Female Prizefighting Review

Female Boxing 6-Month Progress Report

By Felipe Leon

After a historic 2018 where we saw a number of firsts in female boxing including the first female bout on HBO, this year has not let up.  In the last six months we have seen a considerable up-swing in action as well as interest in female boxing all over the world and on different platforms.

During the last six months some veteran fighters have kept their place in the sport, some have elevated it and in others you have began to see the slip of time while new names have jumped up to the world stage.

Here is a recap:

The year started off with a bang in South America with Argentinean Evelyn Bermudez (12-0, 3KO) defending her IBF light flyweight for the first time.  Evelyn, the younger sister of WBO bantamweight champion Daniela “La Bonita” Bermudez (25-3-3, 7KO), who along with Roxana (2-0-1) are becoming the most exciting trifecta in female boxing.

A week earlier Roxana, a super flyweight, scored her second win as a professional while the older and most accomplished Daniela defended her strap for the second time in late March.  “La Bonita” scored a lopsided unanimous decision against Mexican federal police officer Irma “Torbellina” Garcia.

After dropping a unanimous decision to Claressa Shields in August of last year, Costa Rica’s Hanna Gabriels (19-2-1, 11KO) returned to Central America and to the super welterweight division to defend her WBA title with a unanimous decision over Sarah Dwyer in January while Maricela Cornejo (13-3, 5KO) dropped near the 154-pound limit to beat veteran Erin Toughill also via a unanimous decision.

Once she announced an undisclosed medical issue which forced her to postpone her anticipated match up against Claressa Shields for later in 2019, the then WBO middleweight champion Christina Hammer (24-1, 11KO) made her return to the ring in early February with a quick second round TKO over Elene Sikmashvili in Berlin. 

Also in February, Mikaela Mayer (11-0, 4KO) had her first fight of year where she defended her NABF super featherweight title with a unanimous decision over Yareli Larios of Mexico.  Many thought Larios would be a stern test for the Olympian but Mayer controlled the action with her superior technical skill as well as her height advantage. 

In her last fight earlier this month the 28-year-old Mayer showed why she is ready for a world title shot with an impressive win over the tough and more experienced Lizbeth Crespo of Argentina.

Also, in February the U.K.’s Nicola Adams announced a shoulder injury which made her pull out of her challenge for the WBO flyweight title held by Arely Muciño.  Even though the fight is supposed to be rescheduled we haven’t heard from her since.

In late February, East L.A.’s Seniesa “Super Bad” Estrada (17-0, 7KO) defended her first strap with a 5th round TKO over Venezuela’s Yenifer Leon.  Including her last win over Gretchen Abaniel earlier this month, Estrada has scored 5 stoppages in a row and says she is ready for a world title match.

She’s mentioned Golden Boy Promotions, her promoter, is looking for her to challenge WBC light flyweight champion Yesenia Gomez by September.

In the first weekend of March, the legendary Mariana “Barbie” Juarez (53-9-4, 18KO) had her first fight of the year, a unanimous decision over the previously undefeated Eva Naranjo of Spain.  In her last fight a couple of weeks ago, Juarez kept proving why she might be arguably the best Mexican female fighter of all time.  Juarez took on a nearly 20 years her junior opponent in Diana Fernandez and toyed with her for the better part of 10 rounds.

“La Barbie” has threatened to go up to the 122-pound limit by the end of the year to look for her fourth crown in as many divisions.

The internet portal Sports360.com announced their list of the 100 most influential women in sports in March of this year.  Unified lightweight champion Katie Taylor, unified welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus, unified middleweight champion Claressa Shields and amateur super star Mary Kom of India were part of the list.

In the first weekend of April two controversial results sprouted in England.  WBC atom weight champion Fabiana Bytyqi (14-0-1, 5KO) kept her title with a split draw over Mexican Maria Soledad Vargas (13-3-1, 1KO) in the Czech Republic while another Mexican, Maricela Quintero (18-4-2, 3KO), also was a victim of questionable judging with another split draw against the WBC strawweight champion Tina Rupprecht (9-0-1, 3KO) in Germany.

Finally, the most anticipated female fight in recent years took place in mid-April with Claressa Shields (9-0, 2KO) completely dominating the previously undefeated Christina Hammer to add the WBO strap to her WBC, WBA and IBF and becoming the second active undisputed female champion of the world.

The fight enjoyed unprecedented coverage by the Showtime network with a never before seen All Access 360 series, the first for a female fight.  The rating for the fight peaked at 369K viewers, which in the eyes of critics was disappointing, but it did not take away from the historical precedent.

Following in the footsteps of her stablemate but arch rival, Seniesa Estrada, Olympic bronze medalist and Houston native Marlen Esparza (6-0, 1KO) came back in late April to capture her first title, the vacant WBO NABO flyweight strap, with an eight round unanimous decision over Jhosep Vizcaino.

Esparza had not seen action in a year due to getting married and the birth of her baby boy.  With the strap around her waist she is looking to come back in July and hopefully sometime before the end of the year we see her face Estrada in that grudge match.

Two days after Esparza won her first title WBC super flyweight champion Guadalupe Martinez (19-9, 6KO) proved her title reign is much deserved.  Back in 2017 Martinez defeated the long-reigning champ Zulina “Loba” Muñoz.  Since then she had defended the title twice but in late April she defeated via split decision Jessica “Kika” Chavez (30-5-3, 4KO). 

Chavez, previously the 108- and 112-pound champion for the WBC, was coming back from giving birth and instead of taking a warm-up bout decided to go for gold and the 115-pound title.  Martinez stopped her in her tracks with her aggressive and no holds barred style forcing Chavez to go back to the drawing board and decide her next move.

On the same Saturday in May two best friends on the opposing coasts of the United States took their first steps towards a world-class level.  Middleweight Raquel Miller (9-0, 4KO) stopped veteran Erin Toughill to capture the vacant NABF title while super featherweight Tiara Brown (8-0, 6KO) stopped veteran Angel Gladney in two to take the vacant IBF International title.

Both Miller and Brown are amateur standouts who met within the USA Boxing program and who are now chasing world titles under the DiBella Entertainment banner.  Brown, a police officer in Washington DC, was named the police officer of the year in 2018 while Miller helps young ladies gain confidence through sports with her organization Hit Like A Girl based out of the Bay Area of California.

Late May saw the return of Jackie “Aztec Princess Nava (35-4-4, 16KO) in what could be one of the last fights of her career.  A sought-after fight against Mariana Juarez didn’t materialize last year although both say they still want it.  Earlier this year Nava announced this was her last year in professional boxing since she is focusing on other business matters including a budding clothing line.   

Without Juarez as a dance partner, Nava decided to go back in time and face off another legend, Marcela “Tigresa” Acuña (49-7-2, 20KO) of Argentina, in a rematch of their 2009 bout in Buenos Aries. In that fight the visiting Nava fell short and lost a unanimous decision.  This time on Mexican soil, Puerto Vallarta, the odds were with Nava.

They weren’t enough to get the win but instead a controversial draw.

Many fans, media and even the TV commentators saw the busier Acuña win with Nava looking lethargic and without answers.

After the fight Nava said she had one more fight in her before the end of the year and her storied career.  She didn’t mention a rematch with Acuña but instead the fight with Juarez.

Also, in May we saw Katie Taylor become the undisputed lightweight champion in another controversial decision.  Her fight against the then WBC champion Delfine Persoon was an all-action affair with most seeing Persoon squeak it out. 

The judges saw it for Taylor.

It is said the rematch is being worked on for later this year.

The current WBC super lightweight champion Jessica McCaskill added the WBA strap to her collection with a “Fight of the Year” candidate also in May against Argentina’s Anahi Esther Sanchez.

Early this month the WBC took a step in the right direction announcing the launch of their Clean Boxing Program for women.  Along with the Mayer vs Crespo fight which peaked at 800k views, the month also gave us the return of Southern California favorite Adelaida “La Cobra” Ruiz winning her first regional title as well as Scotland’s Hannah Rankin capturing the fringe IBO super welterweight strap.

The first six months of the year were better than expected, can the second half match or exceed?