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Mathis: Ready, Waiting for Holm

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — French boxer hopes for repeat of her impressive Dec. 2 win

French boxer Anne Sophie Mathis doesn’t speak a lot of English, nor does her trainer, René Cordier.

There is, however, one English phrase they both have mastered:

“We came here to win.”

Boxing, Route 66 Casino Hotel: Holly Holm vs. Anne Sophie Mathis, several other fights. First Bell: 7 p.m. Tickets: $25-$200,

Mathis did that, in spades, the first time she came to New Mexico. Last Dec. 2, the power-punching Frenchwoman knocked out Albuquerque’s Holly Holm in the seventh round of their fight at Route 66 Casino Hotel.

On Friday, at the same venue, Holm and Mathis will square off again.

Despite Mathis’ resounding victory in December, Mathis and Cordier say they’re preparing for Holm’s best and express respect for the Albuquerquean.

“I’m not dealing with a rookie,” Mathis, 34, said on Friday – her remarks translated by Journal photographer Adolphe Pierre-Louis – during an interview at Sigala’s Karate on Coors NW, her Albuquerque training base.

“People have told me, ‘Well, you knocked her out before.’ I don’t see it that way. I’m just going to get in there and fight.

“I know that I already beat her, but in the ring you never know.”

Yet, at the same time, Mathis and her trainer exude and express complete confidence.

Holm has said she allowed herself to be drawn into a slugging match against Mathis in the first fight, saying she won’t stray from her fight plan in the rematch.

Cordier was asked if he has made any adjustments to Mathis’ training in anticipation of a different strategy from Holm this time.

“It doesn’t matter (how Holm fights),” he said. “Holly is very good, but Anne Sophie trained very, very hard, both mentally and physically. … She’s ready.”

Mathis (26-1, 22 knockouts) said she’ll enter next Friday’s fight with essentially the same plan that was successful the first time.

“I know Holly; I know how she fights,” she said. “The training is still the same.”

But, she added, “It’s a waiting game. I’ll see what Holly does this time and then adjust.”

She’s a better, more focused fighter, Mathis said, than she was in December, when her power – generally acknowledged as unequalled in women’s boxing – left Holm sprawled semi-conscious on the canvas at fight’s end.

“You have to completely dominate your opponent in order to make a statement,” Mathis said. “By winning again, I’ll be making that statement.”

Mathis’ first bout with Holm was also her first in the United States and her first outside Europe. She came to Albuquerque 2 1/2 weeks before the fight, in order to adjust to the city’s 5,000-foot elevation, and sparred against some local left-handed fighters.

Holm (30-2-3, nine KOs) is a southpaw.

This time, Mathis seems more comfortable. She arrived Tuesday, just 11 days before the fight, and wrapped up her sparring while still in France.

“I (sparred) with a lot of lefties from the French national team who are a lot better than Holly,” she said, noting that all her sparring partners were men.

She did simulated high-altitude training in a hypoxic chamber.

On their first visit, Mathis and Cordier relied heavily on countryman Gilles Desnous, Director of Food and Beverage for Isleta Development Corporation, for their meals. This time, Mathis said, she and Cordier are comfortable enough to do most of their own cooking.

Cordier has trained Mathis since 2003, when the tall (5-11) blonde walked into his gym. Mathis was 1-1 at the time and hadn’t fought since 1995.

With Cordier in her corner, she’s 25-0.

Women’s boxing, Cordier said, still hasn’t made a major dent in French sports consciousness. He’s hoping another victory over Holm, followed by a showdown with unbeaten Cecilia Braekhus, will change that. Mathis was to have fought Braekhus earlier this year, but the Norwegian fighter withdrew because of a bout with tonsilitis.

Braekhus’ promoters, Mathis said, have agreed in principle to a match between the winner of Friday’s bout.

In the meantime, Mathis said, her life has remained essentially unchanged.

“Boxing is my job,” she said. “After I’m done, I just go home and spend time with my daughter (Lena, 10) and my family.”

The next time she sees Lena, she plans to have another victory over Holm to talk about.

“Anytime you’re thinking about losing,” she said, “there’s no point in even coming here. You might as well just stay home.”

Then, in English, echoing Cordier:

“We came here to win.”