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Jill Matthews

5'4" junior flyweight Jill "The Zion Lion" Matthews was born in Manhattan.  As a child, she was so hyper-active that doctors told her mother to put her on medication. Instead, Jill took up gymnastics to release all of her energy. Her gymnastics prowess led Matthews to a scholarship at Southern Connecticut University. After graduating from Hunter College with a bachelor's degree in nutrition, Jill began boxing to stay in shape and trained at Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn, N.Y. She soon found out that she thrived on the sport and became a fierce competitor with a ring style that was aggressive all-out perpetual motion.

In 1995 she was the first woman to win a Golden Gloves competition in New York City (scoring two first-round KO's and, in the words of the Daily News' Bill Gallo, she "just plain beat the hell out of Dee Hamaguchi"). 

Her early pro career was dominated by three slugfests with Austin, Texas fighter Anissa Zamarron.

Her first pro fight was on June 2, 1995 with Zamarron. Matthews was cut in the first round and suffered a second-round TKO loss. She had taken the fight for the experience of having just one pro fight following her Golden Gloves win. She left it determined to show that she could get herself to Zamarron's level, after hearing Anissa touted by her trainer as a future world champion!

Jill put herself in the winner's column as a pro boxer on November 15, 1996 in Somerset, New Jersey with a 1st-round TKO of debut fighter Laurie Simms.

She went on to defeat Rubie Thompson on February 2, 1997, also by 1st-round TKO.

Jill traveled to Randers, Denmark to fight Danish star Sengül Ôzokcu on May 2, 1997 and lost a four-round unanimous decision ... after going without a night's sleep on the plane to Denmark (apparently because of a misunderstanding about which day the fight was scheduled!)   Ôzokcu improved to 2-0 with the win.

She got back on track with another 1st-round TKO, of Angela Barnes at Riverside Convention Center in Rochester, NY on July 15, 1997.

She then knocked out Jamie Blair of Ashtabula, Ohio in the 1st round at Georgetown in the Cayman Islands on October 11, 1997, dropping Blair to 0-2.

On January 10, 1998 at the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City Jill (107 lbs)  fought Anissa Zamarron (108 lbs) a second time, this time going the 10-round distance to an exciting majority draw for the IWBF Junior Flyweight title. Zamarron had confidently predicted a second knockout victory and apparently expected to carry the New Yorker ... but had her hands plenty full with Matthews in this rematch!

Returning to the Tropicana in Atlantic City on March 21, 1998 Matthews finally defeated Anissa Zamarron ... by unanimous 10-round decision for the IFBA and IWBF World Junior Flyweight titles. In this rematch, Jill had Anissa almost out on her feet at the end of the ninth as Matthews again showed she could hang in for a championship-length tussle.

On June 30, 1998 at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, Jill (106 lbs) retained the IFBA junior featherweight title by TKO'ing Lisa Houghton (108 lbs) of Leeds, England at 0:27 of the 4th round. (Houghton's nose was bloodied and this provoked the stoppage.) Houghton, who is also a world-class kickboxer, fell to 2-3 as a pro boxer with this loss.

On May 14, 1999 at the Pikesville Armory in Pikesville, Maryland, Jill (106 lbs) returned from an 11-month absence from competition to face Kim "Fireball" Messer (107 lbs), long respected in kickboxing circles as one of the best ever on a pound-for-pound basis. Messer won five of six rounds to earn a 59-55 unanimous decision and establish herself firmly as a leading pro boxer! The win moved Messer to 6-2 as a boxer, and dropped Matthews to 6-3-1.

On July 30 at Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut, Jill weighed in at 108 lbs and won a unanimous but hard-fought eight-round decision over Lori Lord (108¾ lbs) of Austin, Texas. Lord fell to 2-1. This match was seen on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights and looked like a struggle for Matthews against a surprisingly tough opponent.

On August 26, 1999 in Atlanta, Georgia, Jill TKO'd debut fighter Tammy Roberts in the first round.

The IFBA announced on its website in August 1999 that its Junior Flyweight title, had been "vacated". No reasons were given officially, but Matthews had accepted a match in Germany with Regina Halmich for her WIBF Junior Flyweight title on September 18, 1999 and had reportedly turned down a rematch with Kim Messer for the IFBA title in the same time frame.

Jill (right) battles Regina Halmich in September 1999

On September 18, 1999 at the Alte Reithalle in Stuttgart, Germany, Regina Halmich (108 lbs) of Karlsruhe, Germany moved her pro record to 30-1 and retained the WIBF Junior Flyweight title with a hard-fought 10-round unanimous decision over Jill, who had weighed in at 108 lbs. The judges' scorecards were 98-95, 97-93 and 99-92 in favor of Halmich, but this was a very tough fight for the German star. Matthews fell to 7-4-1 with the loss.

"I like to get hit and show I can take it," said Matthews. "In one of the Zamarron fights, I got hit and was on Queer Street. I shook my head and went back to my corner. The people thought that was it, but it wasn't it. I think I have a reckless personality. That's a bad philosophy [for boxing], but I have no fear of getting hurt. My only fear is looking bad."

When she wasn't boxing or training, Jill supported herself as a hairdresser and also played guitar and sang in the punk rock band "Times Square" with her attorney/drummer husband (and boxing manager) David Turetsky. She also appeared in Katya Bankowsky's 2003 documentary "Shadow Boxers" with Lucia Rijker.

Boxing, says Matthews, is the the "punk rock of sports. It's aggressive and offensive."

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Page last updated: Sunday, 16 December 2012


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