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5'6" Marischa "La Matadora" Sjauw en Wa was born on August 27, 1971 in Paramaribo, Surinam, a former Dutch colony. Her family moved to Holland in 1977. Marischa was an all-round athlete in school and graduated with an Economics major from Meao College in Landgraaf, Holland.

Two of Marischa's five brothers were boxers. This encouraged her to take up the sport at age 19 after winning European titles in the martial arts discipline of Kun-Tao. She originally began boxing training to get into good physical condition, at a gym where her brother was also training. As the only female in the gym, it was difficult for her at first, but she eventually found that she loved the sport.   

Marischa says that her earlier training in Kun-Tao helped to make her boxing defense better, because it improved her reflexes and vision.

She began to box professionally as a welterweight in 1993, making her debut in the Czech Republic on February 22 with a four-round unanimous decision over Ludmilla Michalkova of Russia.

She fought again in the Czech Republic on May 15, 1994, scoring a four-round unanimous decision over Helena Pokoma.

On January 30, 1995 she battled to a four-round draw with Dutch kickboxing star Sandra de Vries.

Fighting in the Ukraine in July, 1995 she stopped Anna Dushko in the second round on July 22 and Tanya Petryshyn in the fourth round on July 30.

On August 10, 1995 in the Czech Republic, Marischa won a four-round unanimous decision over Daniella Vesela.

Marischa rocks Anne Sophie Mathis
Photo courtesy Marcel Niessen

On November 18, 1995 in Landgraaf, LI, The Netherlands she faced Anne-Sophie Mathis of France for the WIBF European Super Welterweight title. Marischa dropped the eighteen-year-old Mathis, who was in just her second pro boxing bout, three times on the way to a fifth-round TKO. Mathis fell to 1-1.

Marischa credited her early boxing success in Europe to Henk Moerkerk, a long-time fighter in Germany, and Turkish coach Sefket Ramadam, who she claims to have been her greatest motivator. However, Marischa was about to leave the competitive ring for two and a half years. "I started in Holland and that was much harder," she says. "Boxing was really nothing over there, especially for women, and for men it only had a bad name. That's why I quit for two and a half years. I came back in 1998 because we saw what was happening in America. We thought this is our chance."

On March 21, 1998 at the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City, Marischa returned to the ring to face hard-hitting Lisa Ested (141 lbs) from Richmond, Virginia. Marischa was sent to the canvas by one of Ested's vaunted rights. Sjauw got up quickly and resumed the action but the knockdown was more than she could overcome on the scorecards with a furious late-round rally ... and she lost a unanimous decision over six rounds. Marischa's first pro loss dropped her record to 6-1-1, while Ested advanced her record to 6-1.

On May 24, 1998 at the Tropicana Resort and Casino in Atlantic City, Kathy Collins of Plainview, New York won the WIBF Lightweight title by earning a 10-round unanimous (96-94) decision over Marischa. Marischa, who had taken the fight at short notice, started quickly and took the battle to a clearly surprised Collins, who was well behind by the end of the fifth round. Collins dug deep to get back into the fight, and the two went toe-to-toe in the final round before Collins got the decision. Kathy Collins later admitted that Sjauw was one of the finest she had ever fought on her way to her 10-0-3 record.

On November 7, 1998 at the Sons of Italy Lodge in Lake Worth, Florida, Daisy Ocasio (5'10", 147 lbs) of Puerto Rico moved her pro record to 3-0 by defeating Marischa (142 lbs) by majority decision over four rounds. Ocasio is a former Olympic track and field competitor and Pan American games gold medalist. She used her reach advantage and much clinching to offset Marischa's boxing skills. Many at ringside thought that Marischa had done enough to win the fight, so this was a very tough loss for "La Matadora".

Marischa reloacted temporarily to Florida, to undertake an arduous training regimen under the aegis of Steve Shepherd and assistant Johnny Bumphus. Her return to the ring would be a tune-up bout meant to check her improvement and conditioning.

On December 30, 1998 at the Tabernacle in Atlanta, Georgia, she won a 4-round unanimous (40-36, 40-35, 40-35) decision over Shakurah Witherspoon of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Witherspoon took knees after absorbing body shots in the first and third rounds and fell to 2-8-1 with the loss.

On January 15, 1999 at the Sons of Italy Lodge in Lake Worth, Florida, and with new trainer Jesse Reid in her corner, Marischa (139 lbs) won a clear 6-round unanimous decision over Lisa Cuevas (138 lbs) of Orlando, Florida by 60-53 on all scorecards.

Marischa Sjauw vs. Jane Couch, February 1999

On February 20, 1999 at the Thornaby Pavilion in Teesside, Britain's Jane Couch (137 lbs) successfully defended her WIBF Welterweight title with a hard-fought 10-round unanimous (96-95, 97-93, 98-93) decision over Marischa (138 lbs). The margin of Couch's victory in the scorecards surprised some as it was apparently a ding-dong battle (of the sort that Jane and Marischa have both been in before). Jane Couch told me that she found this "a hard fight" and that she thinks Marischa is "a great fighter in and out of the ring." The fight was the first female title bout in the UK to be sanctioned by the British Boxing Board of Control, making it a milestone in the long uphill battle to have women's boxing officially recognized in Britain. Jane Couch moved her pro record to 9-2 with the win.

On August 9, 1999 at the Pond in Anaheim, California, Marischa weighed in at 138 lbs and got herself back on the winning track with a TKO over Blaire Robinson (144 lbs) of Los Angeles. The stoppage came at 0:30 in the fourth round of a scheduled six-rounder. Robinson fell to 5-2 with the loss.

On August 28, 1999 at Delmar Racetrack in California, Marischa weighed in at 139 lbs and won by TKO over Jennifer McCartney (146 lbs) of San Diego, California at 0:45 of the second round. Sjauw landed punishing body shots and two quick rights to the head that bloodied McCartney's nose in the opening round. The fight was stopped when McCartney was knocked down for the second time in the second round and showed no sign of getting up; McCartney fell to 2-4-1. In a post-fight interview Sjauw said "I'd like a shot at a title. Preferably Kathy Collins or Jane Couch. They both beat me in very close decisions in their own backyards ... Collins in Atlantic City and Jane in Thornaby, England. I thought that I did enough to get the decisions in both but the judges didn't."

On September 10, 1999 at the Soaring Eagle Casino in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, Marischa came down to 130 lbs and took a six-round unanimous decision over Beverly Szymanski (128½ lbs) of Marine City, Michigan. Szymanski, the IWBF featherweight champion, had gained a few pounds for this lightweight tilt with the trimmed-down Sjauw. Szymanski slipped to an 8-5 record that includes tough losses to Christy Martin, Bonnie Canino, and Lena Åkesson.

On October 7th, 1999 at Community Center in Victoria, Texas, Marischa won a four-round majority decision over Snodene Blakeney of Austin, Texas in a lightweight bout. Sjauw led by 39-37 and 40-36 on two scorecards, while the third scored it a 38-38 draw. Sjauw, fighting her fourth bout in nine weeks, was clearly the more polished fighter, moving in against Blakeney and throwing more punches. "I wanted to knock her out in the second round", she told a local reporter, "but she kept her head down". Blakeney allowed that she was disappointed with her own performance. "I got pretty tired", Blakeney said. "I guess I didn't train hard enough. She was pretty strong and in really good shape". Sjauw told the press after this fight that she was not at her best and was usually much stronger and quicker!  Blakeney slipped to 7-3 with the loss.

Isra Girgrah vs. Marischa Sjauw
Girgrah vs. Sjauw, October 1999
Photo by Mary Ann Owen of BILV

If Sjauw's hectic fight schedule was slowing her down, it didn't show on October 23, 1999 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada! She weighed in at 134½ lbs and won a four-round unanimous (40-46, 40-36, 39-37) decision over Isra Girgrah (133½ lbs) of Atlanta. Girgrah, who injured her hand during this fight and was wobbled several times, fell to 12-3-1 with the loss. Sjauw had trained with Roger Mayweather in preparation for this fight. "(Girgrah) was very tactical. People thought very highly of her," Sjauw said. "I think my body shots, hooks and combinations I learned from Roger (made the difference)."

Sjauw had now notched five wins in three months to establish herself as one of the most active, and successful, female boxers in the USA. Roger Mayweather said of her: "(She) has more discipline than the others, she is determined to be the best. I think that is what separates her from other girls. Her own self-drive and motivation make her exceptional", adding "she runs eight miles a day, which I cut her down from doing. She (spars) 10 rounds -- with guys, not girls -- which most girls don't do."

Koutdoussova vs. SjauwOn February 11, 2000 in Kenner, Louisiana, Marischa weighed in at 134 lbs and won a ten-round split decision over Zulfia Koutdoussova (133 lbs) of Russia for the IFBA Lightweight title. Sjauw was the aggressor for most of the fight and had a strong final round that forced Koutdoussova to hang on to her in an attempt to smother her hard-hitting attack. Koutdoussova fought effectively in the early going with a busy counterpunching style, but Sjauw pressed the fight relentlessly and landed the hardest punches. This time it was Sjauw who came out on the winning end of a close, and inevitably controversial, split (96-94, 94-96, 96-94) decision. Koutdoussova slipped to 12-3 with 4 KO's. The bout was seen live on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights.

On April 19, 2000 at the Downtown Convention Centre in Auckland, New Zealand, Marischa won the WIBF Junior Welterweight title with a ten-round unanimous decision over Auckland's Wena Karaka, who fell to 2-2-1. This was the first female world championship bout in the Southern Hemisphere, and also the first time that 36-year old local favorite Karaka had fought a ten-rounder.

On May 13, 2000 at Sartory Säle in Cologne, Germany, Marischa (134½ lbs) defeated Heike Noller of Germany by third-round TKO in a scheduled ten-rounder for the WIBF Lightweight title. Noller was badly cut over her left eye after taking several big rights to the head and the fight was stopped by the advice of the ring doctor. Noller fell to 10-2.

On October 7, 2000 at Sky Ute Casino in Ignacio, Colorado, Marischa outpointed veteran Britt Van Buskirk of Carbondale, Illinois by 98-92,96-95,98-92 scores to win the vacant IFBA Junior Welterweight title by unanimous decision. Van Buskirk tried to use her four-inch height advantage to lean on Sjauw and frustrate her with clinching but Sjauw was able to get inside and win a somewhat ugly fight in which neither landed many solid punches. Van Buskirk slipped to 9-11-1.

On December 22, 2000 at Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut. Marischa (137 lbs), then fighting out of Oxnard, California, handed local favorite Liz Mueller (5'3", 134 lbs) her first loss in six pro fights with a 77-75, 75-77, 78-75 eight-round split decision. Women's boxing got an unexpected early Christmas present when the bout was upgraded from six to eight rounds, and was also seen live on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights, after a male boxer canceled from the card for medical reasons.

Sjauw and Mueller both put on a great show in a hard-fought bout with non-stop straight-ahead action. The taller Sjauw threw and landed more punches and also jabbed effectively. Sjauw backed Mueller up for much of the fight but Mueller countered well with combinations. Mueller also landed the heavier shots whenever she did work her way inside past Sjauw's reach advantage. Sjauw appeared to tire in the second half of the bout, but her aggressive style may have made the difference on the scorecards in a close, exciting, well fought bout.

This first-rate performance by both boxers may have improved the reputation of women's boxing with the ESPN2 audience, which had been subjected to several poorly-chosen female bouts on earlier shows. "Sjauw was definitely the toughest fighter I've faced," Mueller said after falling to 5-1 (she was 15-3 as an amateur). "I have a lot of respect for Mueller," said Sjauw. "She's a very tough boxer. I would give her a rematch any day and I would love to do it for a title."

Marischa Sjauw and Lisa Holewyne battle for
the WIBF Welterweight title

On April 21, 2001 at Chinook Winds Casino and Convention Center, Lincoln City, Oregon, WIBF Intercontinental Junior Welterweight champion Lisa Holewyne (5'8", 141¾ lbs) of Crawford, Texas won a controversial ten-round unanimous decision over Marischa (141¾ lbs) to take the vacant WIBF Welterweight title. The scorecards were 99-93,99-94,97-94 for Holewyne but Sjauw had controlled the bout according to many ringside observers. There was also a post-fight flap over irregularities on the scorecards, on which the boxer's names and corners had been visibly interchanged. Holewyne moved to 13-7-1 (5 KO's) with the controversial win. This result was protested by Sjauw's team because of the scorecard irregularities, but to no avail.

On June 16, 2001 at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, Alaska, Marischa weighed in at 147½ lbs and won an eight- round unanimous (80-72,79-73,79-73) decision over a scrappy Kelly Whaley (5'5", 151½ lbs) of Cedar City, Utah in a non-title bout. Whaley fell to 3-8 (1 KO) with the loss.

On October 12, 2001 at Pala Casino in Temecula, California, Marischa won a majority (57-57,58-56,58-56) decision over Summer DeLeon of St.George, Utah, who fell to 7-5-1 with the loss. Sjauw bloodied DeLeon's nose with an uppercut after trapping her against the ropes in the third round, but the rest of the fight was a close battle with both landing well.

On November 13, 2003 at Fort Cheyenne Casino in North Las Vegas, Nevada, Marischa (144½ lbs) returned from two years away from competition to win a clear four-round unanimous decision in a rematch with Kelly Whaley (144½ lbs) of Cedar City, Utah who fell to 4-11-0 (1 KO). Sjauw dominated Whaley from the opening bell of the first round and nearly knocked her out in the second. Whaley tried valiantly to mount a comeback in the third and fourth, but could not match Sjauw's speed and skills. Sjauw improved to 21-5-1 (6 KO's) with the win.

On May 29, 2004 at the Ostseehalle in Kiel, Germany, Marischa lost a battle for the vacant WIBF-GBU Welterweight title to Heidi Hartmann of Germany by a TKO between the ninth and tenth rounds. Hartmann had been knocked down in the first round but got up immediately and took a standing count. She then began to turn the fight around after her bad start. Sjauw kept moving forward aggressively while Hartmann was trying to avoid infighting. As the fight progressed the German began to use her height and reach advantages better until Sjauw began to tire in the later rounds. According to the fight report from regular WBAN correspondent Ewan Whyte, "A clash of heads cut Sjauw's eye in the sixth round, (referee Daniel) de Wiele interrupted the fight in the seventh for the doctor to look at the cut; and the fight resumed. Going into the tenth, however, a second doctor, a woman this time, appeared on the ring apron, and stopped the fight, not I think because of the cut, but because in her opinion Sjauw had taken too much punishment – a decision the TV commentator (rightly or wrongly) described as 'incomprehensible'." 

The female ring doctor who stopped the fight is reported to be Silke Eckmann, the wife of the German Professional Boxing Board president. It has also been stated in the German press that the fight was not stopped because of the cut to Sjauw but due to the punches that she absorbed in round 9. WBAN correspondent Jon Fox spoke to Marischa's manager Marcel Niessen at ringside and told us that "Marischa was unwise enough to tell the ringside doctor before the fight that she was presently on a course of antibiotics.  Marcel was convinced that this induced the doctor to determine to look closely for signs that the medication was adversely affecting her.  At the end of the 9th round Marischa gave a little lurch as she went back to her corner.  I don't know why because it certainly wasn't as a result of anything that Hartmann did to her.  But Marcel is convinced that this provided the doctor with the opportunity to requie the fight to be stopped.  The official reason was a cut to Marischa's left eye but this was not proving at all troublesome and Marcel is in any case sure he heard the doctor use the word "antibiotics" when discussing the situation with the referee. I would add my own comment here.  Despite the medication, Marischa was (or should have been) so far ahead on points by the end of the 9th round that some device of this nature was the only way in which Heidi was going to win."  Hartmann improved to 9-1-1, while Marischa fell to 22-6-1 (7 KOs).

"I love the sport," Marischa told interviewer Tom Gerbasi, "but for the money it's no use, because you still can not make a living out of it ... we've gone through a lot of struggling and a lot of disappointments ... since I'm from Holland, you're not seen like the Americans. It's harder for them to accept it because usually the Americans have the big belts. Now I've got four of them. And now my goal is only that I can reach a level where I get some recognition and some appreciation. Now you've got the daughters, they take all the credit away. And all they have is the name behind them. People will pay those girls and they didn't do as much as other girls who were longer in the business and who faced better competition. I hope I will get the appreciation and the acceptance that they have because it takes the credit away from a lot of champions and good fighters."

Trainer Alex Ramos said of Marischa: "I’m not really really into women’s boxing, but you know what?  She convinced me.  She’s a dedicated fighter, she works hard. Here is a girl that comes from Holland, is dedicated to this game, and is a hard worker – I tell you a very very hard worker…. you have to give credit where credit is due."

"You like what you do, that's the nicest part of this," says Marischa. "If you're in this for the money only, it's hard, because the money is not there yet. You hope for it. But the most fun of it is that you get to meet a lot of different people, and you see how the boxing world is, the good and the bad part of it."

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