Christmas will come early for fans of women’s boxing with a plethora of bouts on the calendar. Current pound-for-pound candidates Katie Taylor, Amanda Serrano, and Seniesa Estrada will all climb between the ropes in the month of December, and we will become reacquainted with familiar faces we have not seen for some time like Raquel Miller and Christina Hammer. Additionally, several fistic hopefuls will get the chance to introduce themselves to the professional fight game when they make their paid debut over the course of the next few weeks.
Of course, the Grinch couldn’t help but sneak in to steal some already wrapped goodies from us, specifically fights featuring Claressa Shields, Savannah Marshall, Jessica McCaskill, and potentially Layla McCarter. Updates on those developments are to follow below. Find the best place to bet the fights right here!
Undefeated middleweight Raquel Miller (10-0, 4 KOs) returns to action on December 2, after a two-year layoff, to face Alabama’s Sonya Dreiling at The Hangar in Costa Mesa. After winning her first four pro bouts, Dreiling is coming off a six-round shutout loss to Logan Holler a little more than twelve months ago. During her brief amateur career, Dreiling captured the 2015 National Golden Gloves title.
Miller is chasing an opportunity to face Claressa Shields, boasting to the undisputed champion that she “will humbly whoop yo’ ass.” But is Raquel’s confidence misplaced? It bears pointing out that Shields got the better of her in four amateur encounters—the 2014 and 2015 USA National Championships, the 2014 Ringside National Championships final, and the 2016 Olympic Trials semi-final.
Former WBC/WBO world middleweight champion Christina Hammer (26-1-0, 12 KOs) will resurface for a questionable eight-round contest against significantly inexperienced opposition. A 31-year-old Brazilian southpaw, Daniele Bastieri has a mere four fights to her credit at the professional level, with three victories and a 2019 technical knockout at the hands of Savannah Marshall who was just 6-0 at the time and had also beaten Bastieri in the amateurs six years prior. Otherwise, two of her vanquished foes were debuting as pros and Leticia de Souza Almeida, who Bastieri knocked out in the first round, had only one previous fight to her credit. This was also a stoppage loss and Almeida has not fought again.
Since being relieved of her world championship belts in a lopsided 2019 unification bout with Claressa Shields, Hammer notched a pair of victories in 2020 and won the WIBF super-middleweight title in the process. She also made a controversial—and, it would turn out, ill-advised—return to the amateur ranks in the hopes of representing Germany at the postponed Tokyo games. Losses to Nouchka Fontijn of the Netherlands at the Cologne World Cup and Sweden’s Love Holgersson in the European Olympic qualifiers sealed her fate, not to mention made her fodder for ridicule.
A certain win over a woefully underqualified challenger, with all due respect to Bastieri, does nothing to raise the potential hall of famer’s present marquee value and only detracts from Hammer’s legacy.
Though I’m at a loss to explain how a winless fighter gets to challenge for a championship (even a regional belt), the vacant Australia light-flyweight title will be squabbled over Down Under when unbeaten Sarah Higginson (3-0-1, 1 KO) takes on 0-1 Bec Moss in Northbridge. For Higginson, this puts the wraps on a busy 2021. She only debuted back in February, and put that stalemate in the rearview with a three-fight win streak.
One blemish aside (a draw with Monica Cruz back in April), Luciana Asciano has had a nearly flawless 2021, going 2-0-1 thus far, even if both victories occurred against the same opponent—Azucena Zuniga. Nevertheless, Asciano hopes to initiate a multi-fight win-streak by having her hand raised by the referee instead of her December 3 adversary, Everlides Altimar, at the Los Andes Mall in Panama City. A six-year pro, Altimar’s win/loss percentage is currently below .500 (3-4, with two of those losses coming before the final bell) and is coming off a fifth-round knockout against Johana Zuniga just four months ago. In an interesting postscript, Zuniga herself was just dropped three times before being ultimately stopped by Yesica Bopp in late October.
A Tanzanian fight card showcases an eight-round women’s bout pitting Halima Vunjabel (10-7-1, 6 KOs) against Lulu Kayage (7-6-3, 2 KOs) at Kinesi Grounds in Dar-Es-Salaam. A former regional flyweight titlist, Kayage will be looking to halt a three-fight winless skid, with her last victory coming in 2017. Meanwhile, Vunjabel, a two-time world title challenger (losing to WBF light-flyweight champion Anne Sophie Da Costa in 2018, and to Zulfa Macho for the vacant UBO super-flyweight belt), is fresh off a September 24 stoppage victory over Nozwelethu Mathontsi.
Hailing from Chadwell Heath, Essex in the UK, two-time Winter Box Cup winner (2018 and 2019) Nina Hughes takes her first bow on boxing’s grand stage at York Hall in Bethnal Green against a yet-to-be-determined opponent.
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Undisputed welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill just recently inked a multi-fight deal with Matchroom Boxing, the first of which will be the second defense of her crown against Victoria Bustos at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas as part of the Devin Haney/Joseph Diaz card. McCaskill has been inactive since March when she turned away the challenge of former longtime champion Cecilia Braekhus, from whom she wrested the titles in August 2020. Her attempts to secure a legacy-making rematch with Katie Taylor went for naught when the ‘Bray Bomber’ instead made a mandatory defense against Jennifer Han in early September.
A 32-year-old Argentine, Bustos (22-6, 0 KOs) is one full decade into her boxing career and is a former two-time IBF world lightweight champion, ultimately losing the belt to Katie Taylor in a 2018 unification fight at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. She first won the championship in 2013 with a closely-contested unanimous decision over Ana Laura Esteche, and reclaimed it four years later after vacating the belt to launch an unsuccessful bid for Erica Anabella Farias’ WBC super-lightweight title in the meantime.
This will be the second opportunity for Bustos to take the undisputed welterweight title, having been the last challenger Cecilia Braekhus defeated during her reign before losing to Jessica McCaskill nine months later. She is currently riding a three-fight win streak, albeit her last two victories have been majority decision wins against unspectacular opposition the likes of Maria Soledad Capriolo (7-12-4) and Yamila Esther Reynoso (11-8-3).
Update: For unspecified reasons, Bustos withdrew from the fight over Thanksgiving weekend. In a scramble to find a last-minute replacement opponent for McCaskill, Eddie Hearn contacted living legend Layla McCarter who readily agreed to take the challenge on short notice. Matchroom evidently failed to produce a contract for McCarter’s signature in the agreed-upon time frame, and McCaskill’s title defense has now been scrapped altogether.
Elina ‘The Machine’ Tissen (24-2, 6 KOs), who has held eight different world titles in three weight classes—though none from the four officially recognized alphabet sanctioning bodies—defends her WBF featherweight belt in her hometown of Warendorf, Germany against Eftychia Kathopouli (4-2), a Scottish lass with Greek blood flowing through her veins. A fifteen-year veteran, the Russian-born Tissen’s more impressive victories have come over Fatuma Zarika and Nina Meinke.
Previously undefeated Kylie Fulmer (7-1, 6 KOs) suffered her first professional loss in August 2020 when she fell victim to a technical knockout dealt to her by Shannon O’Connell in a bid for the vacant Australian super-bantamweight title. On December 4 at Fortitude Music Hall, the heavy-handed Robertson steps slightly down the scale for a go at the bantamweight version of the Australian championship. That title is currently worn around the waist of Taylah Robertson (3-1, 1 KO), who took possession of the unclaimed strap this past June with a win over novice Callie Ryan. Like Fulmer, Ryan’s lone defeat can be attributed to Shannon O’Connell, who toughed out a split decision over Callie back in October with O’Connell’s Commonwealth British Empire bantamweight title on the line.
A mere 21 km away in Eaton’s Hill, Nicila Costello hopes to win her third fight of 2021—and her entire career, as far as that goes—by spoiling the pro debut of Jasmin Parr. The vacant Australian super-flyweight title will be awarded to the winner.
Duluth-based middleweight prospect Amy Lemenegar (2-0, 1 KO) looks to keep her perfect pro record intact at Canterbury Park, in nearby Shakopee, Minnesota when she squares off against Kaitlin Lavigne, a 2019 National Golden Gloves semi-finalist who has tasted both victory and defeat in her two paid outings.
Andrea Wright, a featherweight fighting out of Cheyenne, Wyoming will have the hometown advantage at the Blue Credit Union Community Center when she takes on Alicia Culbertson, who makes her pro debut. In her two prior professional bouts, Wright is 1-1 with her win and loss both occurring by way of knockout. Culbertson’s one pervious dalliance with combat sports saw her score a second-round TKO over Sonya Sandoval in a 2018 bareknuckle boxing match.
Fresh off of her win at the 2021 National Golden Gloves in August, Fort Worth resident Alexis Araiza Mones enters the professional ranks in neighboring Dallas, Texas against Macy Breaux, who will likewise make her pro debut in this four-rounder at the Bomb Factory.
Linn Sandstrom, a flyweight fighting out of Waterloo, Australia by way of Vaxjo, Sweden, has a win, loss, and draw in three professional bouts to this point. She hopes to right the ship with a victory over winless Natalie Hills (0-1) at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre.
A pair of Ghanian featherweights go toe to toe at the Golden Beach Resort in Accra as Abigail Quartey looks to improve to 2-0 against Geraldine Larley Lartey, who suffered a first-round TKO at the hands of Blessing Bukola in her pro debut on October 22, which is a very suspect turnaround time for a knockout victim. Quartey raised the curtain on her pro career on the same card, forcing Raheal Tagoe to quit on her stool after just two rounds.
Alexis Martinez (0-3) and Dialika Perkins (0-1) are atomweight fighters searching for their first win opposite one another. A significant age gap is this fight’s other major bullet point, with 40-year-old Perkins being fourteen years Martinez’s senior. The Civic Center in Glendale, Arizona plays host to this dubious bout.
Echo Arena in Liverpool will be the site of Katie Taylor’s fifth defense of her undisputed world lightweight title, all five belts on the line against WBA mandatory challenger, Firuza Sharipova. As an amateur, Sharipova won back-to-back Kazakh National Championships in 2012 and 2013, and advanced at least as far as the quarterfinals every year thereafter until 2016 when she set her sights on the professional fight game.
She was shut out in her first bout by Sofya Ochigava of Russia, who was similarly making her pro debut after a stellar amateur career that saw her repeat as a gold medalist at the World Championships in 2005 and 2006 and take home the silver medal at the 2012 Olympics after losing in the final round to Katie Taylor. Ochigava did best Taylor on one occasion, at the 2010 Grand Prix quarterfinals, and defeated luminaries such as Chantelle Cameron, Natasha Jonas, Mikaela Mayer, and Nicola Adams to name a few.
The point being, it was no shame for Sharipova to lose to Ochigava, and she went on to win her next fourteen fights with eight of those victories coming inside the distance. It should be taken into consideration, however, that six of her vanquished foes have been novice boxers and only four boasted winning records, which makes her status as the WBA’s top-ranked lightweight challenger something of a head-scratcher.
After facing Jennifer Han, another questionable mandatory challenger, back in September, fans were hopeful that Katie’s next opponent would be far more worthy of the opportunity, but it was not to be this time, unfortunately. From the looks of things, though, Amanda Serrano is lurking right around the corner for a feverishly anticipated showdown with Taylor. More on that a little later.
Speaking of undisputed champions, Claressa Shields makes her UK debut at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales the same evening, defending her collection of middleweight belts against her stiffest test to date in the power-punching Slovenian southpaw, Ema Kozin. Undefeated in 22 fights (with one draw) since making her first appearance five years ago, 11 of Kozin’s 21 wins have come by way of knockout. The 22-year-old slugger loves to bang to the body and has ended some of her opponents’ evenings in this fashion.
Unlike Shields, Kozin’s resume may not include many household names, but she has scrapped with the likes of Eva Bajic (on two occasions), Maria Lindberg, and Chris Namus, picking up a slew of secondary world title belts at middleweight and super-middleweight along the way. Her win over Chris Namus last October earned Ema the interim WBC middleweight title, propelling her to the status as their number one contender to Claressa Shields.
What Claressa lacks in power, she makes up for with hand speed, head movement, punch selection, and ring IQ. These variables give this matchup a definite air of intrigue. Under the tutelage of her new coach, John David Jackson, Shields exhibited a patience and poise in her last boxing match against Marie Eve Dicaire that was missing from her more undisciplined, roughhouse approach early in her transition from the amateurs to professional prizefighting. This suited her very well against a timid Dicaire, but it will be quite interesting to see how long it will take for Kozin’s ruthless aggression to bring out the warrior instincts from inside of Shileds.
Claressa was last inside a boxing ring back in March, headlining her own ‘Superwomen’ PPV card, spending the interim inside the caged octagon where she staged a come from behind win in her June debut but was defeated for the first time as a professional athlete by Abigail Montes in October.
Shields’ rival, Savannah Marshall, was also slated to appear on this bill to serve as a prelude to what will hopefully be a 2022 clash of the two middleweight titans. Unfortunately, Marshall was forced to withdraw after injuring her hand in the process of stopping Lolita Muzeya on October 16. She has since confirmed that her hand was not broken, just badly bruised but in need of time to heal, and that she will be ready for a February return.
Update: It was announced over the Thanksgiving holiday that the card has been rescheduled for January 29 due to a shoulder injury suffered by Liam Williams, who is to face off against Chris Eubank Jr. in the main event. Shields and Kozin will still co-headline the postponed event, but it’s unlikely that Savannah Marshall will be ready in time.
British super-lightweight Nicola Barke, with just a five-week turnaround since winning her pro debut, will appear on a card at Purfleet’s Circus Tavern to face an opponent to be named later. She pitched a shutout against 4-5 Tereza Dvorakova on November 6.
Brooklyn native and 2019 New York Golden Gloves finalist Melody Propavak competes in her third pro bout in less than six months at the Buckhead Fight Club in Atlanta against an as-yet unknown adversary. In her pro debut, the 36-year-old middleweight became the latest of six fighters to knock out the winless Nina Gallegos (0-8), but dropped a split decision to Kaitlin Lavigne in September.
Lightweight prospects Melissa Holguin and Maria Garcia, both fighting out of Texas—San Antonio and Dallas, respectively—will compete in a four-rounder in Holguin’s hometown. This will be the pro debut for each fighter.
Continuing with the theme of emerging rookies, Aussie featherweights Skye Falzon and Sarah Watt go head to head at the Bankstown City Paceway. Despite the fact that both women are competing in their first professional fight, this has somehow been sanctioned as a championship bout with the Australian-New South Wales title up for grabs.
Yet another pro debut will occur, as Suzana Rodriguez Griffin squares off against an opponent to be announced in her hometown of Indianapolis.
Her opponent not yet known, Paige Murney, fighting out of Leicester, England, competes in her professional curtain raiser. As an amateur, Murney fought her way to the finals of the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2019 Cologne Boxing World Cup.
A pair of female world championship bouts will be the chief support to Artur Beterbiev, who defends his WBC and IBF light-heavyweight titles against Marcus Browne in the main event at Montreal’s Bell Centre.
Marie Eve Dicaire attempts to reclaim the IBF super-welterweight crown she surrendered to Claressa Shields this past March by taking on unbeaten Mexican slugger Cynthia Lozano, who is competing in her first world title fight. The 35-year-old Lozano has dispatched seven of nine opponents before the final bell, the last being Jeanette Zacarias Zapata, who would tragically lose her life less than four months later. We will return to that topic momentarily. After unifying all of the belts at 154 pounds against Dicaire, Shields soon after vacated the titles to focus her attention on the middleweight division, not to mention a foray into mixed martial arts.
Meanwhile, Yesenia Gomez (19-5-3, 6 KOs) will put her WBC light-flyweight championship on the line against Kim Clavel, who earned the right to this world title opportunity by outpointing Maria Soledad Vargas back in August for the silver version. Gomez took the WBC belt away from Esmerelda Moreno in their September 2018 rematch, having first fought Moreno to a draw four months prior.
Matchmaker Vincent Morin and promoter Yvon Michel (sharing duties with Bob Arum for this Top Rank spectacle) continue their recent trend of pitting Canadian and Mexican women opposite one another on their fight cards, a curious practice which came under heavy scrutiny following the death of Jeanette Zacarias Zapata which resulted from brain injuries sustained in her August 28 knockout loss to Marie Pier Houle.
Twenty three-year-old bantamweight Katie Healy, hailing from Wolverhampton, England, continues her young crusade as a professional prizefighter with a bout in Birmingham, the details of which are still being finalized. Healy’s first two fights took place in Sheffield, four-round shutouts against Claudia Ferenczi and Karina Kopinska this past May and August, respectively.
Unified WBC/WBO/IBO world champion Amanda Serrano has been attempting in earnest to consolidate the featherweight titles, but has been getting no cooperation from the other two belt holders. Since upsetting Jelena Mrdjenovich for the WBA belt back in April, Erika Cruz Hernandez has been circumventing a unification with the heavy-hitting Serrano, opting instead to make her first title defense against Melissa Esquivel. IBF titleholder Sarah Mahfoud, meanwhile, has for some inexplicable reason, been allowed to retain possession of her belt despite not having defended it since being elevated from interim titleholder to world champion in July of last year. It was just recently announced that she will face Nina Meinke in January, after nearly two years of inactivity.
Being strategically avoided at all costs at 126 pounds, Serrano seized the opportunity to tune up for what the rumor and innuendo insist will be the long-awaited super-fight opposite Katie Taylor that will hopefully happen as soon as next April. Amanda set her sights on the rugged Miriam Gutierrez who, as Taylor’s WBA mandatory challenger, went down to defeat for the first time in her pro career last November in a bid for the undisputed lightweight crown. Gutierrez touched the canvas in the fourth round, but survived to the final bell. With her 70% KO ratio, Serrano will do everything in her power to disallow Gutierrez the privilege of finishing the fight on her feet, sending a warning signal to Taylor in the process.
After sitting out almost a full year, Gutierrez resurfaced in early November to take a low-risk six-round decision from winless Aleksandra Ivanovic. A seven-division world champion, Serrano has habitually jumped up and down the scales throughout her career, campaigning at 135 pounds as recently as January 2020. She was a short-term claimant to the WBO world lightweight title after knocking out former champion Maria Elena Maderna in 2014. Speaking of the WBO, upon learning of Serrano’s move to the lightweight division, they recently sent her a letter seeking clarification on her intentions with regard to defending her featherweight title, going so far as to issue an ultimatum to the champion to either commit or relinquish her belt.
Serrano’s bout with Miriam Gutierrez takes place at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida as the PPV co-main event.
I don’t know that there is a current fighter as much fun to watch, male or female, as Seniesa ‘Superbad’ Estrada. A gifted boxer in every respect, she seems to be the total package. Highly skilled, entertaining, personable, wired with manic energy inside the ring, humble outside the ropes, and doesn’t shy away from a rumble.
Estrada winds down a very successful year, in which she has flourished from promising top-rated contender to two-division world champion, by defending her WBA minimumweight championship against Maria Santizo at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. This is the first defense of her minimumweight title, having taken it from longtime champion Anabel Ortiz on March 20. With no takers to unify at 105 pounds, Seniesa moved up three months later to relieve Tenkai Tsunami of her WBO world light-flyweight title.
Her challenger, 36-year-old Maria Santizo, fights out of Guatemala City and is thus far a flawless 9-0 in her professional career, with five of those wins occurring by way of knockout. With only three of her previous opponents boasting winning records, it goes without saying that Santizo has yet to engage a fighter the likes of Estrada and must be at the absolute top of her game to prove that she can measure up.
Following a bout with Olivia Gerula back in May that ended fortuitously and an appearance on American Ninja Warriors the following month that didn’t turn out quite as well, New York’s own Melissa St. Vil (14-4-4) returns to action at the Newburgh Armory in a six-rounder against a yet-to-be-named opponent. Having held secondary world titles at super-featherweight and welterweight, Brooklyn’s St. Vil dropped a majority decision to WBC super-featherweight champion Eva Wahlstrom in 2018 and was stopped by Delfine Persoon in a bid for her WBC lightweight belt the year after.
Nisa Rodriguez, a 2017 National Golden Gloves winner representing the Bronx, makes her professional debut on the same card.
As if the super-lightweight division isn’t already talent-laden enough, Matchroom’s highly-touted prospect Sandy Ryan is in the early stages of climbing her way to the top of the 140-pound heap. Competing in her third pro bout in less than five months at the Manchester Arena on the Joseph Parker vs. Dereck Chisora undercard, the former amateur standout hopes to retain her perfect record against an opponent to be named later.
Earlier that same evening, unbeaten lightweight Rhiannon Dixon (3-0, 0 KOs) sees action. Her foe has likewise yet to be determined.
As they say, someone’s O has got to go, and so it will be at the Gimnasio de Mexicali which hosts a showdown between a pair of young unbeaten middleweights when Citlalli ‘Bellatrix’ Ortiz (2-0, 1 KO) goes to battle with Diana Carolina Tapia (3-0, 2 KOs). Ortiz, a decorated amateur, won her pro debut on March 6 by scoring a dramatic TKO over fellow novice Citlali Garcia Cervantes in the fourth and final round, following up that performance with a six-round shutout of Vanessa Rodriguez Ochoa in Tijuana. Tapia, meanwhile, will have to shake off twenty-one months of ring rust, her last bout occurring in March 2020.
Three-time National Golden Gloves finalist Olivia Curry rebounds from her first professional loss in September by taking a confidence-building four-rounder opposite Nina Gallegos, who has been stopped six times in eight winless outings. Having won her first two, this will be Curry’s fourth fight of 2021.
The vacant South American flyweight title will be awarded to the winner of a ten-round rematch between Argentinian adversaries Ayelen Micaela Alejandra Granadino (6-1-4) and southpaw Debora Vanesa Gomez (7-6-2). The two scrapped their way to a split draw on October 23.
Philippine southpaw Norj Guro and British boxer/Muay Thai fighter Denise Castle squabble over proprietorship of the WBC silver atomweight title in Bangkok. Seeing as though knockouts account for four of Guro’s eleven wins whereas she has been stopped three times in eleven losses, and Castle’s record reflects similarly uneven results—three stoppages in as many victories and one of her two defeats coming inside the distance—it seems a logical conclusion that all ten rounds will not be required to determine a winner.
44-year-old Italian featherweight Angela Cannizzaro (6-12-1) will look to halt an eight-fight losing streak against a yet-unknown opponent. Among the notables Cannizzaro has stepped into the ring with throughout her on-again/off-again seventeen-year career are Frida Wallberg, Katharina Thanderz, Sofya Ochigava, Nina Meinke, and Katie Taylor’s upcoming challenger, Firuza Sharipova.
Since making her pro debut last September, 36-year-old super-flyweight Ashley Sciscente has racked up four victories against no defeats, the first and last of which came by way of knockout. She squares off in a six-rounder against an opponent to be announced in Rock Hill, North Carolina.
Last but not least, undefeated Austrian lightweight Sara Bellotti (4-0, 3 KOs) travels to Lagos, Nigeria to compete in a four-round bout with an undetermined opponent. She last fought on September 25, scoring a knockout over winless Kalina Nikolova (0-2) in the last of four rounds.
Some tweaks to the schedule notwithstanding, hopefully there will still be a little something under the tree for every discerning fight fan at Christmastime. Consider these stocking stuffers if you will, with the promise of bigger and better gifts to be unwrapped in the New Year. The best is yet to come in 2022 and the fireworks display promises to be nothing short of dazzling.
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