Anything boxing related - just ask Chris
Anything boxing related - just ask Chris
When WBC interim heavyweight titlist Dillian Whyte pulled out of his bout against Otto Wallin ten days from fight night (with either a shoulder injury, or an ulterior motive of bypassing Wallin to get a shot at Tyson Fury instead), this left the fate of the entire event uncertain for a tense day or two. Eddie Hearn decided that the show must go on and elevated the super-lightweight unification fight between WBC champion Chantelle Cameron and IBF belt-holder Mary McGee to the evening’s headliner at London’s O2 Arena.
Matchroom, in tandem with DiBella Promotions, announced the three-fight mini-tournament Hearn titled ‘The Road to Undisputed’ in early September, of which this was the first installment. The other two participants are WBA and IBO titleholder Kali Reis and 8-2 Jessica Camara, who are scheduled for a November 19 showdown in New Hampshire and will additionally be squabbling over proprietorship of the vacant WBO strap.
We now know that the winner of that fight will meet Chantelle Cameron early next year to determine the 140-pound division’s sole champion. Even though she still has Camara to contend with first, Kali Reis has vowed that Cameron is in for a “rude awakening.” But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves, are we not?
Saturday’s Halloween-Eve scrap marked the second defense for both Cameron and McGee. This, however, was McGee’s first post-pandemic fight. The lifelong resident of Gary, Indiana they call ‘Merciless’ has been sidelined since February 2020 when she scored a ninth-round TKO of Deanha Hobbs, her fifteenth stoppage in 27 wins.
McGee won the vacant IBF belt the previous December by putting away Ana Laura Esteche with 30 seconds remaining in the bout. A sixteen-year pro, Mary went unbeaten in her first 18 fights (with one No Contest) until losing a unanimous decision to Brooke Dierdorff in 2010. She lost back-to-back fights in 2013, challenging Holly Holm for her IBA and WBF super-lightweight titles (in the Albuquerque native’s final appearance in a boxing ring), and then-WBC world lightweight champion Erica Anabella Farias.
With each champion sporting impressive knockout ratios (Cameron had the slight edge going in to the weekend, with 57% to McGee’s 48%), expectations were high for a guns-blazing-style shootout. Even among the competitors, both of whom expressed having trained in preparation for all-out war.
A bombastic skirmish was predicted, expected, and delivered by this pair of heavy-handed combatants. Cameron and McGee both bounded out of their corners to meet one another at center ring and initiated the first of countless fierce exchanges almost immediately. Each champion was busy with their left jab, but it was Cameron who landed the first telling strike courtesy of an overhand right with 45 seconds having elapsed. She beckoned her adversary forward, and McGee was happy to comply although she found herself bullied back against the ropes where she absorbed a multi-punch combination of body blows and head shots.
Not from a punch but a push, McGee hit the floor only once in the fight, just as time expired in round one. Engaged in a furious back and forth, Cameron propelled herself off the ring strands and grabbed hold of McGee, tossing Mary to the canvas. Needless to say, McGee was not terribly pleased with these roughhouse tactics, but she managed to retain her composure rather than allowing herself to become overwhelmed by anger.
One of the most impressive things about Cameron, and there are many to choose from, is that her jab is not simply employed as a range-finder or door-opener, but is more often than not thrown with serious intent behind it and can inflict damage on its own. The Brit’s relentlessness caused McGee to fight more flat-footed than she would have undoubtedly cared to do and, when Cameron went into deliberate motion, it made Mary expend precious energy by pursuing her prey whereas Chantelle was better able to cut off the ring and spring a trap for her foe.
Thirty seconds into the fourth round, another spirited burst of action broke out with McGee’s back to the ropes and, although the advantage again went to Cameron in this swapping of leather, McGee was getting in her fair share of shots as evidenced by the swelling and abrasions high up on Chantelle’s forehead and across the bridge of her nose. As admirable as her efforts were, Mary was simply being outworked and overwhelmed by lead lefts, right hooks, and sheer volume of punches.
The pace accelerated once more as the clock wound down on the eighth frame, and fists were flying after the bell until referee Mark Lyson physically intervened. In the bout’s latter rounds, McGee appeared visibly winded and seemed to be forcing her punches which had little left on them by the time it might have mattered most. That said, there is absolutely no questioning her resolve, her chin, or her heart, and she summoned the wherewithal to not only hang in there and survive, but stand toe-to-toe with Cameron in the closing moments and hug it out at the final bell.
Despite looking facially worse for wear, Chantelle Cameron retained her WBC title, claimed Mary McGee’s IBF belt, and became the inaugural Ring magazine champion by wide margins on all three scorecards, with judge Frank Lombardi awarding her a shutout.
Next stop Manchester, New Hampshire on ‘The Road to Undisputed’ where Kali Reis and Jessica Camara fight for the right to battle Cameron for all the belts sometime in the first half of next year. With this to look forward to, in addition to potential mega-bouts between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano as well as Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall, not to mention hopeful confrontations pitting Mikaela Mayer against Terri Harper and Yesica Bopp opposite Seniesa Estrada, there is every reason to believe that 2022 will be a momentous, breakthrough year for women’s boxing.