Those who spend their time publicizing the sport of boxing, sometimes
known as "flacks", will tell you that "names make fights" (how else to
explain the ongoing fascination with Mike Tyson). On the other hand, those
who spend most of their time in gyms, leaning against ring aprons, forever
known as "the fight crowd", will argue that "styles make fights". Who's
right? Well, in a way, both are. Its the "name" fighters that bring in the
big crowds and the accompanying publicity, but two fighters with
compatible styles can often steal the spotlight once the bell rings.
This, of course, goes a long way to explaining why all the talk and "ink"
about Saturday's fight card in Gulfport MS. has concentrated on the main
event between the two biggest "names" in Women's boxing, Laila Ali and
Christy Martin. However, it is very possible that the best fight on the
card that night will be the undercard bout between Ann Wolfe and Valerie
Mahfood. This could clearly turn out to be a case of "styles over
The Wolfe/Mahfood fight is a return of a November, 2000 bout in which
Mahfood handed Wolfe her first and, thus far, only defeat with, what to
many, was a surprising third round KO. In her next fight, Mahfood was, in
turn, knocked out by Kendra Lenhart in two rounds. Those two fights
provide an epitomizing insight into the career of Valerie Mahfood.
On the one hand, she is a hard puncher who
does not take a back step once the opening bell sounds . The three rounds
with Wolfe were a quintessential example; both fighters moved to the
middle of the ring and began throwing "bombs". This continued, as often
happens, until one fighter prevailed. In this bout, it was Ann Wolfe who
came out second best. In Mahfood's next bout against Lenhart, her ongoing
problem with tall fighters was readily apparent. Lenhart, with a record of
6-8-1 going into the bout, at 6'1", towered over the 5' 6" Mahfood and had
little trouble finding the smaller woman with devastating overhand right
hands. (Ali has stated that Lenhart hit her harder than any of her
opponents thus far).
Mahfood, not surprisingly, had the same
trouble in her two fights with Ali, who, at her "listed" 5'10", was able
to keep Mahfood at the end of her jab during the 14 rounds they fought
over the past year. Unlike Lenhart, however, Ali was unable to get Mahfood
off her feet. Valerie Mahfood has toughness to spare.
Wolfe, at 5'9", has a three inch height advantage but failed to exploit
that edge in her first bout with Mahfood. Given a choice, Wolfe's strategy
preference is to attempt to land her powerful right hand early and often,
rather than trying to keep her opponent at long range. Wolfe has used this
strategy to advantage in her two TKOs over a tough Marsha Valley in June
and December of last year; the second, over ten grueling rounds, which
ended with Valley slumped in the corner, as the referee stepped in.
(Valley should provide an "interesting" night for the unbeaten and, as
yet, untested Vonda Ward in an upcoming cruiserweight championship bout).
Wolfe also displayed her one-punch power in two TKOs over former body
builder Gina Nicholas (who, after the two bouts with Wolfe, wisely
reconsidered her career choice of boxing).
Thus, the Wolfe/Mahfood matchup provides a return bout between two hard
punchers who, seemingly, do not know the meaning of the word "backward".
Neither fighter is "hard to find" in the ring, both prefer to move
forward, seeking to put pressure on her opponent and land a big punch.
That's the strategy that worked for Mahfood in the first bout. There's no
reason to believe she'll switch tactics on Saturday. Wolfe, who up to this
point, had been largely ignored by the Ali "camp", is now, seemingly, in a
position, should she get past Mahfood, for a shot at Laila Ali. However
getting past Valerie Mahfood may be much easier said than done. Mahfood is
a tough, experienced fighter and has the built in advantage of a previous
win over Wolfe.
Laila Ali has made a prediction that the main event with Christy Martin
won't go past five rounds. That seems, to me, more rhetoric than reality.
It is Wolfe/Mahfood bout that probably won't see a fifth round. Both these
women hit hard, harder than either of the fighters in the main event, both
these women will look to pressure her opponent from the opening bell and
neither Ann Wolfe nor Valerie Mahfood will have to look hard for the other
one. The "fight crowd" is right, styles make fights and the styles of Ann
Wolfe and Valerie Mahfood make for what should be the best fight of the
night on Saturday. If you're planning to buy the PPV telecast, be sure
you're there from the start. The Wolfe/Mahfood fight is being advertised
as the first bout on the telecast. Its not the "big" fight, but there's a
real good chance that it will be the "best" fight of the night.