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"Honey Girl"


by boxing writer Kurt Emhoff

Former IWBF Junior Lightweight champion Melissa "Honey Girl" Salamone gave this interview to Kurt Emhoff, who has done legal work for Michael Grant and Craig Hamilton and is also the former Ring Magazine Trivia Champ! This December 2000 interview first appeared at SecondsOut.com and Kurt kindly gave me permission to archive it as well ... Dee Williams

Unbeaten junior lightweight Melissa Salamone, 18-0-1 (7 KO's), is one of the best fighters in the female game. However, like most women in boxing, she has had a tough time finding fights and making a living in this roughest of sports.

A few weeks back I had a chance to speak with Salamone about her career struggles, her hopes for a match-up with Lucia Rijker and her thoughts on other women boxing figures - such as Mia St. John.

Emhoff: How did you get into boxing, was it because of your brother Lou Delvalle (former WBA light-heavyweight champion)?

Salamone: Yeah, it was because of Louis. Louis was in Miami to visit and he had been training. He had just seen women fighting for the first time in the Golden Gloves. He figured that - because I was so athletic growing up and had always played sports with the guys - I would do pretty well if he trained me. And thatís exactly what happened. He convinced me to come up to New York and train for six months and fight in the Golden Gloves. I had contemplated it. I didnít really want to box. The problem was Louis and I werenít really tight as a brother and sister. I figured it would be a good way to bond with him and get a little closer to him. So I took on the challenge. We got a little closer but not as close as I would like.

Emhoff: You were a really good athlete growing up, so Iíve heard?

Salamone: Yeah I did pretty well. I played basketball for a couple of different schools. I had to build enough credits at a few junior colleges to transfer to Alabama University. I was a point guard.

Emhoff: You came into boxing just as womenís boxing was taking off. You became an amateur and were very successful from the start. You were pretty much the top amateur fighter at the first National tournament in 1997.

Salamone: It was a great experience. You get to meet a lot of people. We made history. It was awesome. I didnít even know if I was going to go to the Nationals to tell you the truth. Louis told me that I had to go because - if I didnít - no one would know about me. I had to go for the recognition. We didnít have the money for the Nationals. My husband at the time - now my ex - gave me the rent and sent me out there to Augusta, Georgia, by myself. Itís funny, I didnít even have a trainer going up there. I just picked an Augusta, Georgia trainer (laughs). They embraced me though - I got lucky. It was a pretty cool experience.

Emhoff: When you turned pro, because womenís boxing was still in its infancy, there werenít a lot of opponents out there for you to fight. I guess that explains why you fought Tawayna Braxton four times.

Salamone: I tell you that girl - she is a tough s***head! (Laughs). She would not go down! The reason behind fighting her so many times had nothing to do with there not being enough opponents. It had everything to do with, I had to get this girl down! Sheís a stripper who just comes in and takes punches. I donít know, I just had to get this girl down. She would tell me to my face, ďYouíre not getting me down. Thatís why Iím back. Iím going to beat you this time.Ē So the last time we fought I finally stopped. I still didnít get her down, but she couldnít go on anymore.

Emhoff: You were cruising along pretty well. You picked up a title along the way in 1998 when you beat Melinda Robinson. And then, going into 1999, I considered you the best fighter in womenís boxing. Then you ran into a Swede by the name of Lena Akesson. Did you know anything about her going in?

Salamone: Yeah, I knew about her. I knew she was a tough opponent. I felt like I could beat her. I had a little layoff before that fight because I was having problems with my managers. My head wasnít right for that fight. Everything went wrong that night. I play a really big mind game with myself. I had a bad relationship and through that relationship - before the fight - I started drinking. It got really bad.

Emhoff: I heard you were partying pretty hard the night before the fight. Thatís crazy.

Salamone: It was just a bad time, a bad moment for me. And I had never had any of those bad moments like that in my life before. I just went through a bad terrible year - even after the fight. (Salamone still won on points).

Emhoff: Now at some point after you signed a contract with Don King. Was that with the intention of meeting up with Christy Martin?

Salamone: Yeah, definitely. To be honest, I didnít want to meet up with Christy because of Christy. I wanted to meet up with Christy because I knew that would be the pay-day. I donít care who it is. If there isnít money, why fight? hatís what weíre looking for. I wanted to be the highest paid woman boxer in the world. I know thereís not much to womenís boxing. But Iím just too far in it to stop. If I could stop today - Iíd stop. Itís getting old already. I want to go on with my life. I want to have children someday and get married again and settle down. This is just not a sport for women - point blank. It really isnít. I guess throughout my life and playing sports, I was always very satisfied with being one of the best - but not the best. I never really set out to be the best. Iím more mature, Iím more disciplined and this is the last sport I can give my all to. If Iím not one of the best, at least then Iíll know I gave it my all to be the best.

Emhoff: Speaking of the best, you were off for about a year or so after the Akesson fight and you took a real tough contest coming back against Laura Serrano - one of the better fighters in womenís boxing. That fight was a very tough one for you and it ended in a draw.

Salamone: I prepared hard, but my timing was off. I just never felt like I had the momentum at any point. I just could not get it going. Thatís just due to the layoff. I canít take anything away from her because she did apply the pressure. She was a tough opponent. But Iím a way better fighter than that. If there was anything Iíve learned in this game, itís to stick my jab out there and I wasnít doing it. I got hit more in that fight than Iíve ever been in my life. I couldnít get it going. I have no excuses. I prepared for two months. But I know Iíll win definitely the next time we fight. I know she came out with her best, but sheíll be meeting up with a different person this time. Sheís going to be in for a big surprise. I picked up a couple of things from that fight. It helped me in some way because now a lot of people think that they can beat me. I showed some weaknesses in that fight and now a lot of people want to fight me. Before I couldnít get a fight. We had to pay people a lot of money to just step in the ring with me.

Emhoff: Thatís the thing. Christy Martinís star is kind of fading a little. I could really see you taking over the sport with a few exciting wins.

Salamone: I have to. I have to. This is a must. Iím on a mission now. I have to put a lot of peopleís doubts to rest. I have to really buckle down. I have to get rid of all of the distractions in my life first - and Iím doing that. Since signing with Richie Ryan (Salamoneís new manager), the things I used to worry about, I leave it to him. Itís a load off of me. I donít have to make calls to see when Iím fighting. Iím moving on!

Emhoff: It seems like youíve paid your dues and now itís time for the marquee type fights - the big money fights. I think the Serrano rematch is one. That first fight was two of the best in the sport and it was a draw - a little bit of controversy. To me, a rematch is easily an ESPN2 fight - a main event.

Salamone: That would be cool.

Emhoff: The one really big fight I see for you out there is with another fighter who has really had a tough time in their pro career in getting the big fight - Lucia Rijker.

Salamone: Really? You think sheís had a tough time in the pros?

Emhoff: Yeah, she hasnít fought in over a year.

Salamone: Yeah, OK - probably because nobody wants to fight her. Iíd fight her definitely. Iíd fight anybody.

Emhoff: With Rijker, she never landed the big fight with Christy Martin and Top Rank dumped her and then picked up Mia St. John.

Salamone: The Playboy bunny!

Emhoff: Yeah, the Playboy bunny who canít fight.

Salamone: And who looks like Miss Piggy. (Laughter) Does she not? Listen, sheís capitalizing off what people are building her to be, so I donít knock her. If I had a chance to do everything sheís doing - Iíd do the same thing. Itís about the money. You gotta have a gimmick, apparently, to make money. You canít just be a real boxer and make money in this business any more.

Emhoff: Thatís what Rijker was saying about St.John, too. Her famous quote about Mia being featured by Top Rank instead of her was, ďI guess my tits arenít big enough.Ē

Salamone: (laughs) Thatís funny. I could definitely see Lucia and myself fighting in a big pay-per-view event.

Emhoff: I guess the big question is would you be willing to move up to 135 lbs to meet her?

Salamone: Oh definitely. I think it would be a chess match between her and I.

Emhoff: To me, thatís really the ďsuperfightĒ in womenís boxing. You guys are both unbeaten. She had a great kickboxing background. You had a great amateur background. Youíre the two biggest names out there - besides Christy Martin, who's looked pretty bad of late.

Salamone: Yeah, I think so. I think that the girls that are giving me a hard time - Lena Akesson and Laura Serrano, you know - I just think that they are tough girls. I donít think that they display good skills. If you saw my fight with Serrano, sheís just throwing punches. Thereís no skill to her. Sheís just pressuring. Anybody can just throw, throw, throw. With Lucia and I, you can see some art there. You can compare us with the guys. Iím saying that in a very humble way. Iím not saying that Iím like this bad ass - because Iím not. Hey, I almost got beat. But I just think that there is just some form of art between Lucia and I. I just think Laura and Lena are just tough girls who throw a lot of punches.

Emhoff: You know HBO has never had a womenís fight on their telecast - unless it was Mia on a PPV telecast.

Salamone: That would be too cool.

Emhoff: I think you and Rijker is at least a KO Nation fight.

Salamone: I think so, too. Itís funny. I had spoken to Harold Lederman at a boxing match. He had seen my fight against Cora Webber on the undercard of the Tito Trinidad-Pernell Whitaker fight. He said: ďI have never seen a women fight like you.Ē And he went on and on to say how great I was, but he didnít stop there. We met up for lunch and he said: ďWhy donít you go to Lou DiBella, dress very pretty, and just sell yourself. I will back you up.Ē He wanted me to fight on HBO really bad. Thatís why I got so excited when I saw this KO Nation thing come up - I thought, ďCome on, I gotta be the first woman to do this.Ē

Emhoff: Yeah, Lou DiBella is still packaging fights for HBO and he might be the guy to make it happen between you and Rijker. Thatís totally a KO Nation fight.

Salamone: Theyíre probably going to want to put in a rematch clause because people are going to wanna see that fight again. Because that is going to be the closest thing to a manís fight youíll see in the womenís game.

Emhoff: I think youíre right. Well, good luck with that Melissa and thanks for taking the time to speak with SecondsOut.com.

Salamone: It was my pleasure.

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