Just call her Hall-y Holm.
Or, well, maybe not. But, in any case, Albuquerque’s Holly Holm on Tuesday was accorded what ranks among the sport of boxing’s highest honors: induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Holm thus joins fellow 2022 inductee Regina Halmich as the fifth and sixth female boxers of the modern era to be included in the ranks of the IBHOF.
This honor comes on the heels of her induction into the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame. Though she’s a member of the NMSHOF’s class of 2019, recognized for her accomplishments in both boxing and MMA, the banquet honoring her and her fellow 2019 inductees was delayed until August 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns.
“I feel very humbled and honored to be acknowledged amongst the greatest,” Holm said of her latest accolade in a statement released by the IBHOF. “I’m kind of speechless, actually. I’m really excited.”
Holm, 40, began her combat-sports career as a kick-boxer circa 2000 under the tutelage of Albuquerque’s Mike Winkeljohn. She made her pro boxing debut, never having had an amateur bout, in January 2002. She went on to post a career record of 33-2-3 with nine knockouts and too many titles to count.
It wouldn’t have happened without Winkeljohn, but the longtime Albuquerque combat-sports trainer said in a phone interview he was just fortunate she walked into his gym as a 16-year-old.
“That’s the way I look at it,” he said. “She is, I think, the most accomplished boxer of all time. I think (current champion and Jackson-Wink teammate) Claressa Shields is there now, but Holly, (a world champion in) three different weight divisions … I don’t even know how many (title) belts she had, but she won them all.”
Two fights in particular, Winkeljohn said, define Holm as a boxer: Her September 2005 victory over women’s boxing legend Christy Martin and her June 2012 win over France’s Anne Sophie Mathis, who’d knocked Holm out in their first bout.
In the Martin fight, she said, Holm displayed the understanding of footwork and punching angles that made her a champion.
“She schooled her,” Winkeljohn said. “… That’s what it was all about; understanding those angles and staying calm under fire. Much more than the physical, it’s the mental (edge) that she has. The drive and the dedication to understand the game and the strategies involved.”
In December 2011, Holm was brutally KO’d by Mathis – arguably the most powerful puncher in women’s boxing history. Six months later, Holm thoroughly outboxed Mathis to reclaim the IBF women’s welterweight belt she’d lost.
“Incredible,” Winkeljohn said. “The majority of her family and friends wanted her to retire (after the first Mathis fight). Wow, look what she did since.
“That tells you that anybody can turn things around if they have the want and the perseverance to do so.”
In 2004, Holm entered into a promotional agreement with Albuquerque’s Lenny Fresquez. Irony of ironies, she lost her first fight – by TKO due to an eye injury – under Fresquez’s guidance.
She then proceeded to go 24-0-1 before the first Mathis fight as Fresquez, staging dozens of events with Holm in the main event, helped make her one of Albuquerque’s most popular athletes and most recognizable celebrities.
“Long overdue,” Fresquez said of Tuesday’s announcement. “It’s just been a terrific ride, and this is caps it off. … She’s the most decorated female boxer ever.”
Holm, who’d trained in an MMA gym throughout her boxing career, made her MMA debut in March 2011. After defeating Mary McGee in May 2013 for two versions of the 140-pound world boxing title, she opted to focus exclusively on MMA.
In November 2015, in one of the UFC’s most spectacular upsets, she defeated Ronda Rousey for that organization’s bantamweight title. Though she lost the belt to Miesha Tate in her first defense, she remains a top contender – the No. 2 challenger – in the UFC’s 135-pound weight class.
Holm (14-5) had meniscus surgery Monday, Fresquez said, and should be able to return to the Octagon in late March-early April. The UFC, incidentally, also sponsors a Hall of Fame.
Holm joins fellow Albuquerqueans Bob Foster and Johnny Tapia in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Foster, a longtime light heavyweight world champion, was inducted in 1990. Tapia, a five-time world champion, entered the hall in 2017.
Both men are deceased.