Anne Sophie Mathis Moves Ahead
by Bernie McCoy
August 31, 2012
On June 15 Holly Holm out-pointed Anne Sophie Mathis over ten
rounds in Albuquerque, NM, reversing a seventh round TKO win by
Mathis six months earlier in the same New Mexico venue. The two
bouts were landmarks in the sport of Women's boxing as they
matched fighters who many in the sport consider the two best
female fighters, today; possibly the two best in the history of
the sport. The rarity of such bouts, matching the "best of the
best," made these fights compelling to the fans of the sport who
have historically been disappointed when such proposed match-ups
failed to materialize (Rijker/Martin, Ali/Wolfe). And for what
it's worth, after seventeen rounds of Holm/Mathis I gave a
slight edge to Anne Sophie Mathis based, primarily, on the
dominance she showed in the first bout, contrasted to the
comparatively narrow margin of the return bout (I am discounting
the ludicrous 99-91 judgment turned in by one of the ringside
arbitrators). Next up for Mathis is a September 22 bout with
unbeaten Cecilia Braekhus in Denmark, Braekhus' home country.
In an interview conducted, because of geography and language
restraints, via email on the Internet, I asked Mathis if she was
concerned about fighting in Denmark. "If (the bout) goes to
decision I find it hard to believe that would be in my favor."
This seemed a clear sign that Mathis' strategy in Denmark will
seek to avoid putting the fight into the hands of the judges. "Braekhus
will be there (in front of me) and I will have the opportunity
to fight," Mathis responded to a question of whether she was
concerned that Braekhus would attempt to emulate the "stick and
move" tactics that proved successful for Holly Holm in her
return bout win.
Braekhus' record (five KOs in twenty wins) seems an indication
she may lack the potential power to "punch with a puncher," much
as Holm attempted to do in the first bout, leading to Mathis'
TKO win. This would seem to portend a Mathis/Braekhu bout in the
classic puncher/boxer tradition. And to be clear, Cecilia
Braekhus, with twenty wins in as many bouts, is not merely some
kind of "next" opponent. Braekhus has boxed 144 rounds against
some of the best welterweights in Europe, utilizing ring skills
that position her, prominently, in any discussion of the top
fighters in the sport.
Mathis continued, "The winner (of Braekhus/Mathis) will be
obliged, by the WBC, (the bout is also being contested for the
WBA and WBO welterweight crowns) to meet Noni Tenge (who is
fighting Layla McCarter on September 30 in South Africa)" With
all due respect to the World Boxing Council and Noni Tenge, such
an obligation comes up irrelevant in the larger context of
what's best for the sport of Women's boxing. Because if Anne
Sophie Mathis wins in Denmark, there is one fight and one fight
only for her and that is a third bout with Holly Holm. The two
Mathis/Holm bouts energized the sport like no other fight in
recent memory and the "rubber" match would be equally, if not
more, compelling. And this time, whoever promotes what will be
the biggest bout in the history of the sport, should get it
right: world wide media coverage during the run-up to the bout,
"live" TV of the bout on a major sports/boxing outlet (ideal
female bout for HBO's debut into the twenty-first century) and a
venue that insures that the third bout in this historic trilogy
is not cloaked in obscurity, as were the first two bouts.
Mathis claims not to have been 100% for the second bout: "I
could not go to New Mexico (as I did) the previous time because
my coach had a very large health problem. My primary training
was done in Paris and that did not allow me to acclimate to the
significant climate (altitude) change in New Mexico in the one
week I had there. There was some talk with my coach about
canceling the bout, but we did not want to do that. (Also I
felt) the ring was oversized to the point that it would have
been illegal in France and the canvas was as soft as a judo mat.
(Also) the judge (referee) allowed too much holding throughout
the fight and (I thought) Holly's tactics were somewhat
It's clear that Mathis will not return to New Mexico and, in my
opinion, that shouldn't be a "deal breaker" for a third bout.
While the size and condition of the ring fits under the category
of "home court" advantage, it is hard to overlook that these
adjustments seemed specifically designed to enhance Holm's
"stick and move" strategy. Is Mathis correct that such
adjustments would have been disallowed at another site?
Probably. But it's also fair to point out that Mathis' corner
did not adjust their pre-fight strategy (make the fight in the
middle of the ring, look to land big punches) to counteract
Holm's tactics (a lot of movement, in and out sporadic punching
and clinching to avoid middle of the ring exchanges). Over the
ten rounds, Holm's corner won the strategy battle and, with it,
a deserved close decision. Even Mathis admits that, "I knew I
had lost before the decision was announced."
And Mathis is just as clear where she thinks the third fight, if
there is one, should be, "I could very well meet her in Europe.
Possibly the only European promoter who could (make) a deal with
Fresquez is Sauerland and if I win the (Braekhus) bout why not
make an agreement (for a bout in Europe). In all fairness, a
third bout, if, indeed it can be put together, has to be held
somewhere outside New Mexico (a high profile venue in Las Vegas
would be an alternative). When fighters are as evenly matched as
Holm and Mathis, some advantage is, inevitably, going to accrue
to the fighter at who is at home The first two fights were held
in Albuquerque. A third time is out of the question.
If indeed, a third fight does not materialize, as some smart
people in the sport believe will be the ultimate conclusion,
Anne Sophie Mathis, at 35, is not quite ready to "hang 'em up."
"If I win (against Braekhus) I still have fighting to do. I have
not been worn out (28 bouts, 138 rounds) and I will fight Tenge
and then, possibly, a rematch with Braekhus and then consider
going up in class because, by then, I (will) have seen
everything (at welterweight).
Anne Sophie Mathis has already game planned a future, with and
without a third Holm bout, including moving ahead to new
challenges in a new weight class. But I think she knows, just as
I think a very smart boxing guy in New Mexico knows, and
certainly, the legion of boxing fans, energized by the first two
Mathis/Holm bouts, know that without Mathis/Holm III there will
be an unfilled gap in the sport of Women's boxing and in the
legacy of two of that sport's premier fighters. Holm/Mathis III
needs to happen and it needs to happen without the distracting
encumbrance of the phrase "home court" anywhere in the scenario.
NB: As noted, the interview with Anne Sophie Mathis was
conducted via email on the Internet. Mathis' answers were
conveyed in a language in which I have little or no facility
(no, not English, in this case, French). In interpreting Mathis'
replies, help came from two of the leading lights in the sport
of Women's boxing: Jill Diamond and Mary Ann Lurie Owen.
Diamond, the prominent female member of the WBC, NABF and the
major force behind WBC Cares, enlisted the help of Jean Pierre
Perraux, a renowned New York bassist and guitarist, whose
interpretation of Mathis' words proved invaluable to the writer.
Lurie Owen, who oversees the popular "Boxing Rant" blog on
Facebook, proved that she is as comfortable with the French
language as she is when situated on boxing ring aprons, bringing
to fight fans a peerless photographic record of many of the
major bouts in the sport. Bernie McCoy