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Photo courtesy Valanna McGee


5'6" featherweight Valanna “Dynamite”  McGee from California was born on November 21, 1980. She went 6-1 as an amateur boxer before starting to box professionally in July 2002.

She grew up in Redding, California and was a competitive gymnast “until I became too tall”. She also competed in track and field and says that she loved sprinting, high jump, and long jump, where she was “always the strongest and fastest”

Valanna first put on boxing gloves when she was 16 years old, after a friend from High School asked her to go the gym with her. Valanna says that at the time she didn’t like boxing, and could not understand why two people would want to hit each other and get hurt. But she went along anyway “just to try something new.”  By the end of the night, the trainer she worked with was telling her “you're going to be a world champion someday”. Valanna didn't take him seriously, but she still trained for about six months and began sparring with a girl who had been fighting as an amateur. “I didn’t want to look like a wimp so I did it and from that day on I was hooked. even though she kicked my butt”, says Valanna. “When I was sparring I noticed that when ever she threw she would drop her right hand. I started thinking 'I need to throw a left hook'. I noticed that I had to make her miss to land a good punch and that’s when it hit me ... this is what boxing is all about.”

From then on, Valanna says, she was on a mission to learn to box “to make my body do what my mind knew I should do.”

At the time she did not have access to boxing gyms with “real training”. “We had heavy bags but no sparring and no training. I thought that I would never get the opportunity to become a professional boxer but I managed to have a small amateur career. My one loss was when I learned about home town decisions.” 

Valanna made her pro debut on July 19, 2002 at Feather Falls Casino in Oroville, California, against rising welterweight Eliza Olson of Downey, California. Valanna lost by a four-round unanimous decision that moved Olson's record to 6-1-0 (2 KO). The more experienced Olson was the aggressor for much of the fight but a  correspondent told me that “McGee showed good skills for a debut fighter”.

Valanna told me that this was a tough fight for her because she had had a baby six months before and wasn't in the best condition. “I weighed 145 pounds and I flat out was not in shape. By the second round I thought I was going to die, I was so tired. I basically took that fight just to say I did, so I could always say I had a professional fight.” 

However, far from being discouraged, Valanna found that her pro debut “brought back the old feelings that I felt when I fought as an amateur. And I decided that night that I was going to continue to be a professional boxer. I knew that I needed training. We got in contact with Nasser Niaveroni and almost a year later my fiancé, my daughter and I packed up and moved to Sacramento to start training and start my boxing career.” 

Valanna returned to the ring on May 28, 2003 at the Radisson Hotel in Sacramento, weighing in at 131 lbs and squaring her pro record at 1-1 with a four-round unanimous decision over Nicole Beard (138 lbs) of San Francisco, who fell to 1-6 with the loss.

On August 23, 2003 at Gold Country Casino in Oroville, California, Valanna won a four-round unanimous decision over Cynthia Prouder of Los Angeles, dropping Prouder's pro record to 8-12-1.

On September 19, 2003 at Centennial Garden in Bakersfield, California, Valanna weighed in at 126 lbs and took on IFBA Featherweight champion  Kelsey Jeffries (125 lbs) of Gilroy, California. Despite taking the fight in Kelsey's original home town on just three days' notice, and it being only her fourth pro bout (compared to Jeffries' thirtieth),
Valanna (at left in picture) battled Kelsey to an eight-round split (77-75,78-74,75-77) decision. McGee hurt Jeffries with a right to the jaw in the opening round but Jeffries began to come back in the third despite often being beaten to the punch by McGee. The middle rounds were hard fought with both landing effectively but McGee tired in the late rounds and Jeffries held on for a narrow win that moved her to 22-8-0 (1 KO). Jeffries said of McGee: “She's a good fighter, but I felt I did enough to win the bout. I felt she was holding a lot and I was the aggressor.”  McGee told local press “Being this is where she was from, I knew I had to knock her out to win. You just learn from this and go on.” 

Valanna later told me: “After that fight I honestly thought that I won but two of the three judges thought that I didn’t. It kills me to look at that loss on my record. I can admit that I did start to fade in the later rounds but I still felt that I did enough to win and so did the hundreds of people in the audience that came up to me after the fight. I had people that said they were there to support Kelsey but I was robbed. Next time I will have much more time to prepare, there is no way she can beat me.” 

On October 24, 2003 at Feather Falls Casino in Oroville, California, Valanna (127 lbs) won a six-round unanimous decision over Mexican-born Miriam Rosario (5'2", 128 lbs) of Los Angeles (at left in photo). Rosario was at a reach disadvantage and had to try to work inside McGee's defense. McGee was forced into close quarters action and clinches with the busy Rosario, but she mixed it up well to earn the decision and dropped Rosario to a 1-3 (0 KO) record.

On November 28, 2003 at Radisson Hotel in Sacramento, California, Valanna weighed in at 134 lbs and won a four-round unanimous decision over unranked Sosadea Razo (135 lbs) of Santa Rosa, California. Razo fell to 1-4-0 (1 KO) with the loss.

On May 6, 2004 at Marriott Hotel in Irvine, California, on a card promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, in a scheduled four-round undercard bout, Valanna and Rolanda Andrews of Atlanta, Georgia, fought for two rounds before the bout was stopped due to a cut over McGee's left eye, resulting in a technical draw. Andrews moved to 6-7-1 (3 KO).

On July 8, 2004 at ARCO Arena in Sacramento, California, Valanna (127 lbs) TKO'd Cindy Christian (122 lbs) of Tulsa, Oklahoma at 0:40 in the second round of a scheduled four-rounder. Christian fell to 0-1-1 as The bout was originally planned as a rematch with Rolanda Andrews, but Andrews backed out and Christian stepped in as a replacement.

On December 10, 2004 at Arco Arena in Sacramento, California, Valanna (127 lbs) knocked out Mercedes Mercury (128 lbs) of Denver, Colorado at 0:24 in the fourth round of a scheduled six-rounder.  The referee didn't bother to count and the ringside doctor rushed into the ring seconds after McGee dropped Mercury on her back with a
stunning right to the head. McGee improved to 6-2-1 (2 KO) as Mercury fell to 3-7-0 (1 KO).

On February 3, 2005 at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, California, Valanna (131 lbs) TKO'd Tawnyah Freeman (128 lbs) at 1:50 in the third round of a scheduled six-rounder.  Freeman, a former Toughwoman contestant from Arkansas, had a big punch but little more, and her fight plan appeared to be limited to moving in aggressively hoping to land a single KO shot.  McGee countered with straight punches and defense, survived taking one Freeman haymaker without flinching, and began to break Freeman down in the third round.  The fight was stopped after Valanna landed a hard body shot in the third. Freeman fell to  4-1-0 (3 KOs).

On April 21, 2005 at Arco Arena in Sacramento, California, Valanna (129 lbs) knocked out Lisa Pederson (130 lbs) of Las Vegas, Nevada in the first round of a scheduled six-rounder. Pederson fell to 2-4-1 (0 KO's).

On May 27, 2005 at Arco Arena in Sacramento, California, Valanna (129 lbs) won a six-round unanimous (60-54 on all cards) decision over Amber Gideon (129 lbs) of Chicago, who fell to 1-2-0. McGee improved to 9-2-1 (4 KOs) with this win.

On June 18, 2005 at Win River Casino in Redding, California, Valanna won the vacant GBU Junior Lightweight title when Jayla Ortiz of Santa Fe, New Mexico retired after the fourth round. Ortiz could not find the answers for McGee's jabs and hooks and was in trouble against the ropes with McGee working her body in the opening round.  McGee knocked Ortiz down with a left to the head in the second and rocked her with a right uppercut that left her wobbly at the end of the third. McGee continued to dominate in the fourth after opening the round with a hard right to Ortiz's chin, and the round ended with Ortiz in obvious trouble as McGee landed combinations almost at will. Ortiz fell to 11-8-4 (3 KO's) with this loss.

Valanna vs. Tracy Byrd in August 2005
© Copyrighted photo by Jesus Sanchez

On August 26, 2005 at the Radisson Hotel in Sacramento, California, Valanna (134 lbs) won a clear (60-54,59-55,59-55) six-round unanimous decision over 40-year-old Tracy Byrd (132 lbs) of Flint, Michigan. According to WBAN correspondent Jesus Sanchez, "Tracy went at Valanna the entire fight and established the pace but Valanna landed the more meaningful punches. There were no knockdowns." Valanna improved to 11-2-1 (5 KOs) while Byrd fell to 13-9-1 (4 KOs). For more photo coverage of this fight see WBAN Members Site Photo Gallery #280.

Photo courtesy Valanna McGee

On February 3, 2006  at the Win-River Casino in Redding, California, In what was called the "fight of the night" Belinda Laracuente of Miami Forida fought Valanna to an eight-round (78-74 Laracuente, 78-74 McGee, 74-74) draw. McGee showed her punching power in the early going but Laracuente turned it around in the later rounds.  Laracuente's record moved to 22-12-3 (9 KOs), McGee's record moved to 11-2-2 (5 KOs).

Valanna spars mostly with men “because there aren’t enough women fighters out there. I am the only female that competes at my gym. But I do work with other females, like I have left hand only they have both. Or they have offense and I have defense. I use what ever I can get. All the men in the gym are totally supportive of me, even though they say they wouldn’t let their girl friends or wives be fighters. They all give me advice. Everyone believes that in time I will be a champion.” 

"I keep hearing that my technique is good," says McGee. "I have a lot of speed and power ... I throw a good left jab, but my favorite punch is the straight right. I like to rock the girls with that punch."

Valanna' first trainer Nasser Niavaroni said McGee "wasn't very skilled when I got her. She weighed 142 pounds and was winging her punches. But with the right training and conditioning, the extra pounds came off easily, and she's still strong."

Valanna is in the gym five or six days a week. She does her boxing workout and weight training for 3½ hours a day. She runs six days a week, doing her running by time and intervals, not by distance. “I definitely have to eat well and take multi vitamins to stay strong”, she told me..

I asked Valanna how she balances being a mom to her daughter Chayla and being a boxer. “Being a boxer and a mother is great,” she says, “it is the hardest but most fun jobs you can have. If it wasn’t for my fiancé I probably would not be able to box. He works while I stay home and take care of our daughter and while I box. I am lucky to have him.” 

She adds that boxing has made her life different because she was in the foster care system from age 13 to 18. “Anyone in the system knows you move around a lot. I can’t even count how many families I lived with. If it wasn’t for boxing I think my life would have gone down a totally different path for the worst. Boxing gave me a reason to want to do good and stay out of trouble and to be happy. I think that to be a happy person you have to feel that you are good at something or like doing something if it’s boxing, reading, writing, singing or whatever it may be.” 

Valanna in tip top shapeValanna has some advice for anyone who's thinking about taking up boxing. “You can have all the talent in the world but if you are not in shape it is useless. It’s like having a Ferrari in your garage with no gas in it. My coach Nasser told me that once and I tell myself that every time I wake up and don’t feel like running.” 

"In boxing it has taken a long time to get where I am and I still have a long way to go”.

Her goal as a boxer is “to beat the best and to be the best. I know that I have talent that no other female has, all I need is more experience so that I can calm down and relax when I am in the ring. Right now I am just looking for experience and wanting to get better. Although every morning I get up to run I do think about a rematch with Kelsey Jeffries. I know with time to prepare for a rematch she doesn’t stand a chance.”

"Boxing is something I totally love," she said. "Now, I want to see how far I can go."

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Page last updated: Friday November 06, 2015


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