LAGUNA PUEBLO — This was the old, new Holly Holm, fighting the fight she should have fought the first time around.
Holm, consistently beating France’s Anne Sophie Mathis to the punch and staying inside or outside the power that crushed her the first time the two met, defeated Mathis by unanimous, 10-round decision on Friday at Route 66 Casino Hotel. The judges’ scores were 99-91, 97-93 and 96-94
A cheering, capacity crowd of 2,800 attended.
Holm (31-2-3, nine knockouts) thus recaptured the IBA women’s welterweight title that she lost to Mathis via seventh-round knockout at the same venue in December. The Albuquerquean also won two other versions of the 147-pound world title, courtesy of the WBF and the WBAN.
In the first fight, Holm engaged the hard-punching Mathis (26-2, 22 KOs) virtually from the opening bell. She paid the price.
Friday, she moved laterally as she had earlier in her career — using that movement and her superior hand speed to befuddle her taller, stronger opponent.
Afterward, Holm dedicated the fight to those who had seen her fight for the first time in the first Mathis bout, but who came back to watch the rematch, “and to all the people who have been with me from day one.”
Of her strategy, Holm said, “I was hitting her (in the first fight), but I was staying there (inside) and was getting countered.
“(This time), I wanted to play the game that wins. I didn’t care about ‘fight of the night;’ I just wanted the win.”
After an early feeling-out process, a pattern favoring the challenger began to emerge.
Holm, moving laterally, landed not a single punch in the first round. Mathis did little better, landing a couple of harmless right hands.
Late in the second, Holm — still moving — became more aggressive she ended the round with a clean left, though Mathis landed a couple of hard body shots earlier in the round.
Holm was the busier fighter in the third, throwing her punches, then moving out of range or tying Mathis up. Mathis landed one good left, Holm the same.
In the fourth, Holm beat Mathis to the punch on several occasions as the Frenchwoman continued to come forward.
Mathis landed some hard blows in the fifth, though the Albuquerque southpaw responded with an uppercut and a combination late in the round. Mathis might have shaken Holm with a right hand.
Holm threw more punches in the sixth, but Mathis landed some short, hard punches — including a big right at about the 1:15 mark of the 2-minute round. Holm did not appear fazed.
Neither fighter did much damage in the seventh, but Mathis continued to be the aggressor and, arguably, landed the harder punches. But Holm displayed faster hands and continued to stay inside or outside Mathis’ power.
A sharp jab landed by Holm was the only blow of consequence landed in the eighth, as Mathis continued to struggle in finding the range.
Mathis landed a pair of right hands in the ninth while continuing to come forward. But Holm, earlier in the round, found Mathis’ face with a couple of right jabs.
Some 10 seconds before the final bell, Holm landed a big left — perhaps her sharpest punch of the night. As in the previous nine rounds, Mathis did no serious damage in the 10th.
In a featured six-round bantamweight bout, the always colorful Raymond “Hollywood” Montes, 117.5 pounds, of Albuquerque, dispatched Jaime Gutierrez, 116, with a right hand in the first round. Montes is 5-2 with four KOs.
Gutierrez, from Los Mochis, Mexico but living in Albuquerque, is 4-6 with no KOs.
Montes said he learned quickly that Gutierrez, a southpaw, was available for a right-hand lead.
“I tested him with my (left) jab, and I tested him with my right,” Montes said. “I saw that when I threw a straight (right), it would get there.”
Get there it did.
The evening featured the traditional 10-count for a fallen fighter in honor of five-time world champion Johnny Tapia, who died May 27 at age 45.
The bell was struck 10 times, fittingly, by timekeeper Sandy Pino, a longtime New Mexico amateur boxing official who had known Tapia since the beginnings of his lustrous yet troubled life and career.
In other undercard bouts:
Albuquerque’s Cristian Cabral, 146.5, stopped Socorro’s Victor Silva, 146, by TKO in the fourth and final round. Cabral is 3-0 (two KOs). It was Silva’s pro debut.
In an action-fraught four-rounder, Belen’s Gene Perez, 126 pounds, pounded out a victory by unanimous decision over Albuquerque’s Eric Gonzalez, 125.8. It was Perez’s pro debut. Gonzalez is 1-2-1 (one KO).
Roswell’s John Herrera, 134.2 pounds, blasted out a victory by unanimous, four-round decision over Santa Fe’s Bryan Garcia, 129.6. Herrera is 2-3-1 (no knockouts). Garcia is 7-19, having lost 11 straight.
Albuquerque’s Jose Luis “Guero” Sanchez, 151 pounds, made a successful pro debut with a fourth-round victory by TKO over Farmington’s Guy Youell, 151.2. It was Youell’s pro debut as well.
Cabral, one of New Mexico’s better amateurs of recent years, was far more skilled and much bigger than the soft-bodied Silva. Cabral scored a knockdown with a left hook in the first, but struggled a bit with his game though overmatched opponent before wearing him down. Referee John Schlorle stopped the bout at 1:27 of the fourth and final round.
Perez, a southpaw, was faster-handed and more accurate than Gonzalez. Though all four rounds were competitive, Perez won them all on each official scorecard.
If Herrera’s nickname isn’t “The Grin Reaper,” it should be. Smiling throughout, he made a bloody mess of Garcia’s face by fight’s end. Scores were 40-36, 40-36 and 40-36.
In an exciting opening bout, Sanchez, floored by a Youell left hook in the first round, came back to dominate the fight.
Sanchez dropped Youell once in the third round and twice in the fourth before referee Richard Espinosa stopped the bout at 1:13 of the final scheduled round.