It was well worth the four and a half hour drive, fighting DC traffic, and finding and making it to Rosecroft on time to catch the nine amateur boxing bouts in tonight’s Road to London show. The opening fights were the younger and lighter women (decent matches: Roneisha Moore v. Bianka Thompson, Elizabeth Keller v. Marianne O’Leary, Tracey Redd v. Labelle Everett, and Tyriesha Douglass v. Quishana Fowler), and by the time we made it to the top of the 135 lb category, the hard work was well underway and the crowd of 300 or so spectators were fully engaged.
Curry v. Saunders
In bout number six, Camille Curry of Gleason’s Gym in New York took on Althea Saunders. Curry, 32, boasts a string of accomplishments including state championships in NY for 2008 and 2009, and a National Golden Gloves championship as well. Cornered by well-known pro boxer Alicia Ashley, Curry, who is ranked 2nd in the nation, was the clear crowd favorite.
Althea Saunders, ranked third by USA Boxing in both the 132 and the 138 lb weight class, has been boxing for nine years and although her age (34) will prevent her from becoming an Olympic contender, she still hopes to turn pro and continue her boxing career.
Both women delivered an outstanding fight. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen biceps like Saunders sported, and although the ref called her twice for swatting (hitting with the sides of the glove, rather than the scoring portion) and even deducted points from her score for the repeated offense, Saunders showed incredible strength and endurance and was able to bag the win by raining down punches that Curry didn’t quite return in the same power and numbers.
Fountain v. Barnes
In the 155 weight bracket, Latraresha Fountain is a contender to watch for in the coming two years. Boxing out of Queens NY, she kept her head under heavy fire from opponent Jennifer Barnes, and moved forward with clean, solid combinations that landed with pop. She consistently parried and slipped hard jabs and rights, and moved around the ring with considerable ease. She relentlessly advanced against Barnes and was declared the winner after an incredibly hard-fought match.
Nelson v. Shen
Tori Nelson, who was a favorite with her home crowd here and who has a novice championship behind her, proved to be a heavy hitter in the 165 weight class, and pulled the win away from opponent Dara Shen in the last two rounds. Shen was taller and had more reach, but Nelson’s corner, Craig Fladager, kept her on target and driving toward the victory.
Fladager was probably the first trainer in the whole show that I could hear actually cornering throughout the match. For the most part, corners spoke quietly to their boxers during the breaks between rounds, but no one coached actively from the side of the ring. Fladager was a clear and loud exception, and more than once I saw Dara Shen putting what she was hearing from him to work against his own fighter. However, Nelson had power long after Shen was worn down, and was able to secure her win.
Hollon v. Vargas
The last night of the fight was the real reason I made a special effort to make it to this event. A woman I’ve followed on Twitter and through her blog was on the card in the 180 lb class boxing out of Tony Bell’s gym in DC, and I was excited to finally see her fight (and later meet her in person!).
Her opponent Cara Vargas played the flash card, wearing sparkling neon pink trunks and dancing energetically around the ring before the match. In contrast, Kaelan Hollon was serious and calm, almost grim. I hardly saw her move beyond the obligatory fist bump until the bell rang and her first jab shot out. Watching Hollon throw jabs is like watching a jackhammer punch through concrete. These jabs are clean, methodical, and intensely powerful without ever being showy. They are all business. The first round may have gone to Vargas, a boxer out of VA who has years more experience than Hollon, but Vargas just couldn’t continue to absorb the number of hard hits she had to take from Hollon and still have something to return. As Vargas’s strength flagged, Hollon roused her home crowd and continued her almost mechanical onslaught to secure the final victory of the evening. Hollon may have been exhausted, but she looked ready to go another five rounds.
I almost didn’t go up to her after the fights were all over; she had a great crew of friends with her and I was already overwhelmed by the city, the traffic, the venue, and the excitement of the boxing event. But after hanging back and watching her celebrate with her friends I decided that I would at least congratulate her on a fight well and beautifully won. I’m so glad I did; she was incredibly gracious and threw her arms around me in a bear hug that nearly sent us both into the people behind us. She introduced me to her friends and even invited me to join them for a beer. I declined, but the pleasure of meeting face to face even for just a moment was still the highlight of my trip.
I wish I had video of this incredible boxing event to show you, but I was pulled aside as soon as I started to record on my Flip cam and told I could not shoot any film. They then announced over the PA that they would be selling the professional video of the event, but they never announced how to get a copy. A man gave me a Rosecroft card and told me to put my address on it, but I couldn’t find him after the show, and the card had no instructions for anything except filling out my own address! Have I mentioned before that marketing in boxing sucks? Even considering the amount of money they’ll receive selling the video (assuming they actually sell it; there’s no website or any other indicator of how we might acquire it), they could get far more publicity if they would allow (and even enable) fans to create and share content related to this event. Think how many YouTube accounts and blogs could be passing the word of this event and it’s sponsors; the potential for attracting even more women and fans to the sport is tremendous. I saw a few other women shooting video on their phones, but after being politely chastised, I kept my Flip cam dutifully in my purse.
One further minor rant, also connected to marketing. In order to find the venue for this boxing competition, I followed dozens of yard signs pointing the way to a computer show happening at Rosecroft on the same day as this event. No boxing signs. At the main turn-in to the arena, giant 30 foot banners proclaimed the computer show and sale. No boxing signs. When I arrived at the center, there wasn’t a sign in the entire lobby or as I wandered uncertainly to the third floor where the ring was set up, which indicated I was in the right place or even at the correct event. Not one sign, poster, flyer, banner, or even a greeter to help anyone know there was even an important women’s boxing show happening.
It must be my curse to continue to notice and decry this. Hello, women’s boxing universe? We have something wonderful to showcase! How about a website dedicated to a show series? How about a sign or five at the corner? Could we get a press release? A few bloggers to post about it (I’m volunteering). What about a Twitter account? Let’s tell as many people as we can using all the means we have (some of which are free!).
Meanwhile, I will be watching for these women to keep collecting boxing experiences and improving their records on their road toward the Olympic games in 2012. Thanks to all who helped make this a great fight night.