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Open Letter to Bob Arum: Garden Variety
by Bernie McCoy
April 20, 2009


(APR 20)  Mr. Arum:  Congratulations on your upcoming promotion of the Miguel Cotto/Joshua Clottey WBO welterweight title bout in Madison Square Garden on June 13. It's a great followup event to your February 21 card, also in the Garden and also headlined by Miguel Cotto. One of the under-card highlights of the February program was Kina Malpartida's tenth round TKO of Maureen Shea to win the WBA super featherweight female crown. That bout marked your first foray back into female boxing in several years and the Malpartida/Shea match-up was a terrific way to return: quality female fighters, ten good rounds of boxing and a welcome, big stage exposure for the sport of Women's boxing in New York.

I realize your experiences with the sport of female boxing have not mirrored your successes with the male version of the sport, going back to your association with Mia St. John and the ill-fated Christy Martin/Lucia Rijker bout. But this sport has continued to prevail as have Mia, Christy and Lucia. In fact Mia St. John has subsequently stepped into the ring with almost every good boxer in her weight class and acquitted herself with both competitiveness and professionalism. She recently dropped a close decision, to Brooke Dierdorff, for the WBC international female lightweight crown. Bob, the sport of Women's boxing has not only prevailed, it has survived and could be on the point of the burgeoning success that you once envisioned those several years ago. In point of fact, the sport has progressed to a juncture where there are currently more good professional female boxers than at any other time in the history of the sport. Like all athletes, these fighters require that big stage that promotional leaders in the sport can provide.

Shea/Malpartida was a text book example of that depth of talent that currently examples every weight division in the sport of Women's boxing. At your press conference prior to the February program in the Garden, you noted that you had, in choosing to add Maureen Shea to the card, sought a combination of female boxing talent, charisma and appeal to the New York Hispanic fight fans who were drawn to a Garden program headed by Miguel Cotto. It was an inspired choice and Shea responded with what many thought was the best performance of her career against a fighter, Kina Malpartida, who was slightly better on that night. What you, as a promoter, and the fans in the Garden, got from that match-up was what every promoter and every boxing fan looks for when they invest their time and money in a boxing program, ten good rounds of boxing, by quality fighters who happened to be female, that equaled or surpassed, in crowd appeal, the other bouts that night. In another sport, your choice for that card, for that crowd, might be labeled "horses for courses," matching the right athlete to the right venue.

Well, here's another suggested thoroughbred for your upcoming promotion at the Garden on June 13, Melissa Hernandez. You may have heard her name and may even be familiar with her record, but allow me to, briefly, recap. Melissa has won nine of ten decisions over opponents such as Ela Nunez, Missy Fiorentino, Lisa Brown and Layla McCarter. She fought to a draw with Chevelle Hallback, who fits in any group photo of the top pound/pound female fighters. And in her fourth professional bout, Hernandez boxed a ten round draw with Kelsey Jeffries, who at the time, had won 33 of her 42 bouts and was considered one of the top female featherweights in the world. Melissa has skills and ring movement that are almost startling, due, in no small part, to the tutelage of Belinda Laracuente, also one of the top female boxers in the sport. Charisma? Melissa provides that combination of New York neighborhood and Puerto Rican culture that has made her a frequent guest on television, most recently as part of the MTV reality show, "Made." And, at least to my unpracticed eye, qualities such as Puerto Rico native and New York fighter add up to a fairly comfortable fit onto a card headed by Miguel Cotto, on the night prior to the National Puerto Rican Day Parade on Fifth Avenue.

But Bob, the primary reason Melissa Hernandez deserves a spot on your card on June 13 is the oldest reason in the sport, she'll add to the card. She'll add to it in the same manner Kina Malpartida and Maureen Shea added to the February card, because they gave the crowd ten terrific rounds of boxing. Boxers such as Malpartida, Shea and Hernandez are no longer sideshows, they're legitimate, quality boxers with skills to match. What they need is exposure in venues like the Garden where they can display those skills on promotions with the reputation of Top Rank. Melissa Hernandez competes in one of those talent laden weight divisions in the sport, the same division as Maureen Shea and Kina Malpartida, thus finding another quality fighter should not be a problem. You have the opportunity to provide these athletes with a showcase for their talent, while at the same time providing a bit of gender variety to your Garden card and, in all probability, adding quality boxing rounds to the night. You made a great choice in February, it worked. It can work, again, in June.

Thanks for listening.

Bernie McCoy

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