2018 Wish List Part I
By Felipe Leon
There is no doubt that the last 12 months have been the best in quite a while for female boxing. From Amanda Serrano’s dominating performance against Mexican Yazmin “Rusita” Rivas opening up the year 2017 to Katie Taylor’s first defense of her newly captured WBA lightweight title to close it down and everything in between, female boxing hasn’t enjoyed this much attention in quite some time.
For the sport to get to the level it needs to be, at least in the United States, the momentum needs to keep going with captivating fights made in hopes they get broadcast on some kind of platform.
The following is a wish list for the next 12 months with the best fights to be made in each division, not necessarily only in the United States but all over the world.
Alejandra Jimenez (10-0, 8KO) vs Sonya Lamonakis (10-2-3, 1KO) – There are slim pickings in the less inhabited weight class in female boxing with only one world champion in Jimenez. After a two-year hiatus Lamonakis is back and Jimenez needs to get past her if she wants to cement herself in the division. Jimenez already knocked out the second best heavyweight in the world according to BoxRec.com in Carlette Ewell back in April, but she needs to get her fists on Lamonakis quick since at 43 years old who knows how much longer she has left inside a ring.
Honorable mention – This might be big time wishful thinking but since there is no light heavyweight or cruiserweight division to speak of in female boxing, anything over 168 pounds can be considered heavyweight so why not dream of Claressa Shields going up and challenging for the heavyweight title a la Roy Jones Jr? She doesn’t have to hit anywhere near 200 pounds, just one or two over the 168-pound limit she campaigns in now. What Shields gives up in height and weight, she makes up in skill and confidence against Jimenez.
Claressa Shields (4-0, 2KO) vs Tori Nelson (17-0-3, 2KO) – There is no other name in the division but Shields who has taken female boxing by storm in 2017. She easily beat the only other champion in the division Nikki Adler and took her out of commission earlier this year by TKO. In Nelson, Shields will be facing the second best 168-pounder out here. The good thing about the matchup is that the fight is actually happening on January 12th on Showtime.
Honorable mention – Maricela Cornejo of Los Angeles, CA, is the third best super middleweight out there and along with Shields and Nelson, one of three based in the U.S. in the top 20. She just signed with Golden Boy Promotions, she has a huge following on social media, she is outspoken and charismatic. She needs to fight in the U.S. against anybody instead of deep in some undercard in Cancun, Mexico.
Claressa Shields (4-0, 2KO) vs Christina Hammer (22-0, 10KO) – When you talk about the heavier divisions in female boxing, Shields has to be predominant in the conversation. The only American to score two gold medals in the Olympics, Shields could very well be the first legitimate American female boxing superstar. To achieve that, she needs to win and win big.
You can’t get a bigger win in the 160-pound division than the undefeated Christina Hammer. Shields’ handlers are well aware of that and have made the deal for Hammer to make her U.S. debut on the undercard of Shields’ next fight. Originally from Kazakhstan, Hammer, who now fights out of Germany, is the unified WBC and WBO champion. Looks like this fight should be a given towards the end of 2018.
Honorable mention – Would like to see any of the other American fighters in the weight class mix it up to develop a future opponent for the winner of Shields vs Hammer. Raquel Miller out of the Bay Area and Alicia Napoleon of New York is a good start.
Hanna Gabriels (18-1-1, 11KO) vs Chris Namus (24-4, 8KO) – The first division to take us out of the U.S., still one with interesting match ups. The women are big enough to score big punches but small enough to be quick to score them. Gabriels is a superstar in her native Costa Rica and with both the WBO and WBA titles around her waist; she can be considered the best in the division. I would like to see her unify with Namus of Uruguay, with the winner a big enough name to perhaps entice the welterweight queen to move up.
Honorable mention – Cecilia Braekhus is considered by many the best female fighter in the world, holder of all the titles in the welterweight division for years. If she were to move up, there is no other choice but Gabriels.
Cecilia Braekhus (32-0, 9KO) vs Layla McCarter (39-13-5, 10KO) – If Braekhus wants to continue to be the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO undisputed world champion and the pound for pound queen, she has to fight Layla McCarter. McCarter recently was named the #1 contender by the IBF but beyond that, she has been calling out Braekhus for years. Her record might not show it but if Braekhus is #1, McCarter is #2 if not vice versa in the eyes of many. Recently Braekhus visited the U.S. to begin talks for a fight in the United States, something she has stated must happen in 2018.
Ana Laura Esteche (13-4-3, 2KO) vs Erica Anabella Farias (24-2, 10KO) – Esteche out of Argentina holds three out of the four world titles, the IBF, WBO and WBA, while Farias holds the WBC title. The winner will be only the second fighter to hold all four titles in a division making her one of the best fighters in the world. That has to be incentive enough.
Katie Taylor (8-0, 4KO) vs Mikaela Mayer (3-0, 2KO) – Earlier this year Ireland’s Taylor captured her first world title with a unanimous decision over Argentinean Anahi Esther Sanchez. 47 days later she defended it for the first time over American Jessica McCaskill with a hard fought unanimous decision. Fighting under the banner of Matchroom Boxing, most of her fights have been broadcast in the U.S. in some form or another. She won’t be the crossover star her promoter is building her up to be until she faces Los Angeles’ Mikaela Mayer. Despite Mayer lacking the experience Taylor has in the pros, she is steadily improving. Hope this happens in late 2018.
Honorable mention – If we can’t get Taylor vs Mayer in the U.S. then we should get Taylor vs Delfine Persoon, the WBC 135 pound champion. Persoon, out of Belgium, is on the comeback trail after a hand injury scare. The bout should be a huge fight in Europe with the winner cementing her position as the best 135 pounder and top five in the world.
Shelly Vincent (21-1, 1KO) vs Maiva Hamadouche (17-1, 14KO) – This fight is just for the pleasure of it. Vincent is known as a tough no holds barred fighter and Hamadouche is all that and more, relentless. This fight on any U.S. network would cause not only fireworks but an all-out air assault. Vincent has fought as low as super bantamweight but since her hotly contested fight against Heather Hardy last year, she has fought in the super featherweight division winning three straight. Hamadouche is the IBF champion so the incentive for Vincent is there.
Look out for Part II which will concentrate from atomweight to featherweight.