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Mathis stops Lamare
By Ewan Whyte
December 3, 2006


"It's the fight of my life," said Ann-Sophie Mathis yesterday. "My career begins with this fight. I want to step out of the shadows." And step out of the shadows she did last night in the Palais Omnisport de Paris-Bercy, destroying her fellow countrywoman and arch-rival, the (previously) undefeated world champion, Myriam Lamare, in the seventh round of a fight that began with a stare-down "worthy", the commentator told us, "of Mike Tyson and… "

Pause, as he casts around desperately for anyone else conceivably capable of delivering the kind of basilisk stare to which Mesdemoiselles Lamare and Mathis have just treated each other, and fails, concluding limply with: "…Evander Holyfield".

And the fight was even better. A real thriller, with Mathis – the more accurate puncher – generally in control and seeming on several occasions to have Lamare hurt, only for Lamare to counter-attack with a feral intensity, driving the gangling blonde backwards to restore the balance.

Until the last time.

Mathis had hurt her earlier in the seventh and Lamare had recovered, throwing her massive, looping left hook, (and missing), but you could see she was unsteady now on her feet; and as she shoved Mathis backwards to escape from the ropes, she was caught by a short right; then another a few seconds later; then a third – beaten to the punch as she threw the left for umpteenth time without connecting – and suddenly there was nothing! Mathis drove a left, a right, and a left through her guard; then a looping right round the outside that caught her on the side of the jaw, followed by a left a split-second later, and the rout was total: Lamare's dense, muscle-bound body began to go backwards, slowly at first, but then with gathering momentum, the way a car does when you have to bump-start it on a cold morning, as the blonde drove her backwards into the corner with a cruel, exultant, snarl. And just as the first commentator was correcting "Elle est fatiguée!" ("She's tired!") to "Elle est KO debout!". ("She's out on her feet!") "… MYRIAM EST KO DEBOUT!!", the other cut in with "Il l'a arrêté!" (He's stopped it!). And indeed he had. And Mathis was the new world champion.

"For me, this fight represents an opportunity," Mathis had told her local paper, L'Est Républicain, yesterday. "I hope it will bring me a better life. For the sake of my daughter, I hope to improve my status and be better appreciated in society. Up until now, I've put boxing first in my life and a victory would be a vindication. I've staked a great deal on this. I didn't pursue my education. Boxing, today, is the thing I do best."
Which is what Ria Ramnarine said a few weeks ago, come to think of it, before her fight with Halmich; which made her defeat, and subsequent retirement doubly poignant. But, as well as the obvious one, Mathis's statement was true in a sense Ramnarine's wasn't.

"And that" (as Robert Frost would say) "has made all the difference."

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