ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — This fight carries more emotion, pressure than usual
This one is different for the “Preacher’s Daughter.”
There is more emotion in the finality of it all.
And more pressure.
Holly Holm vs. Mary McGee, several other fights
Where: Route 66 Casino Hotel
When: 7 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.)
Tickets: $25-$200, holdmyticket.com
Holly Holm, Albuquerque’s own, will step into the boxing ring that has made her world famous over the past decade for the final time Saturday night. She will take on Mary McGee in a fight dubbed “Mayhem” at the Legends Theater inside the Route 66 Casino Hotel.
“Nobody wants to go out on a loss,” said Holm, “so I’ve been definitely trying to focus on this and really make sure the time doesn’t go by without making the most of it.”
Holm, a 14-time, three-division world champion with a 32-2-3 (9 KOs) record is putting her IBA and WBF light welterweight titles on the line against McGee (20-1, 11 KOs). Then Holm said she will hang up the boxing gloves to focus on her professional mixed martial arts career.
It’s a decision that has come with mixed reactions in the boxing world.
“I think locally, everyone is really supportive,” Holm said. “In the women’s boxing world, there’s a lot of hatred toward it. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Really what I think is women’s boxing wouldn’t be here without the die-hard fans, so as negative as some of them want to be, that’s fine by me. I’m not going to lose sleep over it.”
The criticism stems from boxing fans who had hoped to see a fight between Holm and unbeaten Norwegian fighter Cecilia Braekhus, who said fans have been “cheated” of that opportunity because of Holm’s decision.
As for what to do with all that negativity – a word repeated by Holm and her longtime manager and trainer Mike Winkeljohn at Thursday’s news conference – the Holm camp says it has done its best to put blinders on and just focus on McGee.
“We’ve pretty much tried to keep it out,” Winkeljohn said of the negativity from some in the boxing community about the decision. “There’s a lot of uneducated people out there that have no idea, that believe just what the media says. … It’s a shame because Holly has never turned down a fight. She’s always wanted to fight the best. Every fight has been Holly’s biggest fight.”
And her career has had plenty of “biggest fights” enjoyed through the years by Albuquerque fight fans, something Winkeljohn says he hopes remains at the forefront of her boxing legacy.
“She’s kept boxing alive in Albuquerque, honestly,” Winkeljohn said. “Once Johnny Tapia and Danny Romero were done with their careers, boxing went to the wayside in New Mexico and Holly helped revive it. Without Holly, there wouldn’t have been as much opportunity for the young boxers in New Mexico. … Not just the fans but I hope the boxing community appreciates what she has meant. I know I do.”
As for Holm, who got choked up at Thursday’s news conference when talking about her desire to give fans one last great show in the ring, she stresses she’s not leaving the fighting game. Instead, she has chosen “a new mountain to climb” in MMA.
“It’s not like I’m leaving the world of fighting, because that’s not it,” Holm said. “I’m not fully retiring. … But Saturday, I just really want to give the fans one great show before it’s over.”
RONDA ROUSEY: The endgame for any pro fighter’s career is a world championship. In mixed martial arts, that means a UFC title. And in the UFC world, that means Ronda Rousey, the former Olympic bronze medalist in judo.
“I wouldn’t want to fight her tomorrow; I like my arms,” Holm said Thursday. “There’s a lot of training to do and things I can do to get better. But that’s a goal. When I first started boxing, I would look at the girls who were around a long time and I would think ‘Oh, I want to fight them, eventually.’ And I did it. So it’s possible, but it’s definitely in due time. I’m confident in myself, but I’m not dumb enough to say that with about nine months of grappling experience I’m ready to go take on this Olympic medalist. I’m confident, but I’m not naive to the situation, either.”
Her coach, who is as well-versed in the MMA and UFC game as anyone, having trained numerous world champion fighters at Jackson-Winkeljohn Mixed Martial Arts, agrees with his prized pupil’s take.
“Holly has some fights she needs before she’s at that point,” Winkeljohn said. “But there’s no doubt the endgame would be a UFC championship, whether Ronda is there or anybody, that would of course be Holly’s goal.”