5'4" lightweight Isra "Raging Beauty" Girgrah was born on September 16, 1971 in Aden, Yemen.
She moved to Canada with her family in 1974 and began boxing there in 1994 to
stay in shape. A multi-sport star in high school volleyball, soccer and
volleyball, she proved a natural as a boxer. She says she fell in love with the sport after a year of
training and took it up again after graduating from college and moving
to Atlanta, Georgia.
The only blemish on Girgrahs early pro record was a third-round TKO
by Irish star Deirdre Gogarty in her debut in
Louisiana on February 14, 1995 in a featherweight bout. Gogarty progressed to
10-3-2 (9 KOs).
On November 2, 1995 she won a six-round decision over local fighter Melinda
Robinson in Austin, Texas in a lightweight bout. Robinson fell to 2-1.
On January 19, 1996 in Philadelphia, she TKO'd Amy Sherrald in the first round.
Sherrald was making her pro debut and hasn't fought since.
On February 22, 1996 in Corpus Christi, Texas, she won a six-round
over Melinda Robinson in a rematch of their November bout. Robinson fell to 2-3
with the loss.
On February 24, 1996 in Yanceyville, North
Carolina, she won a second-round TKO over debut fighter Angela Thomas in a
junior welterweight bout.
On August 2, 1996 in Northport, Alabama, she TKO'd Tennile Davis
of Atlanta in the third round in junior lighweight bout. This was
davis's pro debut.
On August 30, in Atlanta, she TKO'd Stephanie
Osborne, also in the third round, in a junior welterweight bout.
On October 10, 1996 in Washington, DC, she fought to a four-round draw with rugged
Andrea DeShong, the early conqueror of Christy Martin
in a junior welterweight bout.
On October 30, 1996 in Atlanta,
Georgia. she knocked out debut fighter Norma Mosley in the second round of a
junior welterweight bout.
On January 31, 1997 in Atlanta, Georgia she weighed in at 134 lbs
and won a four-round decision over lightly-regarded (and lightly trained)
Bethany Payne of Atlanta in a lightweight bout. Payne fell to 1-2.
On July 19, 1997 in Nashville, Tennessee, she weighed in at 135 lbs and
won a 4-round unanimous decision in a rematch with Tennile Davis (135 lbs) of
Atlanta, who fell to 0-2 and hasn't fought since.
She took an eight-round fight with Christy Martin
on August 23, 1997 in Madison Square Garden at two weeks'
notice, and gave the highly-favored "Coal Miner's Daughter" a
huge fight, probably Martin's closest since
her controversial draw with Laura Serrano.
Girgrah's bobbing and weaving and
footwork made Martin miss with her overhand right, leaving her open for
Girgrah's counter punches.
Isra used her jab well early in the fight and
also held her own on the inside, often blocking Martin's feared right
and countering with a left hook to the face. One of these buckled Martin,
who quickly found out she was in a real fight this time!
Martin got to Isra in the second and had her reeling from a right.
Isra's glove touched the canvas and the referee gave her
an eight count. Girgrah was bleeding heavily from her nose at the bell,
but she boxed well in the third to keep Martin off her. Martin responded
with a hard-hitting fourth round using her both her left hook and her shoulder
to rough Girgrah up. Martin was warned for dirty tactics and the fight
was clean but very hard-fought after this.
Girgrah's boxing skills impressed everyone but the judges for the
rest of this fight and seemed to get stronger as she took Martin the
full distance to the "Coal Miner's Daughter's" surprise and annoyance.
By the end of the sixth Martin was badly bruised under her right eye
and also bleeding from the mouth, while Girgrah's corner had worked
on her well and she was more than holding her own in the fight.
By the end of the fight, Martin's left eye was also swollen, and she looked
like a beaten fighter. The crowd at the Garden and the fans who voted over the
internet saw Girgrah as the winner (by 5 rounds to 3).
The TV announcers scored the fight even, with the one knockdown
as the only difference.
Unfortunately for Isra, the judges gave the fight to
Martin 78-74, 78-73, 78-73, a decision that was roundly booed.
Interviewed afterwards, Girgrah was emphatic: "I had it in my
mind that I was going to beat her. I was calm, and I knew
what I had to do, so I was relaxed. I was just sitting there
picturing what I was going to do in the ring, and that was
it. I was very confident. While I was boxing I did feel like I won it,
I watched that tape over and over again, and I still couldn't see how the margin was so big.
I still think I won. I'm going to knock her out the next time and make [the judges] definitely sure
I won." "The Raging Beauty" definitely wants a rematch. Don King said that Girgrah will have
at least two bouts before a rematch with Martin. Martin said Girgrah "fought a great fight"
but also "in re-matches, my opponents have not heard the final bell."
Almost three years later, Girgrah said in an interview
"I learned a lot that night and I think about it all the time.
It still motivates me to this day."
Girgrah was scheduled to fight Laura Serrano in México City
on March 7, 1998 but the women's matches on this card were
scuttled a few days before fight night when the México City authorities exhumed a 1947 law
forbidding women to fight professionally. The officials ruled
that the ban was needed to protect women, specifically "their reproductive organs".
The courts later agreed with Serrano that the ban
violated a 1992 constitutional reform proclaiming equality between the sexes,
paving the way for sanctioned women's professional boxing in the Mexican
On April 11, 1998 at the Township Auditorium in Columbia,
South Carolina, Isra won the IBF Lightweight title by defeating Australian Angela
Buchanan (138 lbs) by third-round TKO. Buchanan, an
Australian who fights out of Asheville, North Carolina,
had been served as KO fodder to
Christy Martin on two earlier Don King cards.
As everyone expected, Buchanan was outgunned and outclassed
by Girgrah, who landed on her almost at will.
Buchanan ended up on the canvas one way or another four times
before she was flattened by a straight right, left hook
combination that put her face down on the mat as the referee finally
showed mercy and ended the fight.
On November 20, 1998 at the Atrium at Stone Mountain, Georgia,
Isra won by seventh-round TKO over perennial Don King card opponent Bethany Payne,
a poorly-trained boxer who Martin had dispatched in the first round. Payne fell
On September 2, 1999 at the Gold Strike Casino in Tunica, Mississippi,
Girgrah won by a first-round TKO in a junior welterweight bout with Karen Ramos,
aka Christina Paulus, of Ashtabula, Ohio, who fell to 1-4. Girgrah threw many punches that
missed or glanced off Ramos before connecting with a good right.
Ramos backed up, was hit again and turned away, then the referee
On October 23, 1999, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada,
Girgrah suffered a one-sided loss to
Marischa Sjauw of Holland.
Isra was wobbled several times on the way to the short end of a
unanimous (40-46, 40-36, 39-37) decision. Sjauw moved to 13-4-1.
On February 16, 2000 at
Miccosukee Resort and Convention Center in Miami, Florida, Girgrah fought to a
four-round draw draw with veteran Britt Van Buskirk
of Carbondale, Illinois. Girgrah is 12-3-2, van Buskirk 8-8-2.
On July 12, 2000 at Martin's West in Woodlawn, Maryland,
2500 fans saw Girgrah win a
six-round shutout decision
(60-54 on all three scorecards) over late substitute
Melinda Robinson of Austin,
Texas who fell to 9-12-1.
According to local reports, Girgrah pummeled Robinson from the
opening bell and tested her chin repeatedly with a fierce uppercut.
On September 15, 2000 at Sands Casino and Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Girgrah (129¼ lbs) won a six-round unanimous decision over
Sue Mullett (134 lbs) who fell to 7-6 (4 KO's).
On October 19, 2000 at the Zembo Temple in Harrisburg,
Pennsylvania, Girgrah moved to 15-3-2 (7 KO's)
with a six-round unanimous decision over
Shakurah Witherspoon of Williamsport,
Pennsylvania, who fell to 8-18-1.
On January 12, 2001 at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey,
a sellout crowd saw Girgrah (133 lbs) stop Sue Mullett
(5'4", 134 lbs) of Burton, Ohio at 0:22 in the fourth round of a scheduled
10-rounder for the UBA Women's Lightweight title.
Girgrah began to find a home for her right in the second round while Mullett
worked her jab. Mullett was knocked down for an eight count and had her nose
bloodied by a straight right at the end of
the third round. The fight was stopped after Girgrah picked up the pace
and pinned Mullett against the ropes with a combination in the fourth.
Girgrah moved to 16-3-2 with 8 KO's, while Mullett fell to 7-6 with 4 KO's.
On February 20, 2001 at the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland,
Isra (131¼ lbs)
scored a unanimous (60-54) six-round decision
over Texan Melinda Robinson (5'7", 131 lbs)
on a "Fight For A Cure" charity boxing card. Girgrah used her jab to
get through Robinson's defense throughout the fight and rocked Robinson with
rights and uppercuts in the fourth and fifth rounds.
Robinson hung tough to go the distance in her fourth loss to Girgrah, while
her pro record fell to 9-14-1, (5 KO's)
On June 1, 2001 at the Sands Casino Hotel in Atlantic City,
Isra weighed in at 128 lbs and won the IWBF
Junior Lightweight title with a hard fought ten-round unanimous decision over
Snodene Blakeney (5'5", 130 lbs)
of Austin, Texas. Judges John Reilly and Luis Rivera both scored it 97-93 for Girgrah,
while Alan Rubinstein saw it 97-94. Blakeney fell to 10-6 (2 KO's) with the loss.
World heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman, Girgrah's Baltimore gym-mate, carried one of
Girgrah's earlier title belts to the ring ... she had won UBA and IBF Lightweight titles.
Blakeney pressured Girgrah in the early rounds but
Girgrah took control with accurate conterpunching in the late going.
"I usually start slow," Girgrah told local reporter Guy Gargan, adding "it took me two or
three rounds to figure her out, and then I started to take control. I leaned back and waited
for her to throw, and then I countered. I think I had control after the third or fourth round."
While Girgrah's other titles had come with wins over lightly-regarded opponents, this
IWBF title came against a tough contender in Blakeney.
On February 28, 2002 at the Wyndham Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland, a full house of 500 saw Isra (130¾ lbs)
defend the UBA Lightweight title with a hard-fought 10-round split (97-92,95-94,94-95) decision over IFBA Intercontinental
Junior Lightweight champion Tracy Byrd (132¾ lbs) of Flint, Michigan. Byrd was knocked down
by a hard right in the third round after taking the fight to Girgrah for the first two rounds. Byrd got up and took a
standing eight count. The action was close the rest of the way but Girgrah used her boxing skills to keep a tenacious Byrd
at bay in the later rounds and eke out the decision. Byrd fell to 12-4-0 (4 KO).
Girgrah, who said that she was trying
to pace herself as she hadn't been in the ring for nine months, praised Byrd after the bout, saying
"She's an excellent
fighter, one of the best, and I'm glad I had a chance to fight her. I think they saw that she might have been the busier
fighter, but that I landed the cleaner shots. I think the knockdown helped a lot." Tracy's boxer brother Chris felt that
she had been denied a decision, saying "Tracy pulled out of a clinch and got caught with a right hand. We knew Isra had a
good right hand, but I thought Tracy controlled the remaining rounds."
Isra Girgrah was named WBAN Fighter of month in March 2002.
On April 12, 2002 at DC Tunnel Events Center in Washington, DC, Isra (134 lbs) won a dominating six-round unanimous
(60-54,59-55,59-55) decision over Cheryl Nance (132 lbs) of Greensboro, South Carolina. Nance fell to 6-7-0 (6 KO)with the
loss. Girgrah wore Nance down with her speed and boxing skills. "She was tough. I hit her with some good shots and she
kept coming, but I was able to do what I wanted to do in there tonight", said Girgrah.
On June 15, 2002 at DC Tunnel Events Center in Washington, DC, Isra (130 lbs) won by TKO at 1:23 in the first round
over Shakurah Witherspoon (127 lbs) of Pennsylvania in a scheduled six-rounder. Girgrah
caught Witherspoon with a left-right combination in the opening seconds and then pounded her with body shots against the
ropes. "I knew that I had to go to the body early because she can't take body shots well," said Girgrah, adding
know she was a lefty last time. All I did [to get ready for this fight] was spar with lefties." The perennially
overmatched but well-traveled Witherspoon fell to 9-29-1 (4 KO). Witherspoon had previously lost a six-round unanimous
decision to Girgrah on October 20, 2000 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
On August 24, 2002 at Resorts Superstar Theater in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Girgrah
(130 lbs) added the WIBF Junior
Lightweight title to her IBF, UBA and IWBF belt collection with a ten-round unanimous (98-92,98-93,97-93) decision over Michele Nielsen
(129 lbs) of Houston, Texas. A full
fight report for
WBAN says 'In a tenacious,
gutsy, and relentless approach to this fight, Nielsen gave Girgrah all that she
could handle and even though Girgrah was landing the more effective shots, as
Nielsen's left eye area attested, Nielsen would not give up or give in, landing
some devastating body shots of her own from the inside. She has a great deal of
heart and has nothing to be ashamed of from this performance. She is one tough
cookie." Nielsen dropped to 6-3-1 (2 KO).
On March 8, 2003 at Lincoln Theater in Washington, DC, Isra (1 31 lbs) won by a sixth-round TKO over Brenda Bell Drexel (138
lbs) of San Marcos, Texas. Bell Drexel faded after the first round and was leaning on Girgrah throughout much of the
bout. Girgrah dropped Bell Drexel in the fourth, and said "She surprised me after that first knockdown that she was able
to get back up on come on strong.” Bell Drexel fell to 5-18-2 (0 KO).
Laura Serrano's loss to Isra Girgrah was highly controversial
On April 18, 2003 at Palace Indian Gaming Center in Lemoore, California, Isra (128 lbs) won a controversial eight-
round split (77-75,78-74,73-79) decision over previously unbeaten Laura
Serrano (124¼ lbs) of Mexico City. Serrano was the busier and more aggressive fighter throughout the bout,
pushing the action at Girgrah who let Serrano come at her while countering with hard rights to the head. Serrano's speed
and movement set the pace for most rounds and she also worked at unsettling Girgrah by briefly switching out of her
southpaw stance to fight in orthodox style. This tactic had Girgrah looking confused after taking a flurry of punches at
the end of the fourth, but Girgrah did some of her best work early in the fifth, landing a couple of hard rights to
Serrano's head. Girgrah looked slower and more tentative in the later rounds, rarely putting enough punches together to
slow Serrano down although occasionally connecting solidly to Serrano's head. Serrano continued to be the more mobile and
busier fighter to the end of the bout, although Girgrah landed several more good rights at the start of the eighth. The
controversial decision was greeted with loud boos from the crowd and disbelief by Serrano, who left the ring in tears.
(ESPN2's scoring had Serrano posting an 80-73 shutout). Girgrah was now 24-3-2 (11 KO) while Serrano fell to 15-1-2 (5
On July 11, 2003 at Resorts Hotel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Isra barely held off
Trisha Hill of Kennesaw, Georgia
to eke out a narrow eight-round unanimous (77-75,76-75,76-75) decision in a non-title bout.
Hill knocked Girgrah down in the second round but Girgrah came on strong to
control the later rounds. Hill thought she had done enough to win the
fight, as did some of the crowd, who booed the decision.
Hill dropped to 6-3-0 (3 KO).
On August 9, 2003 at Convention Center in Washington, DC, Isra (129 lbs) advanced to 26-3-2 (11 KO) with an
eight-round unanimous (78-74,78-74,77-75) decision over Melissa Del Valle (132 lbs) of Miami, Florida, who fell to
27-2-1 (11 KO) with her second straight loss. Del Valle got the jump on Girgrah early in the first round with a
barrage of good punches and then pursued the elusive Girgrah, who became more aggressive as the fight progressed. A
clash of heads in the third round appeared to bother Girgrah, but she picked up her pace and had Del Valle backing
up in the later rounds. Some of the standing-room only crowd booed the decision. Girgrah, whose husband co-promoted
the card, says that the fight contract contained a rematch clause, saying "She took the fight on short notice, so I
owe her another chance."
On December 13, 2003 at Convention Center in Washington, DC, Israh (128 bs) won a ten-round unanimous (97-93,99-91,98-92)
decision over JoJo
Wyman (5'4", 127½ lbs) of Los Angeles, California for the vacant IFBA Junior Lightweight world title.
Girgrah established her jab in the early rounds but Wyman began to find her range in the fifth and connected with
several good combinations to Girgrah's head. Girgrah responded by stepping up her pace and dominated the last five
rounds, connecting with her jab and with hard straight rights. with a left-right combination. Girgrah won her fifth
title belt, while Wyman slipped to 11-9-1 (0 KO).
On March 27, 2004 at Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC, Isra (131
lbs), ended her pro career at 28-3-2 (11 KO) with a six-round unanimous
(60-54,60-54,60-54) decision over Shakurah Witherspoon (132½ lbs) of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Witherspoon fell to 10-34-1 (4 KO)
with the loss. Girgrah came to the ring in a fire-engine red robe with much fanfare, her entourage carrying her five title
belts. After a slow first round, she landed seemingly at will to Witherspoon's body and head in the last five rounds.
wanted to knock her out", said Girgrah, "but her style was so awkward."
Isra Girgrah then announced that she would retire from competition to become become a full-time boxing promoter with her
husband, Marty Wynn, CEO of Raging Promotions. Girgrah spoke fondly of being able
"to promote my own shows. Learning from
the best. I've been around Don King, Lou Duva, so many people that have done this for so long."
Girgrah stated that she has mixed feelings about leaving competition.
"I still enjoy it, but there is too much
politics involved. Either nobody wants to fight me or they want too much money (but) I'm going to miss it a lot. Being in
that ring is just a rush of adrenaline. I just love it, but I have to move on with promoting and letting the younger ones
go into it now."
Boxing is serious business to Girgrah, who says she resents the women's sport being compared to the sideshows of four-
round specialist Butterbean. "With better athletes and improved training technique, women boxers are getting better and
better. It's legitimate," she says.
As a promoter, she would try to inject new life into women's boxing by concentrating on young, up-and-coming
fighters. "(The sport) has been kind of dying, but I think it's starting to come back,'' says Girgrah, adding
"there is a
new breed of fighters now with a lot more skill.''
Other Isra Girgrah links
To check out fight reports, complete up-to-date boxing records, with huge digital photos you can go to
the WBAN Records Member Site
Page last updated:
Sunday, 16 December 2012