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Shakurah Witherspoon
© Copyrighted Photo taken by Sandy Goldberg

 
   

5'5" junior lightweight/featherweight southpaw Carla (Shakurah) Witherspoon, also known as "Pugs", from Williamsport, Pennsylvania was born on April 16, 1968. She had a 15-1 career as an amateur and is the sister-in-law of former heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon. She has been one of the busiest fighters on the women's circuit since turning professional in 1997. Her fight profile is the who's who of her weight division ... but her bouts with ranked fighters have mostly ended in losses.

Shakurah began boxing when her husband, Steven Witherspoon, began a  boxing program in Williamsport aimed at getting young boys off the streets. She began training in that club about eight months later.

She made her pro debut on November 15, 1997 against Zulieka Moore from Washington, DC, at the Blue Horizon in Philadelphia winning by a second round TKO Moore was also in her own debut. Both weighed in at 132 lbs. Witherspoon took charge and pressed the attack from the opening bell. Moore responded with several good rights to Witherspoon's chin, but to little effect. Witherspoon landed overhand rights and several uppercuts that bounced Moore's head back. The family boxing background had evidently taught Shakurah how to throw uppercuts, and Moore hadn't the skills or the power to keep her at bay. The second round was one-sided as Witherspoon battered Moore at will. A standing eight count and further punishment left Moore bewildered and confused at the bell, and the fight was stopped between rounds.

Witherspoon next fought a three-round exhibition bout at the Convention Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on November 25, 1997 with 135-pounder Angelee Bowman of Carlisle.

On February 21, 1998 in a mostly-male, mostly-kickboxing card at Terry Nye's Karate, Kickboxing and Boxing Gym in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Witherspoon defeated Karen Nye, Terry's wife, by a four-round unanimous decision that dropped Nye to 2-4. (Nye's soon-to-be world champion protege Leah Mellinger defeated Lisa Ested on the same card.)

At the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City on March 21, 1998, Dutch kickboxing star Corrine Geeris (134 lbs) made her first sortie to the United States as a professional boxer and earned a majority draw in a six-rounder with Shakurah (133 lbs). The well-experienced Geeris appeared to dominate the action in most rounds and peppered Witherspoon with effective jabs and body shots while never letting Shakurah mount any major offense. Geeris later stated that she felt she'd done enough to earn the win, but the decision left both boxers at 2-0-1. 

On May 1, 1998 at the Trade Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Deborah Nichols (126 lbs) of Dalton, Georgia took a unanimous (60-56, 60-55, 60-54) six round decision over Witherspoon (132 lbs) in the main event on a six-bout card. There were no knockdowns but Nichols had Witherspoon in trouble in the third round. Deborah advanced to 6-0 (3 KO's) with the win as Witherspoon slipped to 2-1-1.

On July 18, 1998 at the Theater in New York City's Madison Square Garden, Australian kickboxing star Songul Oruc (137½ lbs) moved her pro boxing record to 2-1 with a four-round unanimous decision over Shakurah (131½ lbs), who was now 2-2-1.

Shakurah next began a series of fights in which she was matched against opponents who already had strong professional records. According to Shakurah, in a June 2002 interview with WBAN's Sue TL Fox, her early success and her southpaw stance had made it difficult for her to keep getting fights: "After the first couple of fights, I looked good and was very tough. And then the calls stopped coming. So I had to take a new look on the subject. Either I had to fight whoever called or not fight at all. I’m a mother with three children to raise."

On September 12, 1998 in Miami, Florida, veteran boxer and kickboxer Bonnie Canino of Fort Lauderdale, Florida moved her record to 12-2 with a first-round KO over Witherspoon.

On November 13, 1998 at Miccosukee Gaming Resort in Miami, Florida, IWBF junior lightweight champion Melissa Salamone (133 lbs) of Miami ran her record to a perfect 13-0 with a 6-round unanimous decision over Shakurah (130 lbs), who was now 2-4-1.

On December 3, 1998 at the Days Inn in South Whitehall, Pennsylvania, IWBF/IFBA junior welterweight champion Leah Mellinger of Lancaster, Pennsylvania improved her pro record to 9-3-1 (1 KO) with a four-round unanimous decision over Witherspoon. Mellinger pummelled a retreating Witherspoon throughout this fight on the way to a 40-36 decision on all three judges' scorecards. Witherspoon repeatedly moved backward but landed her best shot of the fight in the opening seconds of the fourth when she nailed Mellinger with a straight right. Mellinger shook off the shot by dancing away, gathering herself and then continuing to connect with the shot of her choice.

On December 12, 1998 in Raleigh, North Carolina, Lightweight Lena Åkesson of Hollywood, Florida defeated Shakurah by a TKO at the end of the 3rd round. The referee stopped this fight, Witherspoon's second in just over a week against top competition, for lack of response. Åkesson moved to 10-0 with 6 KO's, as Witherspoon fell to 2-7-1.

On December 30, 1998 at the Tabernacle in Atlanta, Georgia, WIBF European super welterweight champion Marischa Sjauw en Wa moved to 7-3-1 with 3 KO's with a 4-round unanimous decision over Shakurah, who took knees in the first and third rounds.

Witherspoon was now fighting past and future world champions at breakneck pace ... and it didn't stop in 1998!

On January 22, 1999 in Miami, Florida, IWBF junior lightweight champion Melissa Salamone (130 lbs) of Miami defeated Witherspoon (127 lbs) for the second time, this time by unanimous decision over 10 rounds. Salamone was now 15-0, Witherspoon 2-9-1.

On February 26, 1999 at Milander Auditorium in Hialeah, Florida, Belinda Laracuente (138 lbs) of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico moved her pro record to 15-2-1 with an eight-round unanimous decision over Witherspoon (134 lbs).

Witherspoon finally got matched against a less formidable opponent! In her next fight, on March 26, 1999 at the Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina, she moved her record to 3-10-1 with a unanimous (40-36, 40-36, 39-37) four-round decision over Lisa McRae.

On April 17, 1999 at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California: Featherweight Sandy Yard of Palm Desert, California, another world champion in the making, outhustled Shakurah for a four-round unanimous decision. Yard moved to 6-2-2 (2 KOs) as Witherspoon fell to 3-11-1.

On May 21, 1999, Shakurah won by a TKO over debut fighter Katrina Brown at 0:11 of the second round, moving her record to 4-11-1.

On July 16, 1999 at the Twin Lakes Golf and Swim Club in Rochester, Michigan: IWBF featherweight champion Beverly Szymanski (125 lbs) was leading Witherspoon (124½ lbs) on points when she sustained a severely split lip from a clash of heads in the fourth round. The doctor stopped the bout and the scheduled six-rounder went to the scorecards. Judge Glenn Hirsch had it 40-36, judge Rosemary Grable 40-36 and judge Brad Wright 39-37, all for Szymanski. Szymanski was treated by a plastic surgeon that evening and 30 to 40 stitches were required to close the wound. The decision raised Szymanski's record to 8-4; Witherspoon was now 4-12-1..

On July 24, 1999 at the IMA Sports Arena in Flint, Michigan, Tracy Byrd of Flint moved her record to 11-1 with an eight-round unanimous decision over Shakurah, who was now 4-13-1.

On August 6, 1999 in Greensboro, North Carolina, Witherspoon won a four-round unanimous decision over Judy Mayrand in featherweight action. Witherspoon moved to 5-13-1 while Mayrand slipped to 4-4-1.

On August 26, 1999 at the Hilton Hotel in Virginia Beach, Virginia Shakurah scored a third-round TKO over Katrina Brown. Witherspoon moved to 6-13-1, Brown to 0-2 with Witherspoon's second TKO of Brown in a year.

On September 7, 1999 at the Metro Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, Doris Hackl of Pugwash, Nova Scotia moved her pro record to 2-0 with a six-round unanimous decision over Witherspoon. Hackl was undefeated (17-0) as an amateur in Canada and would win the IFBA Junior Lightweight world title six months later.

On February 10, 2000 at the Days Inn and Conference Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania, junior lightweight Laura Kielczewski of New York moved her pro record to 4-0 with a six-round split decision over Shakurah.

On February 25, 2000 at the Music Hall in Austin, Texas, Witherspoon (130 lbs) won a ten-round majority decision over Melinda Robinson (129½ lbs) of Austin for the IBA Americas Continental junior lightweight title. Witherspoon and Robinson both fought defensively and the difference was in the later rounds, when Witherspoon provided just a little more offense. Robinson fell to 9-10.

On March 31, 2000 at the Coliseum Special Events Center in Greensboro, North Carolina, a crowd of about 8000 saw Witherspoon win by a third-round TKO over Karen Ramos of Ohio. Witherspoon hurt Ramos with three body shots that caused her to double over in pain and referee Richard Williams stopped the fight. Witherspoon said "I hit her with everything I had, but for some reason she wouldn't go down. But I'm happy with how things turned out." After the first round, Witherspoon had worn Ramos down with a steady barrage of body punches. Ramos fell to 1-6-0 with the loss.

On April 28, 2000 at Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut, Liz Mueller (133 lbs) moved her pro record to 3-0 with a four-round unanimous decision over Shakurah (133¾ lbs). Mueller stayed on top of Witherspoon for the entire fight and appeared to have the answers for Witherspoon's southpaw style as she was able to corner Witherspoon and open her up with body shots and left hooks to the head.

On June 9, 2000 at Zembo Temple in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, former IFBA/IWBF Junior Welterweight champion Leah Mellinger of Lancaster, Pennsylvania moved her record to 11-5-1 with a four-round unanimous decision over Witherspoon. This was a rematch of their December 1998 bout, also won by Mellinger. Mellinger had not fought since July 1999, while Witherspoon remains one of women's boxing's most active contestants.

On October 19, 2000 at the Zembo Temple in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Isra Girgrah of Hyattsville, Maryland moved to 15-3-2 with a six-round unanimous decision over Shakurah.

On February 23, 2001 at the Holiday Inn Express in Janesville, Wisconsin, Andrea Nelson of Dodgeville, Wisconsin moved to 8-0 (4 KO's) with a clear (40-36,40-36,40-36) four-round unanimous decision over Shakurah, who had no answer for Nelson's non-stop stream of jabs, uppercuts and combinations.

On March 30, 2001 at the Dover Downs Raceway in Dover, Delaware: Jamillia Lawrence of Atlantic City won a four-round unanimous (40-35) decision over Witherspoon. Lawrence backed Shakurah to a corner and knocked her down for an eight count in the opening round but Witherspoon battled on gamely the rest of the way. Lawrence improved her record to 7-3.


Shakurah (left) vs. Melissa Salamone in 2001
© Copyrighted Photo taken by Sandy Goldberg

On April 12, 2001 at Gaillard Municipal Auditorium, Charleston, South Carolina, 672 fans saw junior lightweight Melissa Salamone of Miami, Florida win by TKO over Witherspoon at 1:58 of the first round. Salamone improved to 20-0-1 (7 KO's).

On July 3, 2001 at Southern Star Amphitheatre, Six Flags over Georgia, Corinne VanRyckDeGroot of Atlanta, Georgia moved to 7-0 (4 KO's) with a second-round TKO over Witherspoon. VanRyckDeGroot put Witherspoon on the canvas twice in the second before the bout was stopped.

On July 28, 2001 in Montego Bay, Jamaica, Jane Couch of Fleetwood, U.K. fought to a four-round decision over Shakurah. Couch advanced to 15-3 (3 KO's) with the win. Jane tells me that the result was announced as a split decision, but this was an error, and that the decision was actually unanimous.

On September 25, 2001 at Lincoln Plaza Conference Center in Reading, Pennsylvania, Witherspoon improved to 9-23-1 with a four-round unanimous decision over Connie Bechtel, who fell to 1-5-3.

On September 29, 2001 at Power Promotion Boxing Gym in Martinsburg, Virginia, about 250 people saw Melissa Salamone move to 25-0-1 (10 KOs) with a first-round TKO over Shakurah.

On November 15, 2001 at Centennial Garden Arena in Bakersfield, California, Lightweight Jenifer Alcorn (5'7", 133 lbs) of Fresno, California advanced to 10-0 (8 KOs) with a six-round unanimous (60-53) decision over Shakurah (128 lbs), who fell to 9-25-1 (4 KO's). Alcorn, who established a reputation as a quick-KO artist against less inexperienced opponents, knocked the durable Witherspoon down in the opening round when she landed several hard body shots with Witherspoon trapped in a corner. She again had Witherspoon in trouble in a corner near the end of the second. Alcorn controlled the rest of the fight and repeatedly had Witherspoon in trouble but could not put her away as Witherspoon used her ring experience to dance and to tie Alcorn up when in difficulty. ("I never had a girl hang on me like that," Alcorn said, after twice having the action stopped when her top became untied during clinches.) "She's tough, very strong," Witherspoon told local reporters after the bout, adding "I think I could have done a little better with my performance."

On February 1, 2002 at Palace Indian Gaming Center in Lemoore, California, Jenifer Alcorn (136 lbs) of Fresno, California advanced to 12-0-0 (8 KO) with a four-round unanimous 40-36,40-36,40-36 decision over Shakurah (134½ lbs), who fell to 9-26-1 (4 KO's). Alcorn began the rematch very aggressively and often had Witherspoon backed up on the ropes in the early going, but Witherspoon's defense kept her in the bout and she got in better shots of her own in the later rounds.

On February 16, 2002 at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut Lucia Rijker of Van Nuys, California won a fourth-round TKO of Shakurah in a scheduled six-round lightweight bout. Witherspoon had taken the fight at short notice after one Rijker opponent pulled out and a second tested pregnant. She was in survival mode for most of the bout as Rijker attacked her with hard hooks to the body. Witherspoon went to the canvas from a right hook in the third round and dropped to her knees midway through the fourth, prompting the stoppage by referee Michael Ortega. Rijker, who was returning to the ring after a more than two-year absence, advanced to 15-0 (14 KO's) as a pro boxer with the win. Rijker told Patrick Kelly of FightNews "I had some good body work but she took some good body shots. Carla is a tough competitor and that is why we took the fight. We knew Carla would be a worthy opponent even at the last minute".

Witherspoon told WBAN that she had been asked to fight Rijker a year earlier ... "We were asked a year ago, so they kept us in mind. And then three days before the fight in February they called us after her first two opponents fell out. I felt that the referee stopped the fight too early. I was fighting back and Lucia never really hurt me."

On June 4, 2002 at Morrell Park in Savannah, Georgia, nearly 4,000 fans (3,000 getting in free) saw Chevelle Hallback (129½ lbs) of Tampa, Florida advance to 8-3-1 (4 KO) with a six-round decision over Witherspoon (127½ lbs), who was a last-minute replacement on the card.

On June 15, 2002 at DC Tunnel Events Center in Washington, DC, three-time world champion Isra Girgrah (130 lbs) of Hyattsville, Maryland won by TKO at 1:23 in the first round over Witherspoon (127 lbs) in a scheduled six-rounder. Girgrah caught Witherspoon with a left-right combination in the opening seconds and then pounded her with body shots against the ropes. "I knew that I had to go to the body early because she can't take body shots well," said Girgrah, adding "I didn't know she was a lefty last time. All I did [to get ready for this fight] was spar with lefties." Girgrah moved to 21-3-2 (10 KO) with the win.

On August 30, 2002 at Holiday Inn Center in Manchester, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico's Belinda Laracuente, fighting out of Hollywood, Florida, advanced her record to 18-5-1 (9 KO) with an eight-round unanimous (80-72,80-72,80-73) decision over Shakurah. The 23-year-old "Brown Sugar" Laracuente, who dominated Witherspoon in this lightweight bout that was the card's co-main event, was making a comeback after losing to Karla Redo in May 2000 and a controversial eight-round majority decision loss to Christy Martin on March 3 of that year.

On September 22, 2002 at Table Mountain Casino in Friant, California, Lisa Lewis (135½ lbs) of Fresno, California won a unanimous (59-55,59-54,59-55) six-round decision over Shakurah (128½ lbs), advancing her own record to 4-6-0 (1 KO). After a close first round, Lewis was the aggressor throughout the rest of the fight while Witherspoon was on the run or covered up against the ropes.

On November 7, 2002 at Chase Towers in Dallas, Texas, lightweight Michele Nielsen of Houston, Texas won a four-round decision over Shakurah. Nielsen advanced to 7-3-1 (2 KO).

On November 21, 2002 at Days Inn in Allentown, Pennsylvania, IFBA Junior Featherweight world champion Lisa Foster of Washington D.C. won a four-round unanimous decision over Shakurah, advancing her record to 6-4-1.

On April 5, 2003 at National Center in Amarillo, Texas, Linda Tenberg (124¾ lbs) of Austin, Texas evened her own record at 7-7-0 (3 KO) with a second-round TKO over Shakurah (124 lbs).

On August 21, 2003 at Radisson Astrodome Hotel in Houston, Texas, Shakurah (127 lbs) won a six-round unanimous (58-56,58-56,59-55) decision over previously undefeated lightweight Lelana Ellis (130½ lbs) of Houston. Ellis fell to 9-1-0 (3 KO) with this loss.

On March 27, 2004 at Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC, Isra Girgrah (131 lbs) of Hyattsville, Maryland won a six-round unanimous (60-54,60-54,60-54) decision over Shakurah (132½ lbs). After a slow first round, Girgrah landed seemingly at will to Witherspoon's body and head in the last five rounds. "I wanted to knock her out", said Girgrah, who had announced her intention to retire before the fight, "but her style was so awkward." Girgrah improved to 28-3-2 (11 KO) with her third win over Witherspoon, who fell to 10-34-1 (4 KO).

On May 30, 2004 at the DC Tunnel in Washington, District Of Columbia, Lakeysha Williams won a six-round unanimous (59-54,58-55,57-56) decision over Shakurah in a junior featherweight bout. Williams had a point taken away in round six for low blows. The Witherspoon camp thought the bout was a four-rounder and left the ring, causing a delay of more than 15 minutes. The bout came close to not happening at all as the Witherspoon corner was under the impression that the bout was a four-rounder and left the ring, causing a delay of more than 15 minutes. However, everything was sorted out and the bout commenced. Williams seized control early, landing solid left jabs and left hand leads. Witherspoon tried to pressure Williams and caused numerous clinches. Witherspoon was also hampered by an accidental head-butt that opened a cut along her left ear. Williams was penalized one point in the sixth round for low blows, but had the fight in hand on the scorecards and went on to win. Williams evened her record at 8-8-2 (1 KO).

On June 12, 2004 at the Athletic Association Grounds in Hamilton, Bermuda Cindy Serrano (129 lbs) of Queens, New York won a four-round split (38-39,39-38,40-37) decision over Shakurah (128½ lbs). According to ringsiders this was a very tough bout, with Shakurah utilizing her ring experience to survive and not get KO'd, and Serrano mixing combinations to her head and body. Serrano improved to 5-0-0 with the win.


Shakurah (right) vs. Mary Jo Sanders in 2004
©
Copyrighted photograph taken by Dan Graschuck

On September 16, 2004 at Kewadin Casino in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, Mary Jo Sanders TKO'd Shakurah 57 seconds into the third round of a scheduled six-rounder. Mary Jo Sanders improved to 12-0 (4 KO) while Witherspoon fell to 10-38-1 (4 KO). (For more photos of this fight, see WBAN Photo Gallery #217 on the WBAN Records Member Site.)

On January 28, 2005 at Heinz Field Terrible Tent in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Shakurah (125½ lbs) got her eleventh win in 50 pro fights with a four-round majority decision over former regional Golden Gloves champion Leslee Perella (129½ lbs) of Pittsburgh, who fell to 2-1 (2 KO's).

On February 25, 2005 at Las Trancas Banquet Hall in Maywood, California, IFBA World Junior Bantamweight champion Mariana Juarez of Mexico TKO'd Shakurah at 1:41 in the second round of a scheduled eight-rounder. Witherspoon who is well-known for fighting defensively opened the bout showing some quick jabs and ring movement, but Juárez quickly forced her into a toe-to-toe battle which she then dominated by walking past Witherspoon's punches to score with stiff combinations to her head and body. "Our plan all along was to force the issue," said Mariana's trainer Ben Lira, "Carla has too much experience to allow her to do what she wants." Juárez improved her record to 14-3-3 (8 KO).

On April 23, 2005 at Shaw Convention Centre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, home town fighter Jelena Mrdjenovich had little difficulty dealing with Shakurah, winning by a TKO at 1:50 in the first round of a scheduled six-rounder.  Mrdjenovich staggered Witherspoon with a left to the body and then banged away with lefts and rights. Near the end, Mrdjenovich backed off a slumped-over Witherspoon before wailing away again until referee Len Koivisto stopped the one-sided barrage.   Mrdjenovich improved to 11-1 (7 KO's) while Witherspoon fell to 11-40-1.

Asked if she could give any advice to other female boxers, Shakurah says: "Take your time. Don’t rush into fights, if you're not ready."

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Page last updated: Saturday, 17 August 2013

 
     
     
     
     
 

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