Bridgett Riley, not Christy Martin, was the first woman I ever saw fight, that looked to me
like she knew what she was doing in the ring. Granted it was a highlight piece on Entertainment
Tonight, and the KO montage was bound to make anyone look like a monster, but it was effective, and
I've always considered Riley to be one of the 'real' boxers involved in the sport. So it was with
great anticipation that I looked forward to her comeback on Friday Night Fights following a 1 year,
8 month long layoff that saw an aborted deal with Don King, new management, allegations of
handpicking opponents, so on and so forth. Controversy aside, Riley's always been an electrifying
performer with major league heart, and I was grateful for the chance to observe her in action directly
for a change. And with Sugar Ray Leonard promoting the card, you had to know that perhaps a door might
be opening for Baby Doll after months of frustration. I had the feeling this fight was more important
than it looked on paper.
© Copyrighted photo taken by Mary Ann Owen
Both fighters appeared to be in terrific shape, with Bridgett holding a slight edge (115-113lbs) in
weight and age (28 years to Yolanda's 37), but Gonzalez holding what would turn out to be a critical
advantage in height (5'7" to 5'5"). We haven't seen many female fighters use distance all that
effectively recently, but the relatively unheralded Gonzalez would show that it can be done in
frustrating Bridgett for much of the abbreviated 5 heats.
The first round was tactical, not a lot of contact, with Riley making the fight, Yolanda circling
and trying to establish the jab. Riley's own stick was coming up short and the distance between
the fighters seemed to play to Gonzalez' strengths. Riley landed a solid left hook late in the
frame to probably take the round - no harm done.
Round two saw more of the same, with Riley leading to the body with a right, then coming out of
her crouch with that compact left hook. But Yolanda stuck to her gameplan, continuing to circle,
jabbing with a broken rhythm and keeping Riley at the end of her punches. Baby Doll continued to
come up short with the jab, and by the end of this round would seemingly forget about it all together.
Yolanda began to pick Bridgett up on the way in as Riley took chances, and punches, to collapse distance.
Only a head snapping left hook that caught Yolanda backing straight up late in the round separated
Bridgett on the cards, but you could see the difficulty Riley was having.
© Copyrighted photo taken by Mary Ann Owen
The third saw Bridgett get inside to work, only to find that Yolanda could, and did, hold her own
in the exchanges. Riley walked in, stubbornly taking punches, and the thinner, seemingly weaker
Gonzalez gave Bridgett all she wanted in bashing give and take. A nasty gash opened over the
corner of Bridgett's right eye and by the end of the round, Gonzalez with her rangy, scrubbing
left-rights was getting the better of it. Bridgett was busted up, frustrated after three, and
the queasy feel of 'upset' was unmistakable in the air.
Round four saw a very determined Bridgett Riley press the action, but without a jab, she seemed
to be at a loss as to how to close ground. Yolanda bounced to her left, stepped in with a spearing
jab and really managed to make stick and move a winning proposition this round. In the brief moments
when both women got off in flurries, Yolanda pounded Bridgett's face with a simple one-two action,
staying busy, and refusing to be intimidated. After four, I had it even, with Yolanda simply
presenting problems that Bridgett didn't seem to have technical answers for.
The fifth began with a series of doubled up jabs from Bridgett, backing Yolanda up and setting up
a nice chopping right hand from Riley. Once again however, Gonzalez took it in stride, started
brushing her fists back and forth across Riley's face and soon had Riley's back against the ropes.
And then...it was over. A clash of heads, a quick referee intervention, a look from the ringside
physician, and this fight went to the cards. Riley took home a unanimous technical decision to
scattered boos and cynical comments from the announcers, but really, the fight was just getting
started when it all ended.
So what can we conclude?
Well, for one thing - Oscar Suarez has done a much better job with
Yolanda than he has with Naseem Hamed - there's nothing flashy or exotic about Gonzalez' style
and she executed the basics about as well as you could want in this one. She didn't hurt herself
at all with this performance and shouldn't be too discouraged with the fact that she can't get
As for Bridgett, she was clearly disappointed at the outcome, frustrated by her
opponent, by the cuts, and probably by the knowledge that she didn't look as good as the stage
seemed to be inviting. Still, for an almost two year absence, she shouldn't be too hard on herself.
She basically needs more work, and a three minute round wouldn't hurt her either. You can't
settle any of the wildly opposing opinions surrounding Riley based on this one fight, and
hopefully we'll all get more data to sift through in the coming months.
To check out more fight reports, complete up-to-date boxing records, with huge digital photos you can go to
the WBAN Records Member Site
Page last updated:
Friday, 06 November 2015