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Melissa McMorrow: Going Straight Ahead
by Bernie McCoy
May 28, 2012

Photo Credit:
Klaus Frevert /


(MAY 28)  When she arrived in Germany, for the WBO title bout with Susi Kentikian, Melissa McMorrow was met with the distinct impression that she had just travelled nearly 10,000 miles "to be next in line to lose to Susi." "That seemed to be the local promoter's attitude," McMorrow recalled, when she talked with me last week from a conference room at her full time job at a solar energy company in the Bay Area. "And I thought, ' there are going to be a lot of surprised people around here, come fight night (May 16).' " Standing in the middle of the ring, after the ten round bout, awaiting the decision, McMorrow was sure she had delivered on that surprise. "I figured she (Kentikian) had gotten two rounds, but I was well aware of where I was and the waiting was nerve racking because I was having trouble understanding what was being announced (in German). But when I heard 'majority decision' I knew I had a shot." What was being announced was that Melissa McMorrow had handed Susi Kentikian her first loss in thirty bouts and, in the process, taken the WBO crown along with the WIBF title back those 10,000 miles to the US.

There was a return bout clause in the contract and, while a date and location has yet to be set, McMorrow maintains a realistic view about that second bout. "After the decision, the promoter (in Germany) couldn't hide his disappointment: ' this wasn't the decision we were looking for, he said.' " "I can understand hometown favoritism and I certainly understand the return bout clause as a safety net for the champion. I just hope, for the return, everything is as balanced as the first bout. Of course, I'd rather be defending my title in familiar surroundings, but I also understand this is boxing and other promotional factors come into play. I'm just trusting that, next time, everything will be level."

Photo: Courtesy photo/team Olszewski

One element that may not concern McMorrow too much, as she returns overseas to defend her title, is the travel. While her first eight professional bouts, starting in 2008, were in her home state of California, in a subsequent five month period in 2011, she crisscrossed the country three times, to New York City, losing a close six round bout, in February, to Keisher McLeod-Wells, on a flash knockdown in the final round; winning the NY State flyweight title on an eight round split decision over Eileen Olszewski in June; and defending that title, in July, with an eight round split decision over McLeod-Wells. McMorrow started 2012, traveling to Mexico and dropping a close ten round split decision to Arely Mucino, in February, for the interim WBA flyweight title. There are no plans to fight again until her title defense in Germany.

And when she does step back into the ring, McMorrow will once again employ the style that sets her apart in the flyweight ranks. Many of the fighters in that division rely on hand and foot speed and middle-of-the-ring tactics. McMorrow, from the opening bell, aggressively moves into her opponent, throwing "punches in bunches" with quick hands while seeking to force her opponent into the ropes or a corner where McMorrow's infighting skill usually puts her at an advantage in the clinches. The style makes for bell/bell action bouts, but for McMorrow, the tactics have a much more practical genesis. "I'm not very tall (slightly over 5' 0") so staying in the middle of the ring and trying to match "stick and move" with fighters who are, invariably, taller, makes no sense. In addition, I have a weak back (right) knee which I injured playing soccer, so I'm much more comfortable going forward and getting in close to offset the inevitable height advantage." It's a style that seemed to work well with Kentikian, who seemed, on tape, particularly in the early rounds of the bout, befuddled by the aggressive, bore-in style of the US fighter and spent much of the time going backwards.

McMorrow had a 15-5 record as an amateur and won a national Golden Gloves title in 2007. "I really would have liked to stay an amateur longer, but the fact was, I was fighting the same opponents again and again and that significantly limited my opportunities to compete on a regular basis. In 2008, I made the decision to turn pro." As noted McMorrow continues to hold down a full time job, which in addition to a daily training regimen makes for "full days." "I usually get up around 5 AM and get in my 'carido work,' then it's off to the office, at around 9 AM until around 5:30 PM. Then I head to the gym for training until around 9 o'clock. I do this six days a week, although Saturday, when I don't go to the office, is a bit less crowded. On Sunday, I can usually be found looking for a pick up soccer game around the city." McMorrow admits it's a rigorous schedule, but she also points out an upside, "There's a certain order to my days that, in it's way, is helpful. You know exactly what you have to accomplish, when and where, but, of course, there are days when it sometimes approaches overload." And while McMorrow realizes that there are some of the top fighters in her sport who have the luxury of devoting full time to their boxing careers (including the top fighter she just beat for the WBO title) McMorrow seems to maintain the same strategy, in her daily routine, that she employs in the ring: keep going straight ahead.

And while her next bout is already in the planning stage, when asked, McMorrow is willing to speculate on what the future might hold: "I'd probably like to match-up with Nadia Raoui, with Ava (Knight) and another bout with Mucino. It's a deep division and there are lot of good fighters, the problem is getting promoters to put us on their cards and that, in turn, circles back to selling the sport and the fighters and their talent to the boxing fans. We, the entire boxing community, simply have to do a better job of letting fight fans know just how much talent exists in the sport. Will the Olympics help? We'll see. If the fighters get good TV exposure and the talent is there, it could help the entire sport. But that's a big ' If.' "My guess is that, at least for the foreseeable future, we still need to continue to travel to countries where female boxing already has a place in the sports scene. Mexico seems to head that list right now."

Germany, not Mexico, is next on the list for Melissa McMorrow. She fully understands that the second bout with Susi Kentikian will probably be more difficult than the first one. For one thing the promoter won't have her on a "next in line" list. Rather, this time, McMorrow will be introduced as the flyweight champion. But she knows full well, it's Germany against an elite German fighter and the notoriety, because of the first bout, will be ramped up, considerably. But Melissa McMorrow has been there, in that five month stretch, in New York City, against top flight New York fighters. And just like she did at BB Kings, in February, at a Queens club in June and at a sport complex on an airfield on the Southern tip of Brooklyn in July, when the bell rings in Germany, Mellissa McMorrow will do what has gotten her this far in her sport. She'll go straight ahead towards her opponent, this time in defense of her world title.

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