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5'5" Melissa "Honey Girl" Del Valle, who first boxed using her married name ... Melissa Salamone ... was born on June 2, 1969, in Queens, New York.

Growing up in the tough Queensbridge Projects, Melissa never backed down from a challenge. She was an athlete and a fighter in the streets before becoming one in the ring. When her three brothers played stickball, baseball, basketball or football, they always picked her to be on their team. "They treated me like one of the guys," she says. "I was tough growing up. I always had a big mouth and I wouldn't back down. We had to defend each other."

Melissa went on to play basketball at four colleges ... Mitchell, Pensacola Junior, Shelton Junior and Alabama University. On the court, she was a star point guard and there wasn't an opponent she couldn't beat. But at age 19, after resisting a family history of alcohol abuse, she became an alcoholic.

Balancing booze, school and her marriage to fellow student Craig Salamone proved too much for her, and she was kicked off the basketball team at Alabama for being late to practice because of hangovers. She got herself reinstated, but realized that she needed a change. 

She began boxing at the Morris Park Boxing Club in New York City after going to a fight where her friend Roy Jones Jr. knocked out his opponent. Thinking "that doesn't look too hard" and encouraged by her brother Lou, a WBA Light Heavyweight champion, Melissa trained for the New York Daily News Golden Gloves. 

All three of Melissa's brothers, Richie, Juan, and Lou won Golden Gloves titles. Melissa matched their success in the prestigious tournament, winning the 132-lb division titles in 1996 and 1997.  Her opponent in the 1996 final was returning chamipion Denise Lutrick, who later fought professionally as Denise Moraetes. Melissa won a historic 5-0 decision in a match that brought the Friday-night crowd at Madison Square Garden to its feet.

She went on to win the 132-lb division of the first USA Boxing Women's National Championships in Augusta, Georgia on July 19, 1997 with a convincing (5-0) defeat of New York City's Laura Kielczewski. She had previously beaten Adelaida Avalos of Arcadia, California and Rachel Ramseur of Seattle, Washington by identical margins on July 16th and 17th.

Melissa then turned pro, initially under contract to Julio Martinez. Her debut was a first-round TKO of Marsha Evans of Ashtabula, Ohio in Pembroke Pines, Florida on September 5, 1997. (Evans, who was making her own debut, went on to lose six straight, only twice making it into the second round!)

Melissa next beat Atlanta's Tawayna Broxton by unanimous decision over 4 rounds in Boca Raton, Florida on September 20, 1997 ... and again two weeks later on October 2. Broxton, who had TKO'd Mary Ann Haik in her debut, fell to 1-2 with her two losses to Melissa.

Weighing in at 136 lbs, Melissa moved her pro record to 4-0 with a unanimous four-round decision over Rolanda Andrews (131 lbs) of Atlanta at Yonkers Raceway in New York on November 21, 1997. Melissa's husband Craig Salamone made his own pro debut on the same card (this is believed to be the first time that a husband and wife both fought on the same pro card.)  Andrews, who would later knock out Mia St. John, fell to 2-3 (1 KO) with this loss to Melissa.

She TKO'd debut fighter Taquella Hoskin of Cleveland, Ohio in the second round on December 30, 1997 then progressed to 6-0 with a four-round unanimous decision over Gwen Smith of Charlotte, North Carolina at the Ice Palace in Tampa, Florida on January 31, 1998. Smith fell to 1-4, her other losses being to Gina Nicholas, Leah Mellinger and Lucia Rijker.

On April 4, 1998 in Lake Worth, Florida she KO'd Denette Montgomery of Ashtabula, Ohio in the first round, dropping her record to 0-3. (Montgomery only twice made it as far as the second round in six pro fights.) 

Two weeks later in Miami Melissa weighed in at 136 lbs and TKO'd Monica Taylor (128 lbs) of Atlanta in the first round. Taylor, making her debut, hasn't fought since.

On May 2, 1998 in Miami she stopped Jackie Rogers, also in the first round, dropping her to 0-2.

Melissa's name then became unexpectedly linked with that of  Christy Martin. Martin was scheduled to fight Maria de las Nieves Garcia of Mexico at Madison Square Garden on June 6, 1998 on the undercard of Holyfield vs. Akinwande. The promoter was left scrambling to thins a replacement when Garcia tested pregnant only two days before the fight. Organizers suggested that Melissa, whose brother, Lou Del Valle, was already on the card, could step in to fight Martin, but Martin refused to fight Melissa at this notice in front of a crowd that might be full of Lou's fans. Christy opted instead to try for a match with Cheryl Nance (4-1) ... but then the  whole card was cancelled when Henry Akinwande tested positive for Hepatitis-B, nixing the main event!

Melissa went on to stop debutante Lakeya Williams of Ashtabula, Ohio in the first round on June 27, 1998, again in Miami. 

Tawayna Broxton vs. Melissa SalamoneOn August 12, 1998 in Miami, Melissa won her third unanimous decision over Tawayna Broxton, this time over six rounds. Broxton fell to 1-5, having lost in the meanwhile to Puerto Rico's Belinda Laracuente and Canada's Katie Burton.

On September 12, 1998, again in Miami, Melissa won a 10-round unanimous decision over Melinda Robinson of Austin, Texas to earn the IWBF Junior Lightweight title. Robinson, who had already fought Christy Martin and Isra Girgrah twice, and Lucia Rijker once, fell to 3-7 with this loss.

On November 13, 1998, again in Miami, Melissa (133 lbs) won a 6-round unanimous decision over Shakurah Witherspoon (130 lbs) of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, dropping Witherspoon to 2-5-1.

On December 18, 1998 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Melissa was set to fight Cheryl Nance but Cheryl dropped out and Melissa ended up fighting Atlanta's Tawayna Broxton yet again. This time Melissa won by TKO in the fourth round, dropping Broxton's record to 1-8.

Asked by boxing writer Kurt Emhoff why she fought Broxton four times, Melissa laughed: "I tell you that girl - she is a tough s***head! She would not go down!" Says Melissa:  "The reason behind fighting her so many times had nothing to do with there not being enough opponents. It had everything to do with, I had to get this girl down! She’s a stripper who just comes in and takes punches. I don’t know, I just had to get this girl down. She would tell me to my face, 'You’re not getting me down. That’s why I’m back. I’m going to beat you this time.' So the last time we fought I finally stopped. I still didn’t get her down, but she couldn’t go on anymore."

On January 22, 1999 in Miami, she weighed in at 130 lbs and again defeated Shakurah Witherspoon (127 lbs), this time by unanimous decision over 10 rounds. Witherspoon fell to 2-9-1.

On February 20, 1999 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Melissa (131 lbs) won an 8-round unanimous decision over veteran Cora Webber (126½ lbs) of Ocala, Florida in a non-title fight. Webber, who had been boxing since 1986 but had been inactive for over a year after fighting Lena Åkesson, Zulfia Koutdoussova and Belinda Laracuente, fell to 12-4.

On June 12, 1999 at the Shriner's Auditorium in Wilmington, Massachusetts, Melissa won an eight-round unanimous decision over junior welterweight Olivia Gerula of Winnipeg, Canada, who fell to 3-5-1 (a deceptive record as her previous losses had mostly been to top-notch competitors including the formidable Kathy Collins and Fredia Gibbs!)

Lena Akesson vs. Melissa SalamoneOn August 14, 1999 at Loew's Hotel in Miami Beach, in a battle for the IWBF Junior Lightweight title, Melissa survived both an early knockdown and a badly cut right eyelid late in the fight to eke out a narrow ten-round decision over Swedish-born Lena Åkesson, who fought out of Angelo Dundee's Hollywood, Florida gym. She may have been lucky to escape with a 18-0 record while handing Åkesson her first loss in fourteen pro fights, as the aggressive Swede kept her on the run for much of the fight.

Copyrighted photo by Sandy Goldberg

StreetMiami.com's Damarys Ocaña reported that at this time, Melissa had been facing an intense personal struggle outside the ring, fighting both her own and her family's history of alcohol abuse, getting arrested for driving under the influence, and at one point spending a day and a half in jail. "They put me in with eight girls who walk the streets, beat up their moms," she says. "I was angry at myself."

Melissa pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months of probation, fifty hours of community work, eight hours of DUI school, a lecture by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, and a $2,500 fine.  Her car was impounded for 10 days and her driver's license was suspended for 6 months.

On August 12, 2000 at Miccosukee Indian Gaming in Miami, Florida, Melissa fought WIBF Junior Lightweight champion Laura Serrano of Mexico to a 10-round draw for the vacant IBA 130-lb title. This was an exciting fight that ended with scores of 95-93 for Del Valle, 96-92 for Serrano and one card even at 94-94. Serrano began aggressively and rocked Melissa several times in the early going. Melissa went to one knee in the third but began a strong comeback in the seventh and knocked Serrano down with a hard right in the eighth. Both remained undefeated as Serrano's record became 10-0-2. Melissa later admitted to Bernie McCoy in a May 2004 WBAN interview that “Serrano beat me ... she deserved that decision and the only reason it was called a draw was that it was in my house (Miami)".

On January 17, 2001, a sold-out house of 1200 at Yonkers Raceway in Yonkers, New York saw Melissa (131 lbs) win a unanimous six-round decision over reigning IFBA Featherweight champ Layla McCarter (127 lbs). Melissa was more aggressive and landed the harder punches, especially with her straight right in the third round. Melissa won every round except the fifth in this non-title bout in support of her brother Lou DelValle's return to boxing after an 18-month layoff. Lou DelValle was in his sister's corner throughout the bout. McCarter's record fell to 7-5-1 (2 KO's).

Melissa had doubts about continuing her boxing career, but she signed on with Andy Zulewski's Power Promotion who said they intended to get the "Honey Girl" into the ring every three weeks or so.

On April 12, 2001 at Gaillard Municipal Auditorium in Charleston, South Carolina, 672 fans saw Melissa win by TKO over Shakurah Witherspoon of Philadelphia at 1:58 in the first round. Melissa told reporters "I took a long layoff, and really to be honest, I was about to quit boxing and this fight here was like a stepping stone for me to get the desire  back to compete," Witherspoon fell to 8-21-1 in her third loss to Melissa

On April 28, 2001 at Golden Gloves Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee, she  TKO'd late substitute Sophia Johnson of Atlanta in the fifth round. Johnson fell to 2-3 as she retired after the fifth round; her manager told me that she had expected this bout to be only a four-rounder.

On May 12, 2001 at the Holiday Inn in Johnson City, Tennessee, a sellout crowd saw Melissa win a unanimous decision over Jovette Jackson of Miami, Florida, for the World Boxing Federation's women's lightweight (135-lb) title. Jackson fell to 4-3.

On May 24, 2001 in Charleston, South Carolina: Melissa won by a second round TKO over Kelly Jones of Atlanta, Georgia, who fell to 1-4 after losing to Lena Akesson, Sabrina Hall, Jeanne Martinez, and Melissa. Jones made quick exits in every one of these losses, but was dangerous ... she broke Hall's nose before being pounded to a TKO in the second!

On July 26, 2001 at The Plex in North Charleston, South Carolina, Melissa advanced to 24-0-1 by unanimous decision over Sophia Johnson in a rematch of their April 28 bout; Johnson fell to 2-4.

On September 29, 2001 at Power Promotion Boxing Gym in Martinsburg, Virginia, about 50 people saw Melissa score a first-round TKO of Shakurah Witherspoon. Witherspoon fell to 9-24-1 (3 KOs), but she  had defeated Connie Bechtel only four days earlier in Reading, Pennsylvania. 

Melissa told Bernie McCoy that she wasn't taking her boxing career as seriously as she might have at this time. “The people around me, at the time, were bringing me along slowly, and, to be honest ... I was partying too hard and training too easy.”

On June 21, 2002 at the Convention Center in Waco, Texas, Melissa came down to 120¾ lbs and proved that she was still a major force in women's boxing by winning a solid ten-round unanimous (97-93,97-93,99-91) decision over previously unbeaten Ada Velez (121½ lbs) of Puerto Rico. This bout earned Melissa (now fighting under her given name of Del Valle) the WIBA 122-lb title. Melissa was the aggressor for most of the bout and wore Velez down with a steady body attack and effective work inside. Velez slipped to 10-1-0 (5 KO).

On January 31, 2003 at Harriet Himmel Gilman Theatre, West Palm Beach, Florida, she won a six-round unanimous (60-54) decision over junior welterweight Brenda Bell Drexel of San Marcos, Texas in a (compromise?) lightweight bout. Bell Drexel fell to 5-17-2 (0 KO) with the loss.

Del Valle, who had been widely criticized for the frequency of "soft" opponents on her previous schedule, now said that she had resolved to take on all comers in order to stay active. Her next three fights were all against top competition, and turned out to be her first defeats.

Kelsey Jeffries vs. Melissa Del Valle in July 2003
© Copyrighted photo taken by Jesus Sanchez

On July 10, 2003 at HP Pavilion in San Jose, California, Kelsey Jeffries (124½ lbs) of Gilroy, California won a six-round unanimous (58-55) decision over Melissa (129 lbs). Melissa took the early rounds with her slick boxing skills, movement and counterpunching but Jeffries began to find the range in the third and engaged her in trading some solid leather. Jeffries had sworn to "give her hell" before the fight, and she challenged Del Valle to stand and fight her in the fourth. Jeffries became more aggressive as the fight went on and with the crowd urging her on, she won the battle going away with body shots that set up clean, crisp punches to Del Valle's head. Del Valle, who came into the bout heavier than the 127 lb contract weight, had a point deducted in the fifth for punching on the break. Jeffries said that Del Valle was "my smartest opponent, but she wouldn’t stay in there and fight with me. She kept running and that’s so bad, I know she doesn’t mean to run, but that’s how she fights. She’s strong, too. She cracked me with a good punch. I wanted a fight, that’s what I told her, ‘come on tough girl. Stop running. You came to fight, let’s fight.” Jeffries, who was rebounding from a loss to JoJo Wyman, moved to 21-8-0 (1 KO) while dropping Del Valle to 27-1-1 (11 KO).

On August 9, 2003 at Convention Center in Washington, DC, Isra Girgrah (129 lbs) of Hyattsville, Maryland advanced to 26-3-2 (11 KO) with an eight-round unanimous (78-74,78-74,77-75) decision over Melissa (132 lbs). 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. “Isra Girgrah definitely didn’t beat me", says Del Valle. 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." (She retired from boxing before this happened, however).

On August 30, 2003 at Civic Center in Savannah, Georgia, Chevelle Hallback of Savannah won a ten-round unanimous decision over Del Valle. Hallback progressed to 18-3-1 (7 KO) while Del Valle suffered her third straight loss, in a fight where she concedes she was soundly defeated. “Chevelle beat me, Chevelle beat me good”, she told Bernie McCoy.

On October 11, 2003 in Greensboro, North Carolina, Melissa stopped her unaccustomed losing streak with a six-round majority decision over previously undefeated Kelli Cofer of Willard, Ohio, who fell to 10-1-3 (4 KO) with the loss.

On December 11, 2003 at Palace Indian Gaming Center in Lemoore, California, Jenifer Alcorn (134 lbs) of Fresno, California won a split (96-93,96-93,94-95) decision over Melissa (135 lbs) for the vacant WIBA Lightweight title. Alcorn was knocked down by a left hook in the second round, and Melissa landed effectively with overhand rights throughout the bout, but she faded in the late going and Alcorn won the critical late rounds.  Despite this, both Del Valle and her trainer were sure that Melissa had done enough to win it, Melissa saying: "She's tough, but I thought it was mine. And it should have been. Points go to the hometown girl, and it's happened to me before." (I've also been told that Melissa's manager told Alcorn's team that Jenifer had earned the win in the last two rounds! Close decisions are always controversial, and this one may have been compounded by being announced for Alcorn while Del Valle's glove was raised by the referee!) Alcorn remained undefeated at 18-0-0 (11 KO). 

Alcorn had originally been scheduled to fight teenager Iva Weston of Trinidad, but Del Valle was called in as a substitute at two days' notice when Weston's visa documentation revealed that she was under the legal age for professional fights in California. Del Valle showed her warrior attitude by taking this title bout in Alcorn's hometown at almost no notice, then making a real fight of it, at least until the very end when the short notice may have made a difference as her stamina appeared to be a problem.

On May 30, 2004 at the Tunnel Events Center in Washington, D.C., Melissa won the vacant UBA (Universal Boxing Association) Featherweight title with a clear ten-round unanimous (98-91,97-92,96-93) decision over Trisha Hill of Kennesaw, Georgia. This bout was the main event in an all-female card. Del Valle controlled the fight with her quick reactions and anticipation, repeatedly tagging Hill as Trisha tried to come forward to pressure her. The scores weren't quite as one-sided as the fight itself, because Del Valle had a point deducted (for holding) in the fourth round.  Melissa was not satisfied with her performance, telling reporters “I felt like I was out of shape, I had to lose six pounds before I got here so it kind of drained me and I was reserving my energies until the end. I could have dominated a little more.”  The loss dropped Trisha Hill to 6-4-1 (3 KO).

Melissa vs. Mary Jo Sanders  in March 2005
Copyrighted photograph taken by Dan Graschuck

On March 16, 2005 at Andiamo Italia in Warren, Michigan, Mary Jo Sanders of Detroit, Michigan won a clear six-round unanimous decision over Melissa in a junior welterweight bout. After a slow start, Sanders used a non-stop head and body attack to overwhelm Del Valle in the later rounds, catching her repeatedly with heavy punches and almost finishing her off in the sixth. Sanders improved to 14-0 (4 KO's) with the win while Del Valle fell to 29-5-1 (11 KO's). (I'm told that Melissa had not been training before this fight, and it showed.) For more photos of this fight by Dan Graschuck, see WBAN Photo Gallery #248 on the WBAN Records Member Site.

On October 7, 2005 at the A La Carte Event Pavilion in Tampa, Florida, a scheduled ten-round main event between Melissa (137½ lbs) and Chevelle Hallback (135 lbs) of Tampa ended in a "no decision" at 0:11 in the third round when Del Valle's lip was badly cut by a clash of heads. Hallback had lunged in to throw a combination, and her forehead hit Del Valle's mouth, bringing blood gushing from a one-inch gash in Melissa's upper right lip. Referee Telis Assimenios called for the ringside doctor to examine  Del Valle's lip and the bout was ruled a no decision as Del Valle was unable to continue following what was determined to be an accidental headbutt.  Hallback moved to 24-4-1 (11 KOs, 1 ND) while Del Valle's record became 29-5-1 (11 KOs, 1 ND). 

On June 15, 2007 at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, Puerto Rican born Belinda Laracuente (137 lbs) won the GBU Junior Welterweight title with a 12-round unanimous (115-113,115-113,116-112) decision over Melissa (139 lbs). For details, see the WBAN report by Lori Steinhorst. Del Valle fell to 29-6-1 (11 KO's) while Laracuente improved to 23-18-3 (9 KOs).

Melissa's boxer brother Lou Del Valle has plenty of respect for his fighting sister, according to a 1997 article in the Bronx Beat: "I'm good, but I'm not a natural athlete like she is. When we were young and would play teams, I would pick my sister over any boy in our neighborhood."

A Miami group, Kids In Exile Films, produced a documentary film about Melissa's struggle to break into boxing: Honey Girl, produced by Mario de Varona and Joe Cardona.

Other Melissa Del Valle links

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Page last updated: Sunday, 05 November 2017


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