On December 3rd in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Route 66 Casino Hotel will host an event that will include some of the biggest names in the past decade of women’s boxing.
The main event on the card, suitably dubbed “Deuces Wild,” will feature a 10-round rematch of southpaw and IBA champion Holly Holm (28-1-3, 8 KOs) and WBC champion Ann Marie Saccurato (15-4-2, 6 KOs). I expect it will be a showdown not to be missed; both women are ranked number 1 in the world in their respective weight divisions.
Those names alone are enough to make any fan want to go and take as much stuff to be autographed as humanly possible. These women are a massive part of boxing history.
But the fight I’m far more interested is the co-main event, an 8-round battle between one of my all-time favorite boxers, a light welterweight ranked 8th in the world with a record of 27-6-2 with 11 knockouts, Chevelle “Fists of Steel” Hallback.
She is my “one boxer.” You know this question: If you could stand in the ring with any one boxer in the world, who would it be? Mine is Chevelle. She’s the most beautiful, powerful, technical boxer I’ve ever watched; I think I love her most because she’s the one I would want to be most like, if I had discovered a career in boxing earlier in life. She stands and delivers with phenomenal power; she never disappoints.
Interestingly, Chevelle fought Lucia Rijker for her second professional fight, a scary-ass situation she never expected to face: Chevy was brand new, no amateur bouts, quite literally a few seconds into her career — she had won her initial fight with a KO in the first 37 seconds. When Chevelle faced Lucia, Rijker was already on her meteoric rise to the top ranks; shockingly, no one told Chevelle this when the match was made. Still, she fought through 5 amazing rounds before losing in her first — and only — TKO.
But Chevelle was not deterred. She kept going and piled up a string of astonishing wins that turned heads all over the world. And she’s still doing it today, thirteen years later.
On December 3rd Chevelle will be matched up with a local Albuquerque favorite, up-and-coming fighter Victoria “La Reina de Guerra” (Queen of War) Cisneros, who is currently 5-10-2, with 1 knockout.
Victoria is coming off a major loss to Melissa “Huracan” Hernandez (13-2-3, 4 KOs), and I was able to speak with Melissa, who recently fought to a draw with Chevelle, about the upcoming match between Victoria and Chevelle.
Melissa expresses only respect and admiration for her friend and peer Chevelle, but she also feels Hallback needs to fight boxers of her own caliber, and finish her career with some more monumental wins.
“Chevelle’s definitely going to get the W with Cisneros,” she emphasized. “Besides,” she continued, with typical Huracan style, “I beat the crap out of Cisneros; she’s never gonna be the same after that. There’s no way she can hold up against Chevy. My hits are nothing compared to Chevy’s.” I could almost hear her shaking her head.
“If you were training Victoria for December,” I asked her, “what would your strategy for her be?”
“Cisneros is going to have to be a moving target,” Melissa told me, warming to this subject. “Chevy likes to set up in order to get full power behind her shots. So Cisneros needs to make Chevy come to her. She can backpedal the whole fight if she needs to, and keep a stiff jab in Chevy’s face.”
I also asked her what she would tell Chevelle.
“If Chevelle does the first few rounds strong, Cisneros won’t be able to finish. Chevy trains hard all the time, not just before a fight. Victoria may not get as much sparring and training time. She has a baby to care for, too.” She pauses and emphasizes her last point and adds a new, more rueful one. “Cisneros brings her baby to the gym with her. Men boxers never have to do that.”
The next day I interviewed Chevelle (making a fair amount of effort not to sound like the besotted fangirl I am). She opened our conversation with the respectful attitude toward her opponent that she’s renowned for.
“I personally think [Cisneros is] a little better than her record. She has been in there with some tough fighters. I’m excited about the fight because she brings a lot to the table…”
All stuff I’d expected to hear. So I went ahead and brought up the smack talk that’s been getting press lately. “What do you think of Cisnero’s talk of ‘retiring Chevelle’?”
Chevelle lit up with a whoosh.
“Nobody,” she said, drawing the word out for emphasis, “nobody retires Chevelle Hallback except Chevelle Hallback.” She paused to make her point clear, and I mentally took three steps back, out of the line of fire.
“Victoria has a lot of good qualities. I think she’s gonna give a competitive fight. But I could go in there thinking I’m going in to give my fans a good show, or I could go in thinking I’m going to kill you. Right now I really don’t know which way I want to go with that.”
This is why Chevelle is my favorite fighter. I wish I had one-tenth that kind of barely-held-in-check ferocity. And the power to back it up.
“You know, honestly,” Chevelle said, “the last time Cisneros and I talked, she said she would like to fight me. I thought that was cool, but later she comes out saying she wanted to fight me so she could get a rematch with Holly. And I said hold on, you’re looking past me? I take that a little personal!” Chevelle paused, laughed a little, and went on.
“We’re in the fight business,” she said, “and sometimes people talk trash. But she’s saying she’s gonna stop me like I’m just a little scrub in the street. I still give her all the credit in the world, but if you’re looking past me, you’re putting yourself in a very dangerous situation.”
Note to self: Never look past Chevelle “Fists of Steel” Hallback. Instead I (politely) asked her what she will be bringing to the ring, even though I already know.
“I can take a punch. And I can hit. I have speed and slickness in the ring. Top it off with my power. I can hurt somebody with that, even when most of my punches are just arm punches. Sometimes I don’t even sit down good on my punches, and if I do, those are knockout punches.”
They are. I’ve seen them.
“My weakness is that it’s hard for me to operate at my top level with someone who is a friend. But if you disrespect me, I’m not gonna hold back. I can’t say if I will knock her out. I have the capabilility, that’s for certain. But when she gets out of the ring it’s gonna look like she was in with 5 or 6 fighters.”
Chevelle isn’t finished boxing. At 39, she says, she’s not even close to being tapped out. She wants at least 2 more years in the ring; she has boxers she wants to fight and she dreams of fighting on HBO before retiring.
“What about after boxing,” I asked. “What’s next?”
Like many great boxers, she wants to open a gym and train fighters. I start to comment on that when I realize she isn’t finished talking. “And also a barber shop; I like to do hair.”
I gather myself for a response, but she beats me to it again. “And I want to finish my degree in child psychology. I would like to be Dr. Hallback!” she laughs, enjoying the incredibly expansive dream she has just spread out in front of me. “That’s all.”
Chevelle closed in her customary fashion, with a shout-out to her family, with whom she is very close, and her team. She mentioned her trainer, Sherman Henson, her advisor, and her publicist. “I have to have the best people behind me to help me along the way. They make it much easier for me to do my job.”
“But most of all,” she said, “I want to tell all my friends that I’m not going anywhere. I’m still here to entertain my fans. My talent is still intact. I’m looking forward to this fight!” And with what I know is a beautiful, open smile she adds, “Don’t miss it now!”