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LAVONNE LUDIAN IN FEBRUARY OF 1977, SAHARA:  THE FIGHTER DEALS "21" by Jan Allyson Wilson, California Living Asst. Editor, published  February 6, 1977 

Who's the attractive female 21-dealer at the Las Vegas Sahara Hotel - the one with the great figure, the pretty smile, and the black eye?  She's LaVonne Ludian -- a licensed female boxer, who's making a name for herself in the west, and who has her eye (blackened or not) on a possible world welterweight championship.     Less than a year ago, Miss Ludian hadn't even considered such a thing as entering the prize fight ring.   She had been athletic, involved in swimming and track in school, and was a weekend rodeo rider.  But a fighter? -- never!

Then she was watching a Golden Gloves contest in Carson City, featuring the gal who was, at the time, Nevada's only licensed professional female boxer.  Astounded at the idea, Miss Ludian watched the performance, and her astonishment grew as she realized she probably could fight as well as the contenders.   When she voiced that opinion, her friends teased, and dared her to try her hand at the pugilist's art.     "I figured, what the heck, I could do as well as anyone else," recalls the brown-eyed brunette, "and besides, I couldn't turn down a dare."

Fascinated more and more with the idea, she returned to Las Vegas and talked with another 21-dealer, Mike DeJohn, a retired boxer who'd ranked in his day among the world's top heavyweights.  DeJohn liked the picture, and agreed to become Miss Ludian's manager and co-trainer.  He discussed the prospects with Joey Volpe, a Vegas taxicab driver who had taught boxing in North Boston for 10 years before retiring to the Nevada desert.  The two of them decided to combine efforts on Miss Ludian's behalf, and she was on the way.

As is her habit with anything she tackles, the 29-year-old beauty went full force into boxing.  She readily accepted the grueling workout schedule, putting in at least two hours daily at Johnny Tocco's gym.  Sparring with Volpe daily, skipping rope, hitting the hearvy bag, shadow boxing completing two miles of roadwork -- all became part of her daily routine.

Then she'd go home to work out her horses.  And, of course, she'd be in the Sahara casino for her regular shift.  At last, it was time to put her enthusiasm to the test -- to meet another woman in the ring.  She stands five feet, six inches tall, and weights in at 147 pounds (welterweight classification is 145-147).  Before a bout, however she says extra heavy training reduces her weight to 145 pounds. 

That first fight was a disaster.  Perhaps she was too nervous; perhaps she worried too much about scars, damage, or being hurt; perhaps it was just her inexperience.  Since then, however, things definitely have begun looking up, and she's proved herself a real winner.  "I'm being trained to fight the way men boxers are trained,"  she says.  "Most women who get into the ring just atart swinging, but I'm being taught what each movement of hand, foot or body means.   "I'm learning the rhythm of the ring, the ballet of boxing, if you think of it like that.  "It's strange, in a way.  I used to watch boxing matches, and always enjoyed it, but I really didn't understand it as a sport -- it was just exciting.   "Now I look at boxers and see what they're doing -- and I know why they do it.   And I know what can be expected in return."

It's given me a whole new perspective as a spectator, and certainly it makes the sport more enjoyable.  But I'm not suggesting everyone should learn it this way -- it's not the kind of thing everyone could do, or enjoy."  

Does she worry about being hurt? "I'm just as vain as the next female," she replies, "and I worry just as much about my face."   If I thought about it a lot, dwelled on the possibilities, I suppose it would make a difference in the way I fight.  "But I don't think about it.  I just think about getting it over as soon as possible, going for a win as quickly as I can -- and usually I can do it that way, without having to go the whole distance."

 Women boxers fight four two-minute rounds, compared with the men's 10 to 15 three-minute rounds.  But the activity still is very strenous, Miss Ludian points out.  Although the basics of boxing are the same for men or women, several notable differences do appear, in addition to the shortened rounds.   For example, women fight in 10-ounce gloves, rather than the eight-ouncers used by men.  Women also wear shirts and breast protectors. 

In the latter category, Miss Ludian felt the devices did not offer what she needed.  So she designed her own, a modified version of the standard karate chest protector.  "It takes a woman to know what's needed in that kind of specialized gear," she says.  "I just use the quilted cotton vest, cut off short, with pads added in front to fortify the chest plate."   Protective gear notwithstanding, why would a beautiful, basically feminine looking woman want to put on boxing gloves in the first place?

Money is a good motive," she says.  "I've gotten $450 to $700 a match, and the next one will be $1000.  "That's nothing to what the men get in major matches, but it's good for a preliminary bout.  Male boxers fight six grueling rounds and get only $165 -- or four rounds for only $100 -- and some of them had to start as low as $20 or $25 for prelims.  "More than anything, I want to buy a ranch, where I can keep and ride my horses.  Before I started boxing, I used to rodeo every weekend -- than's my real love.  "But so long as I keep winning, I'll keep fighting.  Whenever I start losing, I'll give it up -- nobody wants to watch a loser. 

Vanity almost cost Miss Ludian a fight recently, when she stopped in the middle of a round to exclaim about the fact her white satin togs were getting messy.  "I had hit my opponent in the nose," she recalls, "and then we were in a clinch, and when I stepped back, I was really upset to see what was happening to my outfit.  Now I'm just kind of reconciled to the fact that I'll have to have a new top for every match."  Her family may have been doubtful in the beginning, but now her two teen-aged daughters accept the fact that their mother is a boxer.  The girls are rodeo riders, so they understand the sporting urge.   "My mother didn't like it at first," Miss Ludian reports.   "Then she came to a match and now she's really sold on it."  Finding a male partner who would share her enthusiasm poses something of a problem, however, for many reasons.

"First of all," she says, "only another athlete could understand the dedication to a training regimen.  Most men simply wouldn't put up with it."  "And I guess most men aren't too crazy about the idea of dating a boxer.  I thought when I started fighting, the popularity would spread to my social life, but instead, it's declined practically to zero."

Miss Ludian wears the Sahara name on the back of her white satin robe, and the hotel, she says, has been very cooperative about her schedule.   "It's difficult to work around my training and fighting times," she explains, "but they've managed to give me the time off I've needed."  After all, how many hotel casinos on the strip have a female 21-dealer with a black eye they can be proud of? 

Copyrighted© February 6, 1977, by the Hearst Coprporation, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner CALIFORNIA LIVING,  written by California Living Asst. Editor Jan Allyson Wilson. Photographs credited to the Los Angeles   Herald-Examiner CALFORNIA LIVING that was included with the article.

Articles/Videos that document fight records:

* Gwen Gemini earned a #2 world ranking when she KO'd Ludian in the 4th round, June 1978. Article with documentation.

*Ludian vs. Sue TL Fox - March 3, 1977 - four-round draw.

*Ludian vs. Theresa "Red-Star" Kibby,  April 16, 1977, Las Vegas Sun Newspaper. Loss UD, 4 rounds. 

*Ludian vs. Theresa "Red-Star" Kibby, Dec. 1976, UD win - four-round.  Las Vegas Sun Newspaper.

*From a fight report 1978:  Dulcie Lucas- "The only information that I have about Lucas is that she comes from Los Angeles and is undefeated in nine fights. She is rated a hard puncher and this seems to be endorsed by the fact that she also has a knockout win over the hitherto top ranked welterweight Lavonne Ludian. The difference between her victory and Gwen Gemini’s over Ludian is that Lucas bombed Lavonne in the first round."

*Ludian vs. Cat Davis 1984, Loss, TKO 3rd round. Video tape in records with WBAN.


One on One Interview with past boxer Lavonne Ludian!
By Sue TL Fox
January 8, 2005

(JAN 8) WBAN got an opportunity to talk with past boxer, Lavonne Ludian, who not only fought me in the late 1970’s, but she had a special relationship with Clint Eastwood, who has just scored a “Knockout” with Million Dollar Baby!   Full Interview with Photos

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