Femme Fatales

Photo by Al Applerose

Femme Fatales 2016: The Return of the Female Prizefighter

By David A. Avila

After being shut out for almost four years on major fight cards, a female boxing match took place recently in downtown Los Angeles when Seniesa “Super Bad” Estrada defeated Christina Fuentes on a Golden Boy Promotions event.

Does this mark the return of women on major American fight cards?

Not since a Golden Boy fight card in Las Vegas took place in September 2012 between Melinda Cooper and Celina Salazar, had the Los Angeles-based company sponsored a female bout. During that time other countries around the world have embraced female boxing and seen its popularity grow at super speed. The U.S. has been in sleep mode.

For years American promoters insisted fans did not want female prizefighting. Meanwhile, neighboring countries like Mexico have undergone a surge in female bouts being televised as their centerpiece with Mexican female stars Mariana “Barbie” Juarez and Arely Mucino.

So, why not in the U.S.?

Despite the proven interest in female MMA prizefighting, the sport of boxing has not seen equal backing for female boxers by American boxing promoters. Top Rank, another major American boxing promotion company, last put on a female bout on July 2008 when Ana Julaton fought Joanna Mendez to a draw.

Ronda Rousey awakened interest in female MMA on February 2013 when UFC’s Dana White decided to back the blonde from Riverside. Years before, he had said he would never put a female fight on his show. But shrinking attendance and dwindling star power forced the move and suddenly Rousey became UFC’s biggest star.

Just before Rousey’s loss last November, she appeared in Ring Magazine and became the first MMA fighter and second female to grace its cover. The magazine is owned by Oscar De La Hoya who admitted interest in putting Rousey on a boxing card.

But Rousey was soundly defeated and ironically by a former boxing world champion Holly Holm.

Golden Boy Promotions had planned to put on talented Melinda Cooper on a fight card last year in a world title fight, but that fight was canceled when the Costa Rican opponent had visa problems. Efforts to find an alternate failed so the female bout was canceled.

Finally, two weeks ago, East L.A.’s Estrada (7-0) was put on a Golden Boy fight card at Belasco Theater in L.A. and won by decision in a very entertaining fight.

“I am so thankful to Golden Boy for recognizing the value in us female fighters, and look forward to more fights like these,” said Estrada after her fight on June 3.

Does this signal more female fights?

Golden Boy Promotions is evaluating the interest and in New York female fighters Heather Hardy and Amanda Serrano have signed with DiBella Entertainment.

Kaliesha West, a former world champion in two weight classes, said she hopes American promoters realize there is tremendous fan interest in female prizefighting.

“I just want the opportunity to get busy before I get any older and do what I love to do. Because I know I’ll look back when I’m older and say man, I should have fought more fights,” said West, 28, who won her first world title on a Golden Boy show in 2010. “No promoters are hitting me up. No promoters are contacting women female fighters. It’s a rat race.”