Best of the Best in Female Prizefighting for 2017
By Prizefighters staff
Undoubtedly the year 2017 has been the best year ever for female prizefighting. It also brought forth a number of memorable moments.
It began in early January when Showtime Boxing televised a female boxing match between Puerto Rico’s Amanda Serrano and Mexico’s Yazmin Rivas and continued on with televising Olympian Claressa Shields. America was finally open to female boxing.
Around the world female prizefighting has moved into another plateau and seems to be gaining solid traction in the USA.
It’s about time.
Fighter of the Year
With so many great moments taking place in 2017 it was very difficult to pick this year’s Fighter of the Year. Two women from different parts of the world managed to win five world titles in five weight divisions. First it was Puerto Rico’s Amanda Serrano, then, just recently, it was Japan’s Naoko Fujioka accomplishing the same feat.
Other candidates for Fighter of the Year were Olympians Claressa Shields and Katie Taylor who both dived into the pro fight world and captured world titles in the span of a year. They both accomplished something not easy to do.
But two veteran pro world champions boldly stood out for not only victories inside the boxing ring, but for breaking down barriers. It was a very close race for Fighter of the Year and it came down to Cecilia Braekhus and Mariana Juarez.
Braekhus not only unified the welterweight division, but busted down barriers in her country Norway that had made pro boxing illegal. After 30 years Norway finally allowed boxing back within its borders thanks largely to Braekhus.
The other finalist and winner is Mexico’s Mariana “Barby” Juarez. Last April, the underdog Juarez captured the WBC bantamweight world title to grab a third world title in a third weight division. Not only that, she drew more than 400,000 fans to watch her fight against Catherine Phiri at the Zocalo in Mexico City. No fighter male or female has ever done that in the history of the sport. Attendance was free but I dare any promoter to try enticing half a million fans to a free boxing match and see how many people they can draw.
Juarez, 37, has endured a long journey in the sport. Years ago, in the early 2000s, female boxing was illegal in Mexico so she fought in underground fights. She then moved to the U.S. and fought legally in California for several years before returning to Mexico. After more than two decades Juarez keeps re-inventing herself and the world still remains glued at her accomplishments. Female boxing has exploded in Mexico largely because of Juarez.
Mariana Juarez is the Fighter of the Year for 2017.
Best Fight of the Year
Mayerlin Rivas vs. Dayana Cordero
Venezuela’s Rivas retained the WBA bantamweight world title after a volatile 10 round majority draw against Panama’s Cordero on Nov. 1. The world title fight took place in Medellin, Colombia where the WBA Convention was being held. It proved to delight the crowd that had gathered for the convention. This is the Fight of the Year.
Naoko Fujioka vs. Yokasta Valle – The battle for the vacant WBO light flyweight title saw Japan’s Fujioka and Costa Rica’s Valle in a fierce firefight that was action-packed throughout the entire 10 rounds in Tokyo. Both fighters refused to back down with Fujioka winning her fifth world title in a fifth weight division.
Amanda Serrano vs. Yazmin Rivas – It opened up the year and both Puerto Rico’s Serrano and Mexico’s Rivas showed off their fighting skills. Serrano emerged the winner in this slugfest that was the first time a female bout had been shown on Showtime in nine years. It was the fight that opened the door for female boxing on television.
Katie Taylor vs Jessica McCaskill – it was the first defense of the WBA lightweight title for Taylor and she was tested by Chicago’s hard-hitting McCaskill who nearly dropped the Irish fighter in the sixth round. It was Taylor’s first true test and introduced McCaskill to the fight world as one to pay attention in 2018.
Knockout of the Year
Helen Joseph KO2 Shannon O’Connell
It took place in late July in Australia. O’Connell, a former world champion, had recently battled Marcela Acuna in Argentina for 10 rounds. Last year Acuna was involved in the KO of the Year but against O’Connell was unable to dent the tough Aussie fighter. But when Joseph and O’Connell exchanged big blows it was a left hook by Joseph that ended the fight with one punch in the second round. It was definitely the knockout of the year.
Amanda Serrano KO1 Marylyn Hernandez
Once again Serrano simply beat down another opponent. Two knockdowns in one round ended the fight as Hernandez took a pummeling and that was that. The Serrano killing machine could not be stopped.
Kenia Enriquez KO3 Maria Salinas
In a light flyweight battle Enriquez unleashed a left hook to the body of Salinas that sounded like she used a baseball bat. That one punch body shot ended the fight emphatically. Enriquez could be the hardest hitting woman below 112 pounds.
Most courageous fighters
It was a tie between America’s Jessica McCaskill and Costa Rica’s Yokasta Valle. In this age of boxers protecting their undefeated records these two female fighters ignored the dangers and jumped toward great challenges.
Despite having an undefeated record and a world title as a strawweight, Costa Rica’s Valle willingly accepted a challenge to face Japan’s Naoko Fujioka the possessor of four world titles in four weight divisions. Valle, 26, not only accepted the fight for the light flyweight world title but unflinchingly traveled to Tokyo to face Fujioka in her home base. Valle showed great courage and faith in her own abilities in a fierce challenge.
McCaskill, 33, with only six pro bouts and less than three dozen amateur fights in her background, dared challenge Ireland’s mighty Katie Taylor. Not only did McCaskill chase the world champion she was looking to stop her by knockout in each and every round. The Chicago fighter is a natural born killer with power in both fists. She just knows how to fight and accepts all challenges.
Most Exciting Fighter
Amanda Serrano wins emphatically. With 100 percent belief in her power and skills the Puerto Rican boxer won five world titles in five weight divisions. Almost all of her wins come by knockout. Every fight she accepts is worth watching. Hopefully MMA doesn’t steal her away permanently.
The Olympians Claressa Shields, Katie Taylor and Mikaela Mayer. All three rejuvenated the female boxing world. Their best is yet to come.
Upset of the Year
Alondra Garcia defeated Naoko Shibata to win the IBF light flyweight world title by decision last March. Garcia, 22, dropped down from bantamweight and shook up the world by defeating Shibata who had held the title for four years.
Maria Roman topples Carolina Duer to win the IBF bantamweight world title last August. Both female boxers fight out of Argentina but Duer had not lost a fight in nine years.
Guadalupe Martinez Guzman defeats Zulina Munoz to grab the WBC super flyweight world title by decision last May in Cancun, Mexico. Munoz had not lost a fight in 10 years and had made 10 consecutive title defenses until snapped by Martinez.
Mikaela Mayer, Lorraine Villalobos
Both are from California and both had amateur careers. Mayer made a crashing debut when she appeared this past summer and won her first two pro fights by knockout. She finished the year with another win and has everything going for her. An extremely talented ex-Olympian fighting in the super featherweight class.
Villalobos, a strawweight, made her debut this past July and fought a veteran from Mexico Elvia Castillo at a heavier weight division. In her pro debut she impressed with her speed and superior boxing skills in winning easily.
Both fight out of California.
That’s it for the year 2017. This has been the best year for female boxing that anyone can remember. Expect even bigger things in 2018.