Maricela Cornejo Stands Out
Photo by Al Applerose
Maricela “La Diva” Cornejo Stands Out
By David A. Avila
Long ago a television program called the Naked City claimed there are “8 million stories in the naked city;” each one distinct and interesting on its own. It resonates with women of boxing.
Every single female prizefighter has a story of her own.
Maricela “La Diva” Cornejo (6-2) has one of those tales and comes by way of the state of Washington. She trains in Riverside County under the guidance of Joel Diaz and fights Sydney LeBlanc (4-0-1) on Sunday at the Novo Theater in L.A. Live in a middleweight bout. Fox Sports 1 will televise.
The 29-year-old has a background as varied and tumultuous as spring weather. During her youth several family members were incarcerated for various charges and yet she played volleyball and softball on her college team. Early on she wanted to be involved in law, but then found herself on the other side of the law.
“I discovered I don’t like to be in an office,” said Cornejo, who has family in Mexico, Miami, Northern California and Washington.
Throughout her teens in rural Washington she dreamed of living in L.A. Bouts with drugs and boredom finally forced her hand and she departed for sunny L.A. though she didn’t know a soul. While in the entertainment capital she met a famous actor who promised he could get her a part in the movie…if she lost weight.
Losing weight saw her enter the Wild Card Boxing gym in Hollywood where she discovered her own hidden talent of boxing through her coach ex-fighter Frankie Duarte.
“My coach Frankie Duarte said I hit like a dude,” she said. She then decided to learn and see where the sport could take her. “I didn’t choose boxing, boxing chose me.”
Cornejo moved to Las Vegas to find a boxing trainer but various ill friendships and an ambitious nature led to an arrest and banishment from the casino city. Subsequently she faced a 10-year prison term.
All because someone she thought was a friend left her as a patsy during a drug arrest.
“I don’t blame her. I blame myself for being in that situation. She did what she thought she had to do,” Cornejo says.
But her excursions in boxing convinced her that she could compete successfully as a pro.
At the WBC Women’s Convention held in Tijuana in January 2016, she met her manager Nancy Rodriguez who also works for the WBC otherwise known as World Boxing Council. While on the streets of Tijuana the stark brunette Cornejo was mobbed by fans. The WBO middleweight champion Christina Hammer noticed the fanfare.
“Christina Hammer went to that gala because she needs the attention,” said Rodriguez who noticed the looks given by the German fighter toward Cornejo. “Hammer told people at the banquet she wants to fight Maricela Cornejo.”
Cornejo stands out.
The Mexican-American Cornejo later signed a contract to fight for the vacant WBC middleweight title in April 2016. Before that, she visited a children’s hospital in L.A. and met some infants hospitalized in one of the wards. One in particular touched her heart. Then, she flew to New Zealand but moments before her big fight, she learned that the child she had passed away in the night.
“I was a zombie,” said Cornejo who lost to Kali Reis. “I couldn’t think, let alone fight.”
She lost the fight by split decision. But despite the loss Rodriguez agreed to represent her as a manager. Now Cornejo will be fighting on a major card on Sunday.
“I think this year is really going to be a groundbreaking year not just for Maricela but for women’s boxing,” said Rodriguez.
Cornejo hopes it leads to a title fight with Hammer. But first, on Sunday, undefeated LeBlanc stands in her way.
Doors open at the Novo at L.A. Live at 4 p.m.
San Diego’s Antonio Orozco (26-0, 17 Kos) knocked out Keandre Gibson (16-1-1, 7 Kos) to win the vacant WBC USNBC super lightweight title on Saturday April 1, in Las Vegas. A three-punch combination ended the fight for Gibson who could not continue. Orozco, 29, is ranked number four in the world.
Riverside’s Josesito Lopez (34-7) faces Saul Corral (23-8) in a welterweight co-main event at The Novo at L.A. Live on Sunday April 9. Also, Ontario’s John Delperdang (10-2) meets Roberto Marroquin (25-4-1) in an eight round super featherweight bout. Olympian Carlos Balderas makes his pro debut on the card.
Fights on Television
Sat. HBO, 7 p.m. Vasyl Lomachenko (7-1) vs. Jason Sosa (20-1-4); Oleksandr Usyk (11-0) vs. Michael Hunter (12-0).
Sun. Fox Sports 1, 6 p.m. Alejandro Luna (21-0) vs. Andrey Klimov (19-3).