Gibbs: From Movie World
Real World Boxing
By BRIAN ACKLEY -WBAN Senior
(NOV 2001) Fredia Gibbs is hoping that Friday night's showdown with Sumya Anani --
perhaps the most highly anticipated matchup of the five world championship
fights on the all-women's Austin, Texas, card -- holds to one of Hollywood's
most tried and true traditions: the happy ending.
And who better in the sport to know all about that than Gibbs, the
Michigan native who was featured in the 2000 movie release
"Knockout." While the bright lights and big screen were nice --
Gibbs now lives in Hollywood and has several more boxing scripts to read
through when she gets back home -- the career change lead to a knockout of a
It, for the most part, KO'd her promising boxing career. Well, not so
much knocked out, really, as slowed it down -- considerably. Her only pro
loss came in the summer of 1999, in a championship fight against Leah
Mellinger, and she has only fought twice since. One was later that year in a
six round unanimous decision against Michelle Vidales, but not again until
June of 2001, a "get-back-in-the-ring" four round affair against
And she has a good answer when asked which she like most: the movie world
or the real world of boxing. "I enjoy them both," she chuckled.
"But the movie world is much more lucrative."
Of course, a win Friday against Anani, the only fighter to have ever
beaten the sport's most recognized name in Christy Martin, would almost
assuredly lead to better paydays.
"I truly believe that pound-for-pound in this division, I believe
I'm the best," Gibbs said. "I've been kept in the shadows. This
will give me the opportunity to not only say that I'm the best, but display
that I am. It's a wonderful card, probably one of the best ever put
together. I just believe the best should fight the best to make the sport he
In addition to her movie, family illness also cut into Fredia's ring
time, and helped douse her enthusiasm for the sport. But in June, that
changed. Someone needed to re-light the fire; Howard brought the matches.
Although it was only four rounds, and it wasn't against one of the
sport's big names, that fight at Hollywood Park Casino was as important as
any in The Cheetah's career. The time for juggling, at least for now, was
"It gave me the opportunity to realize this is what I really want to
do," Gibbs said.
With the WIBA's 140-pound championship belt on the line, Gibbs doesn’t
plan to blow her second title opportunity.
"Sumya is a good fighter, she's a warrior, she's tenacious, a very
hard worker. My style is to hit and don't get hit," Gibbs said. "I
won't go toe to toe -- that's not my style. She comes forward. She's a
flat-footed fighter. But I feel she hasn't come up against a person like The
Cheetah. I'm a technical genius. The world is going to see a brilliant
performance from The Cheetah. When I fought Leah Mellinger, I felt they took
it from me, but they will not take it from me this time."
It's funny how Hollywood -- where boxing has been a thread for some of
the industries most memorable movies -- can reflect the sport for real.
"Hard work. long hours. dedication, discipline," said Gibbs, when
comparing the box office to the boxing ring. And a hope that there's at
least one more happy ending waiting to be written.
It's more than appropriate for Fredia Gibbs to
be known as "The Cheetah." For most of her life, she has been
Today, she's running toward a world
championship in the ring. It's a long way from the rough-and-tumble world of
Chester, Pennsylvania, where Gibbs did a different kind of running. "It
was tough growing up in my household with my mom," Gibbs told the
Philadelphia Inquirer a year ago. "She was a very tough woman, she was
strict on us. Growing up in the projects, kids will test you and we were not
allowed to hit anyone back.
"She was running from the neighborhood
bullies, "People liked to mess with me," she continued. "I
guess it was a certain look that I had to myself. Even to this day, people
still test me, until they find out who I am. " The latest to test
Gibbs, and lose, was Hannah Fox.
The Cheetah stalked her way to a unanimous
six-round decision in the January bout, putting Fox on the deck in the final
round. Always an athlete, Gibbs used her speed to become an all star in both
track and basketball in high school. It was then her uncle, a martial arts
instructor, first pulled the fragile youngster into his gym. "Older
girls, younger girls, they all tried to bully me." Oh, if they could
see her now. She already cuts one of the most impressive and athletic
figures in women's boxing. At 5-7, 135 pounds, her body fat hovers at a
measly five percent.
In seven professional fights, she has
posted a 6-1 mark, losing only a championship bout to crafty Leah Mellinger.
"I feel there's not a woman in the world that can touch me," Gibbs
also told the Inquirer. "I really feel that way, and I really mean
this. No one knows how I grew up, and if I survived that, I can survive
anything." Her boxing debut came in January, 1997, with a decision over
Maria Fortaleza Recinos.
It followed a 16-0 kickboxing career,
highlighted by a spectacular third-round knockout of world champion Valerie
Henin. Far from just a jock, she obtained a degree in marketing
from Cabrini College, and played professional basketball in Europe,
averaging almost 30 points a season. In 1990, she moved to California, where
she parlayed her karate background into a successful kickboxing career. Her
decision to move to boxing was a natural. "I have very high goals for
myself. They're discussing big purses in this sport.
As I see it, it's a great opportunity not
only for myself, but for women in general. I'm not only fighting for myself
but for the girls of the future. The thing I think about with boxing is the
hard work, the dedication and the commitment. It's a sport, a physical sport
and I'm a physical woman."