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Anani Talks about the Women's Matches on the Lewis Card....she was there!
By Bernie McCoy
June 25, 2003
(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.

Bernie McCoy


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