Boxing champ says she’s going to concentrate on mixed-martial arts
Albuquerque’s Holly Holm, saying mixed-martial arts are “where my heart’s at,” announced Tuesday that her May 11 bout against Mary McGee will be her last boxing match.
Holm, frequently tearing up during a news conference, said her longtime trainer and manager, Mike Winkeljohn, described her feelings best.
“It was hard for me to actually put into words,” she said. “Mr. Winkeljohn said it exactly how I (felt). He said, ‘I get it, Holly; you want to climb a new mountain.’ … That’s exactly what it is.
Her last boxing match is May 11.
Holly Holm vs. Mary McGee, several other fights: Route 66 Casino Hotel, 7 p.m. Tickets: $25-$200, holdmyticket.com
“(Boxing is) obviously something that’s been really, really dear to my heart. We’ve had a really, really, good, long go.”
Holm, 31, has been boxing professionally for more than 11 years, compiling a 32-2-3 record and winning more than a dozen titles in three weight classes. But she began her athletic career as a kickboxer and has trained for years with MMA fighters at Jackson-Winkeljohn Mixed Martial Arts.
She made her MMA debut in March 2011 and is 3-0 as a cagefighter.
In spite of her decision, or perhaps because of it, Holm said she will be fully focused for the match with McGee (20-1, 11 KOs) at Route 66 Casino Hotel.
Holm acknowledged she’s walking away from what might have been the biggest and most financially rewarding boxing match of her career, provided it could be made: a much-discussed showdown with unbeaten Norwegian Cecilia Braekhus.
“Holm is a boxer I wanted very much to meet for a long time,” Braekhus told the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang. “There are many boxing fans who have looked forward to this match, and now it appears that they are being cheated out of it.”
Holm noted that her promoter, Lenny Fresquez, and Braekhus’ promoter, Germany’s Nisse Sauerland, have never been able to come to terms. Meanwhile, Winkeljohn was hearing from MMA concerns, she said, that expressed interest in her.
To anyone who might say Holm’s decision to focus on MMA was an excuse to duck a fight with Braekhus, Holm pointed to some of her previous bouts against world champions such as Christy Martin, Mary Jo Sanders and Anne Sophie Mathis.
“If (Braekhus) is ‘the’ fight to take,” she said, “do you know how many ‘the’ fights I’ve had over the years?
“… That fight doesn’t define my career. It doesn’t define who I am.”
Holm said she sees diving headfirst into MMA as a scarier proposition than fighting Braekhus in the boxing ring.
“You never know what’s going to happen (in the cage),” she said. “There are more ways to lose. What makes it exciting is you have more ways (to win). … I’m not taking an easy path.”
Since her MMA debut two years ago, Holm has fought twice more in the cage and four times in the ring. Training alternately for both sports, she said, was not a problem and is not the reason for the decision announced Tuesday.
“It’s more of a mental thing,” she said. “It’s definitely not the training; it’s not a physical thing. A lot of (the training) is similar. My sparring partners are the same either way.
“I still wanted to go back and forth. I thought how cool it would be to have a title (in each sport) and defend them both. … Then, the more I got involved with MMA, when I got to the gym I was excited.”
Is Holm, then, 100 percent sure she’ll never again compete as a boxer after May 11?
“I think any fighter that says that, it’s 99.9,” she said. “I’m 99.9; that’s a good way to put it. … I think there’s always room to leave a .01 percent.
“I’m very confident in my decision in just going the MMA route, and it really comes down to that’s where my passion’s at. It’s never done me wrong in my career. I’ve followed my heart and it’s never done wrong, so I’m not gonna stop now.”
Fresquez has been Holm’s promoter since 2004. Fresquez’s combat-sports background is in boxing, but he said his relationship with Holm will not change as a result of her decision to focus on MMA.
“My job is to get her prepared to take down (MMA champion) Ronda Rousey,” Fresquez said. “… I’ll depend a lot on (Winkeljohn) on that front, but I kind of know the path that we’re going.
“Within four or five fights’ time, we’ll be challenging Ronda Rousey.”
Boxing champ says she’s going to concentrate on mixed-martial artsJournal FileAlbuquerque fighter Holly Holm is leaving the boxing ring for the octagon of mixed-martial arts. Her last boxing match is May 11. Holly Holm vs. Mary McGee, several other fights: Route 66 Casino Hotel, 7 p.m. Tickets: $25-$200, holdmyticket.com
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal