Ronica Jeffrey Challenges for Super Featherweight World Title in Las Vegas
By Felipe Leon
Despite a successful amateur career where she won the Golden Gloves three times and captured silver in a national tournament and as a pro having held the NABF, WIBF, WIBA, WBC Silver and WBU titles at different times, Brooklyn, New York’s own Ronica “Queen” Jeffrey (17-1, 1KO) has always flown right under the boxing radar.
She is looking to change that in her next fight when this Friday night, August 2nd, in Las Vegas, Nevada, she gets her first opportunity for a full-fledged world title against current WBC super featherweight champion Eva Wahlstrom (22-1-1, 3KO) of Finland.
The fight will be the main event of a card presented by Roy Jones Jr Promotions at the Thomas and Mack Center and broadcast live on UFC Fight Pass at 7 p.m. PT.
“It was a little short notice but it is an opportunity,” Jeffrey said last week in an exclusive interview with the all-female boxing podcast the 2-Minute Round. “I felt it was opportunity and it just made sense to take it.”
Jeffrey began boxing later than most but quickly found a place for herself in the sport. “I started in my early 20s. I entered in it just as a form of exercise and kind of just fell in love with the sport and decided to compete.”
She sharpened her skills in quite possibly one of the best gyms in the world, New York City’s Gleason’s Gym, where anybody who is anybody in the sport has passed its door frame. Currently along with Jeffrey, female fighters Melissa St. Vil and Heather Hardy, both world-class fighters, train out of the gym.
“I think it is because it is an old school gym,” she answered when asked why the gym is a training ground for future world champions. “You get to be around a lot of people, people that fight good and people that don’t fight good. Our women are probably the most decorated ones in the gym at this point so that makes it really cool.”
“I think that is what makes Gleason’s gym special, it has so many memories, so much history,” she continued. “All kinds of people walk in there on a daily basis, you have actors, singers, dancers. You have people like Mark Breland or Iran Barkley just sitting around, hanging out with the other trainers. It is things like that.”
The Queen and the title
Known for her precise, technical and polished style, the 36-year-old “Queen” can’t put her finger of where her style derived from.
“I don’t think I have one person as an influence,” she said. “I think I have a lot of people especially coming up from the amateurs, you are around so many people, so many fighters get to be around, really, really good fighters, male and female. Especially when you start you are like a sponge so you are drawn to trying to pay close attention to people who fight a certain way. I think it is just a mixture of a lot.”
Jeffrey went pro in 2008 and racked up 13 straight wins before suffering the only loss of her career, a split decision loss to the unheralded Carla Torres in the early summer of 2014.
“I can say that fight was definitely a lesson for me. It is not to make an excuse but it was at a time I was not at a right head space,” she recalled. “I shouldn’t have taken the fight. Sometimes I feel the fighter in you tends to do things whether it would be because of your pride, your ego or just like feeling like you can’t say no sometimes. That is not how it should be.”
“You should protect yourself; you should understand you’re the most important thing,” Jeffrey continued. “If you are not at 100, then you can’t give 100. That was really an answer for myself.”
Since then she has won four straight fighting sporadically in the last five years. The lack of opportunities for a fighter who might be a more risk than the reward can be attributed for the little action Jeffrey has gotten recently but she believes the state of female boxing is improving.
“I wouldn’t say quick,” she said of the steady rise of female boxing in the U.S. “I think it has come a long a way but I still think it could be so much more and it probably should be much more. Thank God the Olympics created a better opportunity. Just like everything else it could definitely be better and further along.”
Jeffrey is conscious a win over Wahlstrom could definitely elevate her to a better place in her career but first she must get the win.
“I really don’t know much about her,” Jeffrey stated. “I know she fought Melissa St. Vil in Finland. I know who she is but I am not really familiar with her.”
One that is familiar with Wahlstrom is Jeffrey’s gym-mate, former world champion Melissa St. Vil. St. Vil challenged Wahlstrom back in April of 2018 and despite sending her to the canvas early in the fight came up short via a majority decision. A result she disputes to this day.
“Melissa and I have different fighting styles but I wouldn’t say she told me how to fight her,” Jeffrey explained. “She gave me some good advice like to go up there, just be yourself and do what you have to do. Just things like that.”
This won’t be the first fight for Wahlstrom in the United States. In fact, it is her second in a row. After campaigning her whole career in her native Finland Wahlstrom made the leap across the pond in late 2018 to challenge lightweight world champion Katie Taylor in New York. Wahlstrom was dominated over ten rounds.
In a way Jeffrey, with all her pro fights on the east coast, will also be fighting out of her comfort zone despite the fight being held in the United States.
“I wouldn’t say a home turf but I would say an equal turf,” she said when asked if she feels she has home canvas advantage. “I am not from there; she is not from there so it is like an equal platform. I would say it is just that more than anything else, it just makes it fair.”