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The Professional
By Bernie McCoy
June 17, 2003
  A professional athlete is, by literal definition, someone who is paid to perform in athletic events. Unfortunately, in today's sports world, many athletes who are paid unimaginable amounts of money, often fail to live up to a more expanded title of a professional, someone who brings credit to both the athlete and the sport. Fox Sports TV, on Sunday, featured a woman, who fits easily into to all facets of the title of professional. Her name is Layla McCarter.

Layla McCarter has been a professional boxer for over five years and has been in the ring with the best fighters in the lightweight and junior welterweight divisions, compiling a 16-9-4 record. She has avoided no one in her weight class, stepping in with Laura Serrano, Chevelle Hallback, Tracy Byrd, and Jessica Rakoczy, among others and each time out, win or lose, McCarter conducts herself with an sense of true professionalism. She avoids entering the ring with any of the all too common hoopla of music, flags and other "look at me" encumbrances. For McCarter there are no "eye catching costumes", she shows up in black trunks and top and she comes to fight; six, eight, ten rounds. As would any professional, she comes to do the job she is being paid to do and she does it with a skill that inevitably earns well deserved praise from those who understand and appreciate the sport of boxing. When the job is done, she maintains a professional demeanor, no climbing on the ring ropes, no "gladiator" salutes, she simply awaits and accepts the decision then moves on, another job well done. It is a performance that is all too rare in today's boxing world.

Instead of the "playing to the crowd" histrionics that so many of today's fighters, both female and male, seem to feel is a necessary part of a boxing repertoire, McCarter brings to the ring the tools of a skill learned well through long hours in the gym, instead of in front of entourage or a bank of microphones. It is a skill she has learned so thoroughly that the word professional fits easily into any written or spoken description of Layla McCarter.

On Saturday night in Las Vegas, McCarter was matched against Claudia Valenciana, a 4-0 fighter who could be best described as an "up and comer". Valenciana had a win over a tough Mikee Staffford and two KOs to her credit. She was also reputed to be a "heavy" puncher. Claudia Valenciana may some day be a fighter to reckon with in the welterweight division, and if she is, she will undoubtedly recall the McCarter bout as her "day in college" after the first four bouts "in high school". McCarter did, indeed, take Valenciana "to school", scoring two knockdowns and an overwhelming, unanimous decision. Also, as usual, McCarter did it with class and professionalism. After each knockdown, McCarter touched gloves with Valenciana and, not once, during the six rounds, although winning easily, did McCarter do anything to upstage her opponent or seek to bring attention to herself. She did her job, did it well, did it like a professional.

McCarter was named "Boxer of the Month" by WBAN in March, 2001, and if there is ever a competition, for "Professional Fighter of the Month, Year or Decade", Layla McCarter, in my mind, is an odds on favorite for the title. The night before the McCarter/Valenciana bout in Las Vegas, Tonya Harding fought a four round contest with one Emily Gosa in Lincoln City OR. Harding won a four round decision. Thus, both Tonya Harding and Layla McCarter emerged as winners in the weekend's boxing action. Its there that the similarity ends. The comparative analogies that spring to minds are the easy ones: "Night and Day", "Black and White", but lets just leave it this way, when comparing Layla McCarter and Tonya Harding, its a case of "Professional and Not".     Bernie McCoy


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