(JUNE 25) Following the weekend of "Boxing goes to LaLa land", it
continues to be nearly impossible to get informed reporting on the Women's
boxing bouts underneath the Lewis/Klitschko fight, given the breathless
coverage of that bout. Yeah, there was a lot of blood. Yeah, it was a bad
cut. Yeah, the champion was getting slapped around by a 5-1 underdog. All
compelling factors. However, does any serious boxing fan think that it was
a great fight. Dramatic. Yes. Entertaining. Maybe. Great story
line.....hey, its Hollywood. A great heavyweight title fight. No way. A
badly out of shape champion, a stand-up European fighter, who failed to
"close the show" in the second round, and I'd be willing to lay even money
that neither fighter could have made it to Round 12.
I looked, in vain, for reports of the undercard, particularly, some
details of the Rijker/Couch bout, which according to the scant reportage
that was available, Rijker had won on all scorecards by shutout. I decided
to get in touch with someone who knows Women's boxing from the inside, who
is particularly articulate in imparting her views and who dispenses those
views exactly the way she dispenses punches in the ring; straight from the
shoulder and right on target. And best of all, Sumya Anani was in Los
Angeles for the fights.
"I was there "live"....all I could afford was the "nosebleed" section",
Sumya said. (Note to promoter: Hey, Gary, you got the best female fighter
in the world "in the house", and you can't get her down front?")
When asked if she was surprised that Rijker didn't score a knockout, Sumya
replied, "Yes and no. Yes, because when Lucia was in her prime, I think
she might have scored a TKO. But no, because, with her hiatus, it is only
common to lose timing. I think if she is really hungry, and that is
questionable, she could comeback for a few more big fights and do well.
(On Saturday, she was) a little rusty".
Rijker, according to reports, came out quickly in the first round and
stunned Couch with an overhand right that reportedly broke an eardrum.
Sumya confirmed that Lucia started fast and Anani thought the Englishwoman
might be in for a short night. "The first round I did think at one moment
that Rijker had her, and it was going to be an early night, but Jane can
take a shot. Then I thought that when Rijker knew Jane couldn't hurt her,
it would be all over. But, geez, its been four years since Lucia's fought
anyone good. There were (even) two times, late in the fight when Jane
pressured Lucia and backed her up".
As for the other Women's bout of the night, Anani said, "Valerie Mahfood
looked so much better this time out and from my "nosebleed" seat.
But, the ref was right there the whole time and he's trained in that type
of situation, and if he thought it should have been stopped, he gets no
argument from me. I wish I had the view he had. Up to that point, Laila
and Valerie put on a good fight".
However, it was the Rijker/Couch bout that held most of Anani's attention
on Saturday. She has been in with Couch, stopping her in four rounds last
June in Texas and Rijker, just possibly, could be in Anani's future. Sumya
agrees that the reports of Rijker winning convincingly were right and, as
she continually stresses, the key issue now is whether Lucia is "really
hungry" or whether her inability to garner her usual knockout win will
dampen Rijker's enthusiasm for future bouts.
Who's in Rijker's future? Fredia Gibbs and Sunshine Fettkether both make
for compelling bouts and competitive opponents. Anani notes, with some
skepticism, that when she and Lucia met at the Los Angeles weigh-in,
Rijker continued to talk about a Christy Martin bout. Most people feel
"that train has left the station" given Martin's recent inactivity, save
for a exhibition bout in Iowa.
Obviously, if Rijker is "hungry" and serious about a future in the ring,
the "gold standard" she will be aiming for was represented by the woman
watching from the "nosebleed section" of the Staples Center on Saturday.
Sumya Anani says she got into boxing "just when (Rijker) burst on the
scene.....I even told her (at the weigh-in) that I'm a big fan of hers,
which I am".
If Rijker can attain the skill level of the "Rijker of old", a bout with
Anani would not only be an outstanding matchup, it would bring together,
arguably, two of the best fighters in the history of the sport of Women's
boxing. One, Sumya Anani, is already, at, or near, the pinnacle. The other
Lucia Rijker, at one point, in the past, seemed destined for a similar,
rarefied perch. Rijker, though, has disappointed boxing fans before. Will
she sustain this comeback? Sumya Anani has it right. Its all about hunger.