retain her world title in three bruising back-to-back fights in France. Ironically, Mrdjenovich has won world titles as a lightweight and super featherweight, but now fights as a featherweight where she has been the WBC and WBA champion off and on since 2011. The Edmonton-based prizefighter is now 36 and willing to fight the big names but for the right price.
- Daniela Bermudez – (Arg) knocked off Argentine icon Marcela Acuna and that’s no easy feat. Acuna had long been one of Argentina’s legendary fighters and then along came Bermudez with her speed and agility has proven to be dominant as a super bantamweight. She formerly was a bantamweight world champion but now has her sights on bigger game. Her only losses were twice to Yesica Bopp and once to Edith Matthysse. At 29, she is firmly in her prime and a force in the super bantamweight division.
- Kenia Enriquez – (Mex) a young budding superstar from Tijuana, Mexico has emerged as one of her country’s best underpublicized fighters. An excellent puncher with boxing skills, Enriquez, 24, is a former flyweight world champion who dropped down to a more comfortable 108 pounds light flyweight. She has shown a willingness to fight anyone at any time in her weight class. And is not afraid of fighting overseas or in the U.S. She is dripping with talent.
- Christina Hammer – (Ger) is a middleweight champion from Germany who ran out of opponents in Europe. Hammer, 27, has set her sights on American opponents and already has wins over Kali Reis and Tori Nelson. Next up, Claressa Shields. This will be a battle between two top pound for pound fighters. It’s a rare occurrence especially in the U.S. Hammer has size and knows how to use her jab. Hammer is confident but so is Shields. It’s a tantalizing match on paper. The one drawback is Hammer’s penchant for holding.
- Delfine Persoon – (Belg) a very good fighter who seems shy about discussing a fight against Ireland’s Katie Taylor. Now 33, Persoon has not lost a fight since 2010 and has held the WBC version of the lightweight world title since 2014. One major drawback has been her refusal to fight outside of her native country except in 2015 when she fought in Switzerland against a lightly regarded opponent. But she’s had three major victories against Erica Farias, Diana Prazak and Maiva Hamadouche. She can fight.
(Jessica Chavez would be on this list however she was pregnant and unable to compete)