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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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,"
told local reporters after the bout, adding "I think I could have done a little better with my
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
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
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
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
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
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).
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
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
Mary Jo Sanders improved to 12-0 (4 KO) while Witherspoon fell to 10-38-1 (4
(For more photos of this
fight, see WBAN
Photo Gallery #217 on the WBAN Records Member Site.)
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
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."
Other Shakurah Witherspoon links
To check out fight reports, complete up-to-date boxing records, with huge digital photos you can go to
the WBAN Records Member Site
Page last updated:
Thursday, 13 December 2012