Jane Couch vs. Sumya Anani
ESPN2 Friday Night Fights from Waco, Texas, June 21 2002
by Kevin Cockle
originally published on the Women's Boxing Page
This fight was a textbook example of good matchmaking. Aside from being very credible female fighters
with similar records (Anani 19-1-1 with 7 KOs,
Couch 16-3-0 with 7 KOs). Both women are known as vocal advocates of
the sport and seem very conscious of the political ramifications of their activities in the ring. The
broadcast made mention of Couch’s legal initiatives on behalf of women’s boxing in Britain, and the
resulting impression was of a contest between women who possessed peculiar strength of character in
addition to their physical tools. Couch at 5’8”, 138.5 pounds and 33 years of age would be considered
an underdog to the ruggedly proportioned 5’6”, 140 pound, 30 year old “Island Girl”, but this didn’t seem
a fight that could be reduced to the statistical tale of the tape. In the end, ‘will’ would play a role
more decisive than any measurement.
The first round showed the class, experience, and technical ability of both women. Couch came out
behind a precision jab, doubling up on it on occasion, and rotating clockwise to keep the fight
in the middle of the ring. Jane’s legs looked good early as she stepped in and out, changed up
distance and doing everything she could to keep Anani from getting set. Sumya in her trademark
hunch got her body behind banging lead right hands and chopping hooks, looking to engage her
boxing opponent in sharp exchanges all around the ring. Towards the end of the round, Anani landed a hard right on the jaw, answered moments later by a clean left hook from Jane. Couch
had a clear game plan, was executing wonderfully, and in the early going at least, looked to
be dictating terms.
The second saw an immediate adjustment from Anani as she came out southpaw, only to be
neatly solved by Couch who jammed a straight right hand down the middle in well-schooled fashion.
Anani began to close distance with a jab that had been non-existent in the first, doubling it up as
she came forward while Couch continued to fence from outside. Sumya also began to deliberately time
her clubbing right hands over Jane's jab: both women diagnosing problems in the ring like real pros.
Clanging give and take punctuated another tense stanza, and again, Couch was holding her own during the
jagged exchanges, while getting things done positionally and tactically to keep the initiative.
Anani picked up the pace in the third, still throwing lead right hands, but following up more often
with lefts and rights in combination. Sumya would turn southpaw to better effect this round, cutting
off the ring better, getting to Couch and bloodying her nose with those hacking, meat cleaver strokes.
Step by step, the pressure fighter began to find the range and down the stretch, Anani landed a slamming
left cross to buckle Jane’s knees. Couch gave ground, but kept punching as furious two-way slugging erupted -
Anani clouting home several more good lefts to the bell. In just three brief heats, Sumya Anani had managed
to replace the boxer’s agenda with her own, and in the fourth, she would impose her will with a vengeance.
The fourth would see Anani continue to walk Couch down, and attack with blunt force, shifting her body
weight behind cudgeling side to side punches that began to look more and more dangerous as Jane began to
backpedal. The components that Sumya had put into the place one after the other – the stubby jab, the footwork,
the pressure, all came together as Couch’s back got closer and closer to the perimeter. At 1:17, a hammering
left hand from the southpaw stance staggered Couch and sat her stupefied in the ropes, right arm draped over a
middle strand, and brutal follow up punches bashed home as Anani made no mistake. Maybe a dozen unanswered lefts
and rights swivelled Couch’s head and put her out on her feet, finally eliciting action from the ref who was on
balance perhaps a touch too brave on this occasion. Incredibly, a dazed Jane Couch would protest the stoppage,
asking repeatedly “Why’d you stop it?” Perhaps when she gets a chance to review the tape, she’ll have her answer.
Sumya Anani doesn’t have what some would call an aesthetically pleasing style. She’s not going to collect
adjectives like ‘smooth’ or ‘slick’ from writers. But she’s as effective as a baseball bat in the squared
circle, and it’s easy to miss the subtle things she does to get her way in there. She’s good enough at this
point that people are going to start speculating about what has to be done to control her, and Jane Couch just
might have pointed the way, especially in the first round of this fight. If you can box for 10 rounds, limit
Anani to one good shot at a time, and keep her from planting, maybe that’s the ticket. Even then, she’ll probably
get the decision just for coming forward.
© Kevin Cockle
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