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It's difficult to figure which defines the career of Sumya Anani more:  success or irony.

She's a star in a sport where the primary goal is to injure, yet outside the ring Anani is a holistic healer.  She has been the central figure in both the highest high and lowest low women's boxing has known this decade. She was born in Minnesota, raised in Kansas, and yet is known as the "Island Girl".

Anani's rise to her watershed win over Christy Martin late last year was tantalizing yet tragic, deliberate yet filled with doubt, fulfilling yet frightful.

"I was a wreck. I just wanted to do something to help her," she told the Kansas City Star shortly after her now infamous 1996 battle against Katie Dallam.    Following four bloody, bloody almost horrific rounds -- an obvious mismatch.  Anani landed no fewer than 119 punches to her opponent's head in less than eight minutes of boxing -- Dallam collapsed in her dressing room. Following brain surgery, Dallam to this day continues to struggle. She can't drive, can't remember things long enough to even finish a simple sentence, can't read.

"We know this is a violent sport," Anani said. "We don't want to go in the ring to hurt someone. It was an unfortunate incident. I left the ring not knowing a thing. When I found out the next night, I started crying." She held a candlelight vigil in the hospital, and wrote long letters to the stricken boxer. "I considered quitting boxing, but I don't believe these things just happen by accident. I think there's a reason this happened. I think someday we will connect again.  I believe that."
   
It was Anani's fourth professional fight, part of a series of bouts against relatively anonymous opponents. Few knew of her boxing prowess before Sept. 30, 1997, when she KO'd former WIBF lightweight champion Stacy Prestage. After two more non-descript wins, Anani cemented her rising star status with a unanimous six-round decision over veteran Andrea DeShong. Like many, her start in the sport was inspired by less than pure intentions.
   
"I just did it because I was short on cash," she said. "I never pictured doing this. Also there was a girl who was giving me a hard time because she took something the wrong way.    So I thought about boxing to learn some self-defense, and thought, why not."

Still, few believed she was ready for Martin, the standard-bearer for the sport since her cover-story win over Deidre Gogarty. Anani won the fight 96-94 on two of the scorecards to complete the sport's biggest upset. Since then, she's gone on to post unanimous and convincing wins over amateur standout Denise Moraetes and veteran Dora Webber.

Sumya AnaniStill, many will remember that it was her fight against Dallam that brought her the notoriety to achieve bigger and better things, a fact not lost on the 27 year-old.

Observed Anani: "Ironic, isn't it?"  Indeed.


Brian Ackley

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Page last updated: Monday, April 5, 2004

 
     
     
     
     
 

WBAN Boxer Interview by Brian Ackley

 
     

 

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