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Holm Should Be Tested By Mathis

Battle Royale

Pound for pound or kilo for kilo, who’s the world’s finest female boxer?

Albuquerque’s Holly Holm and France’s Anne-Sophie Mathis both agree that question won’t get a definitive answer tonight.

But for now, as Cecilia Braekhus waits in the wings, Holm and Mathis take center stage themselves.

Boxing: Holly Holm vs. Anne-Sophie Mathis, seven other bouts, Route 66 Casino Hotel.
Tickets: $25-$200,
First bell: 7 p.m.
Doors open: 5 p.m.
The card: D2

Holm (30-1-3, nine knockouts) and Mathis (25-1, 21 KOs) meet tonight at Route 66 Casino Hotel in a 10-round bout for two versions of the women’s world welterweight title – that’s 147 pounds for Holm, 66.68 kilos for Mathis.

Mathis weighed in Thursday at 145.4 pounds, Holm at 145.6.

Promoter Lenny Fresquez has dubbed this fight “World Dominance.” There surely are female fighters in other weight classes who would take issue with that label, as, likely, would the unbeaten Norwegian welterweight Braekhus (18-0, four KOs).

Still, by any measure, tonight’s bout is a seminal event in the world of women’s boxing – bridging the Atlantic Ocean to bring together two of the world’s best.

“There’s a lot at stake,” Holm said at a news conference. “… This fight is definitely something different for me. I put my heart into it; I definitely want to show (everyone) how I’ve improved.

“It’s a great opportunity for me and a great opportunity to prove even to myself that I’m still getting better.”

Mathis, a 34-year-old from Dombasle-sur-Meurthe in northeastern France, presents the Albuquerquean with unique challenges.

Rarely has Holm, 5-foot-8, faced an opponent taller than she. Mathis stands 5-11.

“I’m usually the taller fighter,” Holm said. “But then again, I’m gonna be able to do some of the things a shorter fighter has an easier time doing.

“As long as I perform those things, then it’s gonna be a good night and it’s gonna be a good fight.”

Never has Holm faced an opponent with Mathis’ punching power. In women’s boxing, the deceptively thin Frenchwoman’s record of 21 knockouts in 26 fights is almost unprecedented.

Mathis, said Mike Winkeljohn, Holm’s trainer, “reminds me of that Russian that fought Rocky. She keeps walking forward and hitting people hard; she knocks people out.

“Do I want Holly to be on the end of her punches? No, that’s where we don’t want to be. And Holly won’t be there.”

In terms of unique challenges, Holm presents many for Mathis as well.

Mathis has fought only one opponent, fellow Frenchwoman Myriam Lamare, who is remotely in Holm’s class as a boxer. Mathis defeated Lamare twice, once by decision and once by TKO; Holm beat Lamare by unanimous decision in January 2009.

Nor has Mathis fought a left-hander of Holm’s quality.

Holm was knocked out in a kick-boxing match 8 1/2 years ago, but has never been off her feet as a boxer. Invariably, she lands more punches than she takes. Mathis’ knockouts are impressive, but can she take out Holm with one punch? Can she win by decision in front of her opponent’s wildly cheering fans?

For all those reasons, Mathis said she considers Holm her toughest opponent thus far.

“In my mind,” Mathis said of Holm through an interpreter, “she’s the best boxer in the world. Just look at her record.

“I’m looking forward to the fight; I have a lot of respect for her.”

Mathis, regarding the possibility or necessity of scoring a knockout on her opponent’s home turf seemed to be of two minds.

“You don’t come (into a fight) to knock out someone,” she said. “I’d love to, but I want to make sure I fight intelligently … A knockout would be great, but I don’t look for it.”

Yet, when asked if she needed a knockout to win on Holm’s home turf, Mathis said, “Yes. I feel it will be a necessity to win the fight.”

As for that pound-for-pound thing, both fighters noted that Braekhus is out there.

“If I win this fight,” Mathis said, “I will consider myself the best pound-for-pound in the world. But, again, there’s another fighter (Braekhus) that would like to take that title.”

For Holm, pound-for-pound supremacy can be determined only in posterity.

“After this fight, what is it?” she said. “Is it gonna be Cecilia, and who’s gonna be (the best) pound-for-pound then? I hope at the end of my career, they can look back and say, after I retire, ‘Pound-for-pound, she was the best.’ That’s what I want.

“Right now, I can’t say that I put that title on one fight. There’s still work to be done.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal