Kaliesha West vs. Ava Knight II on Saturday
By David A. Avila
A mere 40 miles away from home WBO bantamweight titleholder Kaliesha “Wild, Wild” West defends her title against the formidable talent of Ava “Lady of Boxing” Knight, the only woman with a win over the Moreno Valley prizefighter.
Both realize it’s not going to be easy.
American female boxing showcases two of its most talented jewels when West (13-1-2, 4 KOs) tangles with Knight (6-1-2, 3 KOs) once again on Saturday June 18, at the Pico Rivera Sports Arena in Pico Rivera.
It was nearly three years ago when the two first met in Friant, California. In that eight round bout it was Knight who pulled ahead for the win after a frenetic bantamweight struggle for a unanimous decision win.
“When I first fought her she surprised me with speed, but later on in the fight it started to slow so it wasn't too much of an obstacle after a few rounds,” said Knight, 22, of their first encounter on Nov. 18, 2008. “In the later rounds I believe we came to a point where we knew we were tied but I came out the last two rounds more relaxed then she was.”
“I was fighting with too much emotion. I was stupid and reckless. I fought real reckless,” said West, 23. “The score cards were closer than I thought. We were dead even. All I had to do was win one round. We were catching each other but she was landing the harder shots so they gave her the last two rounds there.”
It was West’s only loss and a driving point that led her to add more layers to her fighting style and mental make up during the next year.
In an 11 month span West engaged in a murderer’s row of confrontations that saw her meet featherweight Rolanda Andrews, former bantamweight champion Ada Velez, former bantamweight champion Anita Christensen and Brazilian slugger Vannessa Guimaraes. Two of those bouts took place out of the country and West emerged with two wins and two draws.
“One thing that I learned is I have a lot more confidence in myself. I’m always hearing about these elite athletes so it’s kind of a nervous kind of feeling not knowing how I’ll do against them,” said West remembering her first encounters with ranked fighters. “I realize now that I am one of these elite fighters. Before, I was mentally beat.”
After beating West by decision, Knight accepted an offer to meet Mexico’s Ana Maria Torres for the WBC junior bantamweight world championship. Despite a bad back Knight took the fight in Tijuana and lost by decision. That same back injury kept her out of the ring for a while.
“After the loss with Ana Maria, I may have taken 5 months off to heal from a back injury but after that I was in the gym, waiting for calls, staying active in the gym,” said Knight, whose trainer Joe Rodriguez meanwhile retired.
Knight moved from Chico, California to Oakland and is now trained by Ben Bautista. The change in trainers hasn’t affected her style of speed and power.
“Now I am trained by Ben Bautista who has not made it a point to change my style but to perfect the things that are good and correct mistakes,” says Knight who can fight from 108 pounds to 122 pounds. “I have changed my style from just one way to fight, to many. Being in the ring with so many different sparring partners has led me to adjust very well to different styles, which in the end has made me switch things up when needed.”
Knight displayed her fighting tools with a one round demolition of talented Gloria Salas this past January. The Northern California fighters speed and power was too much. It’s the only fight she’s had in 22 months but she’s not worried.
“Even though I haven't fought much, I've been in the gym for the whole time basically,” Knight said.
World title and more
West captured the WBO world title last year with a knockout win over Angel Gladney at the Staples Center. But injuries from a car accident early this year forced her to rest and heal until now. Still, she’s confident.
“Having that 10 rounder in Europe is irreplaceable,” said West about her trip to Denmark where she fought Christensen to a draw. “That kind of international experience will make the difference in my fight with Ava.”
West was tabbed the Fighter of the Year in 2010 for her feats and just entered the Pound for Pound list. But Knight is not far behind. You might say if not for her inactivity the two female prizefighters are mirror images.
“This second fight with Kaliesha is just as important to me as any other fight with anyone else. I'm glad I got the opportunity but fights are just fights. We take no one lightly,” Knight said.
West is equally prepared.
“I think being a champ people expect a lot more. Yeah it does give me a lot more purpose a lot more pressure put on me. To me I’m going to take it like every other fight. I just take it serious,” West said.
Expect a great fight this Saturday.
Fights on television
Fri. ESPN2, 6 p.m., Steve Forbes (35-9) vs. Karim Mayfield (13-0-1).
Fri. Telefutura, 11:30 p.m., Omar Figueroa (11-0-1) vs. Eric Cruz (11-6-3).
Sat. Fox, 10 p.m., Miguel Vazquez (28-3) vs. Marlon Aguilar (25-10-1).
Sat. HBO, 10:30 p.m., Saul Alvarez (36-0-1) vs. Ryan Rhodes (45-4).