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Chevelle Hallback: "Keep on Keepin' On
by Bernie McCoy
April 27, 2011


(APR 27)  The names of the boxers recall a different, nascent sport: Mitzi Jeter, Britt Van Bruskirk, Doris Hackl, Bonnie Canino, Laura Serrano. Scroll further ahead and the names are more familiar: Layla McCarter, Melissa Hernandez, Holly Holm, Jeannine Garside, and, for a touch of legend, Lucia Rijker. The common thread among these poles of the sport is a 39 year old fighter who has logged over 14 years and 224 professional rounds while compiling a 28-6-2 record against just about everyone who will make the conversation when the modern day history of Women's boxing is written. And on May 7, in Copenhagen, Denmark, Chevelle Hallback will do what she has done for almost a decade and a half, step into the ring with one of sport's elite boxers, unbeaten Cecilia Braekhus.

"My trainer hates me," are Hallback's first words when we talked, by phone, late last week, from her home and training base in Tampa, FL. "He's working me as hard as I've ever trained, but I'm feeling great and the preparation for the fight has been real good. I'm excited about this one because while I've fought in Japan, I've never had the opportunity to go to the European side of the world. I don't know a whole lot about her (Braeknus), but I do know she has beaten everyone she's fought and that's as good as it gets."

Asked about her last fight, in December, a close win over Victoria Cisneros, who lost to Braekhus a year ago, without winning a round, Hallback recalls, "I controlled the first four rounds against her (Cisneros) and then just ran out of gas. After fighting in New Mexico three times, I still didn't account for the effect the altitude has after several rounds. I felt it against Holm, both times, and even when I fought Garside, but it hit me hard in the last four rounds (against Cisneros). This is to take nothing away from Victoria, she's a tough fighter and she was breathing the same air I was, but I just wasn't used to it. I don't expect to run into anything like that in Denmark."

"I've heard all the talk about how a US fighter needs a knockout to win in Europe. Look, there are homecourts in every sport and all I can do is climb through the ropes and give it my best effort. One thing you can't do is go into the bout thinking knockout, because that's probably the best way not to come away with a KO, particularly against a good fighter. If the opportunity presents itself during the bout, of course I'll go for it, but to think knockout from the opening bell, no way. I'm training for ten rounds and I'm planning on going to Denmark a week before the fight to get used to the conditions.

Can Hallback see the end of her career? "Not really," is her quick response. "I want to keep going, keep looking for the good fights. My body will be the judge of when to stop. When my body starts talking to me about stopping, that's when I'll start thinking, seriously, about it. I haven't heard anything yet. I still have things I'd like to do in the sport, such a being the first female boxer to have a bout on HBO. Chirsty (Martin) is still around and I think she and I could give all those HBO fight fans an idea of what they've been missing and just how good female boxing can be. If not Chirsty, then maybe Layla McCarter, who I'm pretty sure is still as slick as ever in the ring, out there in Las Vegas. Why this hasn't happened before is beyond me and I really wonder when some of those organizations, who continue to profit off female boxers in this country, are going to step up and provide some support, for female boxers, with holdouts like HBO."

That's the kind of attitude, determination and perseverance that has propelled Hallback through the sport of Women's boxing for all those years and all those rounds. She's been, remarkably, below the radar in the sport, given her talent level, and has not received the "bold type" coverage that has been afforded other, quite frankly, lesser talented female boxers. She started her career (second bout) stepping in Lucia Rijker, she's had two bouts with Holly Holm and a "fight of the year" with Jeannine Garside, underneath the June 2008 Holm/Mary Jo Sanders fight, and Hallback/Garside, in the opinion of most ringsiders, overshadowed the main event by a large margin.

But this is not the stuff of Hallback's legacy. Rather it is that she has fought so long and with such dignity and distinction. It is that she has never ducked the good fighters; she has, instead, sought them out. And she's doing exactly that, once more, on May 7 in Denmark. Can she come home with a win? It's a difficult bout, but there haven't been many years or many bouts or many rounds when Chevelle Hallback looked for the easy way in a boxing ring. And that's why when her body starts "talking" to this boxer about "hangin' 'em up," I hope the sport has the good sense to honor Chevelle Hallback in the same manner she has honored her sport for a long time.

Bernie McCoy

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