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Ann Wolfe: Ready.....and Waiting
By Bernie McCoy
August 6, 2006
Photo by Tony Duffy

     
   
   
   
   

If the Ann Wolfe/Lisa Ested six round bout on ESPN2 on Friday night were a restaurant I would have given it two star review: good, not great. Good, certainly in relation to the usual female boxing fare that ESPN foists on it's viewers. But, unfortunately, the Wolfe/Ested affair turned out to be yet another female bout in which the winner was all but predetermined before the opening bell. The fight on Friday was only a bit more than a showcase for Ann Wolfe, in her continuing, Ahab-like quest for a Laila Ali fight. Wolfe was, in the final analysis, in against a competent, but overmatched opponent. However, the six rounds were valuable as a current assessment of Ann Wolfe and her ring bona fides.

The first indication of the fight's "story line" was announcer Joe Tessitore's imploring of the audience to stay tuned for "Ann Wolfe's remarks about her rival, Laila Ali." (Tessitore, by the way, may have come close to the modern day record of referring to a specific magazine as he continually repeated Ring Magazine's "pound for pound female ranking" [Ali, followed by Wolfe] as if he were on commission selling subscriptions for "Ring"). The second hint that there was but one attraction in this bout was ESPN's insistence on referring to Wolfe's opponent as "Lisa Smith," in the on-air runup to the bout. The fighter is listed in every available record compilation as Lisa Ested. It was not until moments before the bout that the name Lisa Ested Smith finally made an appearance on the screen. This may be little more than further evidence that ESPN's knowledge of the sport of Women's boxing goes only slightly past the cursory level.

The bout, itself, all six rounds, was dominated by Wolfe (how one judge managed to see a round that he thought Ested had won is beyond my comprehension and I suspect most of the boxing fans tuned in). Ested came out for the opening bell firmly ensconced in a survival mode, prompting a Tessitore comment that Ested had told him, in a pre fight interview session, that going six rounds was one of her goals. Ested's ring experience (14 fights) was a major factor as she spent almost the entire bout backpedaling and when it appeared that Wolfe had achieved punching distance, Ested immediately sought out a clinch.

Ann Wolfe, on the other hand, in my mind, has notably improved several parts of her "game" in the ring. On Friday, Ann exhibited a "working" jab, replacing what, in the past, closely resembled a pawing motion, whose only function seemed to be to set up a big right hand. Wolfe has also learned the value of going to the body, in lieu of continually "headhunting" as she has done in past bouts. Also, on Friday night, Wolfe continually showcased a potentially potent uppercut. Ested, however, did not appear to be in any trouble throughout the bout although Wolfe did score, at times, with the uppercut. As in past fights, Wolfe continues to miss an inordinate number of punches and this seems directly attributable to her penchant to "load up" for big right hands. To me, through the filter of a TV screen, however, the most marked improvement in Wolfe's "skills set" is her ability to pace herself throughout a bout. Previously, Ann Wolfe had a tendency to wear out after three or four rounds and in longer bouts usually had to "take a couple of rounds off" in order to gain a "second wind." On Friday night, Wolfe seemed as fresh at the end of the bout as in the first round. In fact, in round five, Wolfe was able to pick up the pace considerably as it appeared she was trying for a KO. She didn't get it, but the fact that she had the ability to step up the tempo after four rounds is proof that she not only realizes the value of pacing but that she has learned the technique well.

The Tessitore-touted "remarks about her rival, Laila Ali," likewise, seemed, at least to me, to show a different Ann Wolfe. No longer, the frenetic, hyperactive talker, Wolfe now comes across in modulated, tempered tones and offers well reasoned rationales as to her career, her life outside the ring and particularly to her long quest to get in the ring with Laila Ali. She noted, convincingly, that prior offers for such a bout were embarrassingly, even insultingly, inadequate, in terms of the financial shares for each fighter. She argued, reasonably, that both she and Laila Ali deserve a fair share of any purse and also, intriguingly, proffered a "winner take all" purse arrangement similar to the split that was proposed for the ill-fated Christy Martin/Lucia Rijker bout.

Hopefully, the Wolfe/Ali bout will happen. But, as a smart lady once told me: "The answer to almost every question in sports is one word, money." Let's hope that some time in the future, boxing fans won't use that one word to answer the question: "Why didn't Laila Ali ever fight Ann Wolfe?" Who wins? Who cares! Teddy Atlas gives the edge, as he said on Friday night, to Ali. Most people would probably agree. But the fact is Ann Wolfe has more than a "puncher's chance" and she proved Friday night that she has the skills, and those skills have improved, to merit the opportunity. Anne Wolfe is ready and she's been waiting a long time, too long.

Bernie McCoy

 
     
     
   
           
 
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