LAGUNA PUEBLO – What’s Holly Holm fighting for on Friday, anyway?
Pride? Definitely. Redemption? Maybe. Revenge? Not exactly. She and her ring nemesis, France’s Anne Sophie Mathis, actually like each other.
Survival? No, not at all.
Win or lose in her boxing showdown with Mathis, Holm, 30, says she has no intention of retiring from combat sports.
In December, Mathis knocked out Holm in the seventh round at Route 66 Casino Hotel – also the site of Friday’s rematch.
On Wednesday, at a news conference, Holm said she hasn’t thought about losing the rematch and doesn’t intend to do so.
Regardless, she added: “I have too much pride and too much passion for what I do to stop after this fight.”
And why should she, asks her promoter, Lenny Fresquez. Win or lose, he said – and Fresquez, like his fighter, preferred only to entertain thoughts of victory – there’ll be no shortage of post-Mathis opportunities.
“Holly has plenty of options,” Fresquez said of Holm, who is 30-2-3 as a boxer and also 2-0 as a mixed-martial arts fighter. “I get calls for her to fight MMA on Showtime. She can box; she can do MMA. She has a name. Name recognition is huge here. Her fan support is huge.
“To answer your question, (a defeat on Friday) would not be a career-ending loss.”
Would a victory over Mathis put Holm back in the driver’s seat in women’s boxing?
Fresquez said the Albuquerquean has never left her spot behind the steering wheel, even after the stunning loss last year.
Why is Mathis, having defeated Holm for the then-vacant IBA women’s welterweight title at Route 66 in December, having to defend the title on the Albuquerquean’s home turf?
That’s where the money is in women’s boxing, Fresquez said, thanks to Holm’s popularity hereabouts.
Mathis, despite her success, has fought most of her bouts on the undercard of shows headlined by men.
Holm, in contrast, will be fighting her 23rd consecutive main event Friday.
“Holly is the only female (boxer) in America that can sell out an arena,” Fresquez said. “There’s a couple of girls in Mexico and one in Argentina that can do that, but the dollars aren’t the same.
“Holly’s the highest-paid female athlete in boxing, and she has a lot going for her.”
Fresquez also noted that the junior-welterweight limit of 140 pounds, not the welterweight limit of 147, is Holm’s natural weight.
She’s fighting out of her weight division, Fresquez said, because that’s where the greatest challenge – in the person of Mathis – was available.
“We can always go back and be the champ at 140 pounds; that’s easy,” Fresquez said. “But that’s not what Holly wants to do. She wants to be the best in the world, and she’s wiling to take the risk and go up in weight class.”
BIRTHDAY GIRL: Mathis celebrated her 35th birthday Wednesday – or, better said, didn’t.
“I’ll celebrate later,” she said through an interpreter. “Right now, I’m only thinking about the fight.”
She did get one birthday present, she said, in the form of an Internet conversation with her 10-year-old daughter, Lena, who’s back home in France.
A REAL STRETCH: Traditionally, a boxer’s reach has been measured from the fingertips of one hand to the fingertips of the other, both arms outstretched.
Wednesday, Holm’s reach was measured at 71 inches, Mathis’ at 70 – a major surprise, since Mathis stands 5-11 and Holm 5-8.
Mike Winkeljohn, Holm’s trainer, found that statistic hard to believe.
“When (Mathis) gets in a crouch, her elbows come down to her hips,” he said. “It’s almost impossible to hit her with a body shot.”
The difference could be in the greater width of Holm’s shoulders, which doesn’t affect the length of a punch.
NEAR SELLOUT: Fresquez said about 400 tickets remained unsold as of Wednesday afternoon. The Route 66 Legends Theater seats about 2,800. — This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal