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Dynamic 4'11" "Downtown" Leona Brown was born in Buffalo, New York on July 27, 1960 and fought out of Pawling, New York.  Leona quickly achieved prominence as a professional boxer after getting into the ring at the age of 37.

This relentless infighter and body puncher took the women's 119 lb title at the 70th New York Golden Gloves tournament with a win over Nancy Brody of the Julio Rivera Boxing Club.

She then took the silver medal in the 119-lb division at the first US national amateur championships in Augusta, Georgia in 1997, losing a 4-1 decision to fellow New Yorker Patricia Alcivar.

Leona won her pro debut, fighting at 118½ lbs, with a four-round unanimous decision over Lisa Foster (5'7", 118½ lbs) of Washington, D.C. at Yonkers Raceway, New York on November 21, 1997. Foster was also making her pro debut.

 On January 19, 1998 at the Tropicana Resort and Casino in Atlantic City, fighting at 117½ lbs, she won a 3rd-round TKO over Sue Chase (116½ lbs) of Ohio, a former state kickboxing champion. (This was Chase's thirteenth straight loss as a pro boxer.)

At the same venue on March 21, 1998 she weighed in at 116 lbs and stopped Natasha Wilburn (113 lbs) of Atlanta by TKO at 1:49 of the fourth round. Wilburn fell to 0-5 with this loss.

A bout with 39-year-old Vanessa McKnight of Columbia, South Carolina that was scheduled for the Tropicana on May 24, 1998 was called off at the last minute when the pre-fight medical found that McKnight was pregnant!

Returning to the Tropicana on July 31, 1998, Leona won a six-round split decision over the skilful Sonya Emery of Austin, Texas, who fell to 4-3 (3 KO).

On August 15, 1998 at Arizona Charlie's in Las Vegas, Leona came in at 117 lbs and took an eight-round unanimous decision over Suzanne Riccio-Major (115 lbs) of East Nassau, New York. The win over the capable Riccio-Major, who has fought for the IFBA and WIBF world bantamweight titles, boosted Leona's reputation and earned her a shot at the vacant IWBF junior flyweight title.

On September 11, 1998, back at the Tropicana again, Leona faced Katie Burton (5'7", 121 lbs) of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada for the IWBF title. Katie, a promising 22-year old, was still a work in progress as a boxer despite being ranked #2 before this bout. Burton needed to stay outside and jab, but despite having a more than six-inch height advantage over Leona, she couldn't handle Leona's aggressive infighting style, nor could she figure out how to use her power to slow Leona down. She let Leona to get in close and often tried to hang on when she was in trouble, which allowed Leona to work her body at close quarters.

Leona earned a clear unanimous (99-91, 98-93, 98-92) 10-round decision while Katie got (apparently much needed) experience against an aggressive terrier who could get under and through her defense throughout a long fight.

Leona was Inducted into the Buffalo Boxing Hall of Fame on October 16, 1998 for being the first female boxing champion, and the seventh champion, to come out of Buffalo.

On June 11, 1999 at the Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana, Leona went up against Eva Jones-Young of South Bend, Indiana for the IFBA Bantamweight Title that had been vacated by Bridgett Riley. Leona suffered her first loss in eight pro fights, dropping a 10-round unanimous (99-91, 98-92, 98-92) decision as Young moved to 12-2-1 and took the title belt.

On July 10, 1999 the IWBF announced that it had stripped Leona of the Junior Featherweight title that she won against Katie Burton for failure to sign a contract to defend it within the mandatory period.

On July 20, 1999 at Casino Windsor in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, Leona weighed in at 116 lbs and dropped a six-round unanimous decision to unbeaten Canadian junior bantamweight Margaret Sidoroff (5'1", 111 lbs). Sidoroff tried to go toe to toe with Leona for a while, but discovered that Brown was able to handle her best shots even when Sidoroff landed cleanly. In the later rounds the always-adaptable Canadian star switched gears and used her speed to offset Leona's power. This was a hard fight from which Sidoroff emerged battered but ahead on the scorecards while some ringsiders told Leona that they thought she may have been on the short end of some "home cooking"! Margaret Sidoroff told Dee that she felt she had given up a couple of rounds to Leona, adding: "It was great! Leona is really nice! I'd heard that she was ... abrasive, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that she is a friendly person as well as a talented athlete. Leona has some unorthodox methods of fighting on the inside, but other than that we had a lot of fun." Her second straight loss against a top-flight opponent dropped Leona's pro record to 7-2, while Margaret Sidoroff moved to 6-0 with the win. Leona called for a rematch on her home turf next time!

On October 1, 1999, at the Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana, Leona won the IFBA Junior Featherweight title with a tenth-round TKO of Dee Dufoe of Bakersfield, California. Brown had rocked Dufoe in the seventh and ninth and was leading on the scorecards by one point when the referee stopped it in the tenth. Brown moved her pro record to 8-2 and showed she was still a force in her weight class as Dufoe slipped to 6-3 with her second straight loss in a ten-round title fight.

Leona in 2004Leona told me later: "Nine months of not fighting can build lots of ring rust. The "rust is off", Downtown is back in stride again! I'm gunning for rematches with Sidoroff and Young. After I take care of them, I'm gunning for Aboro, Silke W. and my ultimate goal ... Riley! Don't ever count me out of this game!"

On February 26, 2000 Leona's career was recognized when she was selected to be a recipient of the Black Prestige Award.

On May 13, 2000 at Sartory Säle in Cologne, Germany, Leona (121 lbs) got her bout with WIBF Junior Featherweight champion Michele Aboro (120 lbs), in a 10-rounder for Aboro's title. The British-born Aboro, based in Hamburg, won by a unanimous decision (99-92,100-90,97-93). Aboro moved to 16-0.

On June 29, 2000 at Viking Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1997/98 USA Boxing National Amateur 125-lb gold medalist Alicia Ashley of Westbury, New York moved her pro record to 4-3 with an eight-round split decision over Leona. Judges Manny Altman and Ron Greenley scored it 77-75 and 78-74 for Ashley; Rose Vargas scored it 78-76 for Brown.

On November 2, 2000 at Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, Texas. Kathy Williams of Thunder Bay, Canada, moved to 12-2 and successfully defended her Miller Lite Bantamweight title by a narrow decision over Leona. Esteban Erik Stipnieks wrote to Women's Boxing Page that it was "ugly ... wrestling, holding, not breaking when told to. Leona Brown's camp was adamant they were robbed. The fight was close down to one point. Kathy Williams had moments of brilliance while Leona Brown found a home for her overhand right."

On December 2, 2000 at Nowa Hala Sportowa in Gdansk, Poland, Iwona Guzowska (5'4¼", 126¾ lbs) of Poland won a 77-75,77-75,78-74 eight-round decision over Leona (120 lbs). My correspondent tells me that this was an ugly bout as Guzowska usually waited too long before countering Brown, who always tries to work in close to negate her opponents' reach advantage. He also says that "most of the time they just ended up wrestling. Guzowska waited too much and didn´t impress." Guzowska moved her pro record to 7-1 while Leona slipped to 8-6.

On April 27, 2001 at the Convention Center in Niagara Falls, New York, Lisa Brown of Toronto, Ontario, Canada won her fifth pro bout in a row with a six-round unanimous (57-55, 57-56, 57-56) decision over Leona in a thriller. Leona took a series of big punches from Lisa in the first round and went down hard, according to FightNews reporter Andre Courtemanche. Leona then came back to floor Lisa with a roundhouse counter right over a lazy left later in the round. Lisa decked Leona twice more in the second but "Downtown" Leona, who was fighting on her home turf, pressed the action after Lisa began to tire in the third and outhustled the former Canadian national amateur champion in the second half of the fight. Leona had Lisa "on the verge of a knockout" at the final bell, according to Courtemanche. Lisa Brown was the 1999 Canadian national 54-kg amateur champion and 1998 silver medalist. Lisa Brown advanced to 5-0 (3 KO's) with the win.

On July 27, 2001 also at the Convention Center in Niagara Falls, New York, Leona (116 lbs) scored a TKO over Ria Ramnarine (110 lbs) of Trinidad at 0:24 of the fourth round. Ramnarine fell to 4-3.

On August 31, 2001 at Cedar Bridge Academy in Bermuda City, Bermuda, Lisa Brown (116½ lbs) won the vacant IWBF Bantamweight title and moved her pro record to 6-0 (3 KOs) with a ten-round decision over Leona (117 lbs). There were no knockdowns in this hard-fought rematch of their April 27 war in Niagara Falls.

On January 25, 2002 at the Rollins Center at Dover Downs Raceway in Dover, Delaware, A sellout crowd of 1,600 saw Lakeysha Williams (119½ lbs) of Philadelphia defeat Leona (120½ lbs) by a unanimous (57-56) six-round decision in a close fight. Williams used her jab to control the the always-aggressive Brown. When Brown worked her way inside, she landed to Williams's head and body and got the better of the close-quarters action. Williams picked up her pace in the fourth and set down harder on her punches, knocking brown down with a hard right. Brown shook off the knockdown and continued to fight hard, but the knockdown may have been the difference on the scorecards. Williams advanced to 4-3-1 (no KO).

On July 12, 2002 at Civic Center in Glen Falls, New York, Leona easily won a six-round unanimous (60-54,60-54,59-55) decision over Renee Richardt Douglas of Fenton, Missouri in a junior featherweight bout. Douglass fell to 7-1-1 (2 KO) .

On November 9, 2002 at Trend Eventhotel Pyramid in Vösendorf, Vienna, Austria, Esther Schouten (121¾ lbs) of Hoorn, Holland won the WIBF Junior Featherweight title vacated by Michele Aboro with a closely-fought ten-round unanimous decision over Leona Brown (121 lbs). Schouten advanced to 11-2-0 (4 KO) with the win.

On March 29, 2003 at Seminole Indian Casino in Coconut Creek, Florida, Ada Velez (120 lbs) of Puerto Rico won by a disqualification over Leona (120 lbs) at 1:18 in the seventh round. Referee Armando Garcia had previously deducted two points from Brown for holding. Velez improved to 13-1-1 (6 KO).

On August 21, 2003 at Adams Mark Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,  LaKeysha Williams (122¼ lbs) of Philadelphia won a six-round unanimous decision over Leona (119 lbs). Williams improved her record to 7-5-2 (1 KO) with the win while Brown fell to 10-12-0 (4 KO).

Leona Brown vs. Missy Fiorentino
© Copyrighted photo taken by Peter Mark Heintzelman


On May 14, 2004 at Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, Rhode Island, Melissa Fiorentino of Cranston, Rhode Island won a six-round unanimous (60-53,60-53,59-54) decision over Leona. Fiorentino controlled the fight but Brown (43 years old) didn't give up and according to WBAN correspondent Peter Mark Heintzelman, taunted Fiorentino while the decision was being announced, saying "She couldn't knock the old lady down! ... She tried, but she couldn't knock me down!".  Fiorentino improved to a perfect 9-0-0 (6 KO) record with the win.  [See the fight report.]

On May 23, 2004 at Club Avalon in Denver, Colorado, Leona TKO'd local boxer Terri Lynn Cruz of Denver in the fourth round of a scheduled eight-rounder. Brown caught Cruz with a wide right hook that hit its mark, followed by another right hook to the back of the head, followed by an uppercut, which caused the fight to be stopped. Cruz fell to 10-4-2 (6 KO) with the loss.

vs. Kelsey Jeffries in June 2004
© Copyrighted photo taken by Mike Blair

On June 17, 2004 in the Umpqua Grand Ballroom at Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville, Oregon, IFBA Featherweight champion  Kelsey Jeffries (123 lbs) of Gilroy, California won an eight-round unanimous decision over Leona (122 lbs). Jeffries used her boxing skills, her jab and a lot of patience to defeat Brown, who tried to rough Jeffries up at close quarters and was deducted a point for holding. "She did everything bad that I’ve ever experienced”, said Jeffries after the fight.  Jeffries improved to 27-8-0 (2 KOs) with the win, her second in six days. (For more photos of this fight, see WBAN Photo Gallery #182 on the WBAN Records Member Site).

On August 24, 2004 at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, New York Leona (118¾ lbs) won a six-round unanimous (58-56,58-56,59-55) decision over Olga Heron (121¾ lbs) of Mississauga, Ontario Canada. The fight was the last on a card televised live by ESPN2's "Tuesday Night Fights" but was not shown. Heron fell to 3-5-0 (1 KO). 

On November 20, 2004 at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, New York Leona won a ten-round unanimous (100-90,100-90,100-90) decision over 24-year-old Stephaney George of Georgetown, Guyana for the vacant WIBC Bantamweight world title. George fell to 5-3-0 (0 KOs).

On May 30, 2005 at the Grand Hotel in Tijuana, Mexico, Leona (118 lbs) lost a 10-round unanimous (100-88,100-88,100-89) decision to Jackie Nava (118 lbs) of Mexico for the WBC Women's Bantamweight world title.  According to ringside reports translated for WBAN by Ewan Whyte, "Brown came out fast with a flurry of head shots in the opening round but Nava put her down with a straight left. Everyone but Nava appears to have thought: 'This won't last long," but Brown has never been stopped and even though the referee was eyeing her pretty closely towards the end -- the left side of her face was badly swollen -- she made it through to the final bell. The pace actually picked up from the sixth onwards, with Nava going all out for the stoppage and Brown trying to get back into the fight."  The ringside reports highlighted Nava's accuracy at midrange, hooks to the liver and straight rights and lefts to the face. The fight was watched by Julio César Chávez, Erik Morales, Antonio Margarito and Manuel Medina, among others.

Both fighters were full of praise for each other at the end. The Mexican reporters felt that Nava was clearly superior, but Nava said: "When I knocked her down in the first round, I didn't become over-confident. I couldn't stop her because she is very experienced -- still, it was exciting for the fans." Nava, who was the reigning WBA Women's Bantamweight champion, improved her record to 10-1-1 (7 KOs) with the win. She praised Leona's  courage and powers of resistance while Brown called Nava a "great champion". Leona also said that she wanted a rematch as she felt that with more time to prepare (she had taken the fight on about a week's notice) she could take Nava.

On July 21, 2005 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California, Kelsey Jeffries, (118½ lbs) of Gilroy, California won a six-round unanimous (60-54,59-54,59-54) decision over Leona (122 lbs) in a rematch of their 2004 bout. Jeffries improved to 33-8-0 (2 KOs).

On March 3, 2006 at Salle Antoine-Labelle in Laval, PQ, Canada, former Canadian amateur champion Danielle Bouchard (5'2", 119½ lbs, age 38) won a four-round unanimous (39-37, 40-36, 39-37) decision over Leona (117½ lbs). WBAN ranked Bouchard #8 at junior featherweight and Brown #9 at bantamweight before the bout. Brown fell to 13-17-0 (5 KOs) while Bouchard improved to  4-1-0 (1 KOs) in the pros, her one loss coming to Jerri Sitzes.

Leona BrownFor Leona's COMPLETE boxing record, fight reports, and huge digital photos you can go to the WBAN Records Member Site.



Page last updated:Friday November 06, 2015


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