This year is shaping up to be an excellent year for boxing, in both the men's and women's divisions. Compared to last year, which took months to really get going, we have already seen some excellent action, and the top fighters in the sport have been active (with the exception of one notable male welterweight).
In women's boxing, especially, the next six weeks are looking very interesting. Light flyweight Yesica Yolanda Bopp, welterweight Cecilia Braekhus, and flyweight Susi Kentikian—perhaps the top three pound-for-pound women's boxers in the world today - both have title defenses scheduled on April 2nd.
Those three fights are the highlights of a very exciting few months in women's boxing, and an opportunity for new fans to begin following the sport.
March 18, 2011
Yesica Patricia Marcos (16-0) vs. Maria Andrea Miranda (13-5) (WBA female super bantamweight title fight)
Anfiteatro Municipal, San Martin, Mendoza, Argentina
This is not expected to be an extremely competitive fight—it was just announced recently and Miranda is 2-4 in her last six fights. However, the 26-year-old Miranda is a constant KO threat (eight knockouts in 13 victories) and the shortened training camp has given Marcos less time to prepare for her particular opponent. Not a must-see matchup, but worthwhile to see an undefeated women's champ in action.
March 19, 2011
Potential Fight: Krisztina Belinszky (25-6-2) vs. TBA
Originally scheduled to fight Ji-Hyun Park for the IFBA minimumweight title, their fight was postponed until April 23rd, likely due to the recent tragedy in Japan, which could have threatened Park's training camp in South Korea.
However, Belinszky, one of the most active and impressive women fighters recently, still has a venue booked in Slovakia and may use the date for a tune-up fight before her big title showdown in April.
March 25, 2011
Molly McConnell (10-2) vs. Kita Watkins (6-7) (GBU and WIBF light welterweight title fight)
Marriott Hotel, El Paso, Texas
Arkansas' Kita Watkins will have a chance to avenge her previous third-round TKO loss to Portland, Oregon-based Molly McConnell, with the vacant Global Boxing Union and Women's International Boxing Federation titles on the line.
Neither fighter has held a world title before, though McConnell has clearly had the better career and outperformed Watkins in their previous bout. However, the 38-year-old McConnell has been inactive since a loss last April, and Watkins has more momentum—coming off a win last October, albeit against a low-caliber opponent.
Watkins may also have something to prove—her loss to McConnell is the only KO loss she has suffered in her career.
March 26, 2011
Susi "Killer Queen" Kentikian (27-0) vs. TBA (WIBF, WBA, WBO flyweight title fight)
Universum Gym, Wandsbek, Hamburg, Germany
It's hard to believe Kentikian is only 23-years-old—she has an extraordinary record and has been among the top five women's pound-for-pound fighters for several years now in my estimation. She has a four-year, 13-fight reign as a world champion, and if not for a rough 2010 (in which she fought to a split decision and a no contest), she would have an undisputed claim as the greatest women's boxer in the world today.
No opponent has been announced, but Kentikian, an Armenian who has won 27 fights including 16 by knockout, can be expected to make easy work out of whoever her opponent is.
April 2, 2011
Yesica Yolanda Bopp (14-0) vs. TBA (potential WBA and WBO light flyweight title fight)
Estadio Socios Fundadores, Comodoro Rivadavia, Chubut, Argentina
The always-exciting Bopp, who is coming off an impressive big victory over second-ranked light flyweight Carina Moreno on January 29, is perhaps the best pound-for-pound fighter in women's boxing today.
An easy comparison can be made between "Tuti" Bopp and her compatriot Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez—both have exceptional hand speed and ring generalship, and an aggressive style that interrupts their opponents' fight plans. Whenever either of these Argentineans fight, it is an event worth watching.
Currently, Bopp's fight is listed on Boxrec as being six rounds, which might mean it won't be a title fight, but with an opponent not yet declared, it's very possible that April second could be the day that Bopp wins her 10th consecutive title fight.
April 2, 2011
Cecilia Braekhus (16-0) vs. Jill Emery (10-4) (WBA, WBO and WBC welterweight title fight)
Herning Kongrescenter, Herning, Denmark
Cecilia Braekhus is the other active fighter who has a legitimate claim to the women's pound-for-pound mantle, and has looked extremely impressive in a busy recent schedule, knocking out undefeated prospect Mikaela Lauren and the difficult Eva Halasi in an extraordinary three-week span between October 30th and November 20th of last year.
Another extraordinary thing about Braekhus is that she has recently found impressive knockout power after stepping up in competition. Emery is a legitimate contender, but it may be that only semi-retired Holly "Hottie" Holm (who last week won her first MMA bout by knockout) could pose a serious threat to Braekhus in the division.
April 2, 2011
Lisa "Bad News" Brown (18-4) vs. Chanttall Martinez (12-4) (WBA female super bantamweight title fight)
Arena Roberto Duran, Panama City, Panama
The venerable Lisa Brown, two fights away from a win over the highly-touted Ana Julaton, takes on tough challenger Chantall Martinez, who has won four straight fights against well-regarded opponents. For the 40-year-old Brown, this could be an amazing chance to prove that she's still one of the top fighters in the game, as her number 2 Boxrec ranking would suggest.
April 23, 2011
Ji-Hyun Park (12-2) vs. Krisztina Belinszky (25-6-2) (IFBA minimumweight title)
As mentioned earlier, this bout was originally scheduled for March 19th before being postponed following the recent Japanese earthquakes. Park, a South Korean who will be making her 8th defense of her International Female Boxing Association minimumweight title, went 3-0 in title fights in 2010.
For her part, Belinszky, a two-time former champion who has won her last three fights, will also be fighting in her ninth title fight. Both have been the marquee names in the division for several years, and we should be primed for some excellent action.
Fights on the Horizon:
- Rapidly-rising women's middleweight prospect Christina Hammer, who most recently won a seventh round TKO against Diana Kiss on February 18th, has been fighting every few months and may look to add a third title to her resume. The 20-year-old German has an extraordinary 78 percent knockout percentage, which would be impressive for anyone, but is unheard-of for women's boxing, which usually has a lower knockout percentage and shorter fights (with two-minute rounds). Hammer is an exceptional talent and is someone to watch.
- A women's boxing super-card, featuring four bouts, including three world title fights, was scheduled for March 12th in Tokyo, but had to be canceled due to the tragic recent earthquakes. There has been no information on any rescheduling, and for the Japanese boxers who were set to participate in the card it would be understandable and advisable to not consider rescheduling right now. However, there were several fighters from elsewhere in the world who were also scheduled to fight for world titles, and might choose to make some quick matchups with other well-regarded boxers.
Clearly, this is an exciting time for women's boxing and a great time for new fans to cultivate an interest in the sport. No information is available yet on TV dates in the U.S. or elsewhere, but any information would be appreciated and will be posted as soon as it becomes available.