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  Melinda Cooper Breaks Past Johanna Pena Alvarez
By David A. Avila
July 24, 2004

RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIFORNIA-It was expected to be a bruising test of wills between two young fighters Melinda Cooper and Johanna Pena Alvarez, but resulted in a clinch fest for six rounds.

Cooper won a unanimous decision against Pena Alvarez (15-3-2) before a sold out crowd of more than 700 at Agua Caliente Casino, but would have preferred settling it with her fists in a more dramatic fashion.

“I wanted to knock her out,” said Cooper, 19, (12-0, 7 KOs). “I thought I could have done it a couple of times but she kept holding.”

Cooper and her corner were anxious to meet the Dominican Republic fighter especially because she had fought Regina Halmich, Anissa Zamarron and Las Vegas rival Elena “Baby Doll” Reid.

“She fought Elena Reid to a draw,” said her trainer. “Melinda beat her (Alvarez) every round.”

The first round began with Pena Alvarez landing a stiff lead left to Cooper who used the lead half of the round to study her movements. Once she got acclimated, she began pursuing Alvarez more steadily and probing with a stiff jab.

The second round saw Alvarez step up the pace with one-two combinations and some lead lefts. However, at the end of the round a one-two combination by Cooper seemed to straighten up Alvarez. From then on the Dominican left-hander began holding Cooper whenever she got within reach.

A crisp double right by Cooper was met by a lead left hand by Alvarez. Several body shots stopped the counters by Alvarez who began holding tighter than a Chinese finger bracelet. Every time Cooper got close, Alvarez would hold while Cooper tried to punch her way out of the strangulation efforts. Referee Pat Russell warned Alvarez for holding.

With holding on her mind and Cooper intent on letting her hands fly, Alvarez almost seemed to stop punching. Instead she grabbed Cooper at every chance. Cooper became so frustrated with the tactic she tried to bang her way out and found herself throwing punches that found their way to Alvarez’s backside of her head. Russell deducted a point for rabbit punching.

“I don’t blame the referee I know I did but she kept holding,” said Cooper who looked visibly upset by the John Ruiz-like tactic. For those boxing fans that are unfamiliar with female prizefighting, holding is almost nonexistent. Not this time.

Cooper began the fifth round firing severe intent-to-kill volleys. Alvarez went for the grab like a member of the Brazilian jujitsu Grace family. This time Russell deducted a point from the Dominican. Despite the penalty deduction, she continued to hold. In one instance she only managed to grab one of Cooper’s arms who then fired an 18-punch machine gun combination that stirred the crowd.

“I was surprised she held so much,” said Cooper, who was an outstanding amateur fighter. “I didn’t see a tape of her fights. All I knew was she was a left-hander and had lost to Regina Halmich.”

Though the judges gave her a unanimous decision at 58-54, 59-55 twice, Cooper was more frustrated than pleased.

“I thought she was a tough fighter so I was really ready for it,” Cooper said after the fight. “I know I won easily but I didn’t look good against her.”

Though unsatisfied with the points win, Cooper is looking to the future and eying Baby Doll Reid.

“I want to fight Elena Reid next,” said Cooper. “I don’t want to wait. I know I can beat her.”

Reid is scheduled to meet Halmich in Germany on September 12 for the IWBF junior bantamweight title.

“I want to fight Regina Halmich too,” said Cooper.

Manuel Medina Returns.

Mexico’s Manuel Medina (64-14, 30 KOs) seems intent on conquering the entire boxing world. The former three-time world champion is now an announcer for CMX Sports boxing programs and took the night off to fluff off Leonardo Resendiz (28-9) for the NABA junior lightweight title by third round technical knockout. Resendiz suffered an injury to his hand and was unable to continue.

Cathedral City’s Adam Carrera (15-1, 7 KOs) battered Mexico City’s Ruben Estanislao (16-7-2) for a sixth round stoppage at 48 seconds. Carrera grabbed the WBC Fecarbox youth title.

Two other Cathedral City fighters made their pro debuts in startling fashion as Adrian Aleman and Luis Cervantez both scored first round knockouts.

Brazilian heavyweight Marcelino Novaes (6-2-1, 4 KOs), who is trained by Chris Ben, proved too strong for Denver’s Patrick Smith (4-5-2) who was dropped four times before referee Ray Corona halted the fight for good at the end of the second round.

Another Las Vegas fighter Joel Santiago (2-0) out-willed Coachella’s Tomas Barragan (2-1) in a tight contest fought at a distance of two inches for all four rounds. Santiago’s sneaky uppercut scored repeatedly. Barragan, a southpaw, seemed to wield a heavier punch but was hit more than he hit. The judges gave Santiago a majority decision win 38-38, 39-37 twice.



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