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A Homecoming Game at Iona
By Bernie McCoy
February 12, 2006




(FEB 12) Homecoming games are most closely associated with college football. They are a somewhat celebratory match-up in which the home team generally schedules a seemingly overmatched opponent and looks forward to a win in front of students and alumni. It was not difficult to perceive, going into Friday night's fight card at Iona College in New Rochelle, NY, that the two female bouts on the six bout card had some of the earmarks of a homecoming game.

Maureen Shea and Ann Marie Saccurato, on Friday night at Iona, were clearly the designated home team and were matched with opponents that seemed to fall into the "overmatched" category. Shea, a senior at Iona from the Bronx, and unbeaten in her first three fights, was scheduled for a six round bout with Sarina Mae Hayden, a Colorado Springs fighter who had yet to win in three outings. Saccurato, a world ranked welterweight from nearby White Plains, once beaten in 13 professional bouts, was fighting eight rounds with Victoria Ann Cisneros, an Albuquerque, NM boxer, whom Saccurato has beaten, handily, almost a year ago, to the day. The crowd, in the Iona College gym, in full voice and homecoming mode, was well prepared to "root, root, root for the home team."





  Both Hayden and Cisneros, it was, at once, evident, had not come great distances to act out the role of "opponent" to the local fighters. This was first apparent in the Shea/Hayden bout. Maureen Shea, continuing the homecoming theme motif, entered the ring with a hooded Iona sweatshirt and a boxing skirt fashioned along cheerleader lines. She was accompanied by four Iona cheerleaders. Hayden simply entered the ring ready to fight and from the opening bell came right to the unbeaten fighter. Shea later admitted that she was a bit surprised that Hayden had come out "winging punches" and that "it was obvious she [Hayden] had come to fight". Late in the opening round, Hayden's nose began to leak blood and just a touch of her initial aggressiveness began to disappear. The second round, following the inability of Hayden's corner to stem the bleeding, was much like the first; Hayden coming forward, throwing punches and Shea answering with flurries of her own and, as she said in a post fight review, "trying to maintain some patience," while counter punching effectively to the body. In the third round, Shea began to establish complete control and following a series of punches to the head and body that moved Hayden from one corner, across the ring, to an opposite corner, referee Sparkle Lee stepped in and stopped the bout at 1:33.

Ann Marie Saccurato doesn't do cheerleader skirts. She doesn't do much embellishment of any sort; she comes to the ring in plain black and a "ready to go" look. She had won a shutout six round bout with Cisneros on February 4, 2005, dominating 60-54, on all three cards. Cisneros, however, was coming off a six round draw with Lisa Holewyne and that fact, if any, should have been a portent that, this night, Saccurato wouldn't be tossing a shutout. The pattern of the fight was established in the first round: Saccurato fighting out of a crouch, yet staying up on her toes, using the full ring, arms low; Cisneros, standing up straight, flat footed, attempting to "cut the ring" and looking to trap Saccurato to the ropes, which she did effectively a couple of times. Saccurato later said that she thought it was her movement that eventually made the big difference in the fight. Both fighters had good flurries throughout the first three rounds, until Saccurato landed a big right hand midway through the fourth stanza. In the last four rounds, Cisneros seemed less inclined to come forward, instead circling in mid-ring and, as a result started to absorb more punches as Saccurato seemed "to find a home" for her right hand. Cisneros was, however, fully game to the end and earned justified recognition from both the crowd and Saccurato. It was a good eight rounds of boxing, maybe the best fight on the card. The unanimous decision was 79-73, 78-74, 80-72, all for Saccurato. The last call may have been clear only to Judge Matt Ruggero and Saccurato's trainer, Luigi Olcese. Olcese, who, post fight, was willing to concede that although "the third round may have been even" his fighter had been in control for every round. It wasn't the first time in boxing history that the ring lights may have slightly distorted the view from a fighter's corner. Lets just leave it at: Saccurato was the clear winner of a very fast paced and entertaining fight.

Luigi Olcese was right on target, however, when he noted that Ring Promotions' Bob Duffy and Tony Mazzarella "deserved a lot of credit" for putting together two very compelling female matches. Both Shea and Saccurato were clear cut winners this night, simply because they were the better fighters with better skills. But both Hayden and Cisneros came to Iona not as "homecoming opponents" but as fighters ready to fight and that makes for compelling boxing, whatever the gender.

Anne Marie Saccurato and Maureen Shea are good examples of the value of extensive amateur backgrounds. They've learned their skills in gyms with experienced trainers and are indicative of the current depth of talent in the sport of Women's boxing. Saccurato has, at this point, been in with significantly better opposition: Eliza Olson, Belinda Laracuente, and, yes, Victoria Cisneros. Those type of bouts are in the near future for Maureen Shea.

The fans at Iona didn't get the boxing version of a traditional "homecoming game" on Friday night. Instead they got a look a two good fighters, who beat two bona fide opponents in two good bouts. When you come right down to it, that's probably as good a homecoming as a fight fan can hope for.

Bernie McCoy
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