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Good Boxing at the Paradise Theater
By Bernie McCoy
February 2, 2008
Photo: Christy Cappillino


(FEB 2) In the midst of the adulation of an enthusiastic crowd at the Paradise Theater last Thursday night, following her eight round win over Brooke Dierdorff for the NABF super bantamweight title, Alicia Ashley took time to mention what, about the night, also deserved adulation: Joe DeGuardia's Star Boxing card at the Bronx venue featured two female bouts on the seven bout card. It was, simply, one more thing the 40 year old Ashley, known, appropriately, as "Slick" nailed on the button on the last day of the first month of a new calendar year which, hopefully, could be the beginning of a figurative new year for the sport of Women's boxing.[Slideshow of Ashley-Dierdorff bout ]

Alicia Ashley was right. The two bouts were both good bouts; not good female bouts; not good under-card bouts; they were good boxing bouts, period. And that's what can happen when the right promoter and the right sanctioning body ignore the all too current and prevalent thinking of "lets spice up the card and put a couple of girls on," when boxing programs are being put together. When the right female fighters are put in the ring together; fighters, with boxing skill, either beginning their career after extensive amateur tutelage or veteran fighters honed by competition against the best fighters in the sport, what results is what happened in the Bronx on Thursday night at the Paradise Theater. What happens is good boxing.

Part of the good boxing at the Paradise on Thursday was the professional debut of Ronica Jeffrey, a NY Daily News Golden Gloves champion. Jeffrey's four rounds exhibited skill beyond the quality usually associated with the phrase, "debut." She threw combinations to the head and body that bespoke skills that come, naturally, to only the best of boxers. Jeffrey has a featherweight's speed and movement along with poise that contradicted her post fight contention that she had "some nervousness" going into her first professional bout."I enjoyed it," Jeffrey noted, "but I wasn't 100%, there's work to do." That's an attitude too often missing from a fighter who has just scaled an important hurdle; first time in a professional ring. Jeffrey has the instincts to realize that a start, a good start, on a pro career, is just that, a start.

What added a bit more luster to Jeffrey's first pro win was that her opponent, Karen Dulin, also making her debut, was not a typical "deer in the headlights" fighter, the type that all too often provide fodder for a highly anticipated debut bout. Dulin, prior to the bout, had been described as having an "extensive" amateur career and this background was given efficacy when she was led into the ring by Jaime Clampitt, the current IWBF light welterweight title holder, erasing any doubts that Dulin lacked quality professional guidance. Karen Dulin has good boxing skills, she moves and throws punches with skill and confidence, but on this night she was in with a better fighter and the 40-36 scorecards from all three judges accurately reflected the bout and the two debuting fighters. There certainly will be other nights and other bouts for a fighter of Karen Dulin's quality and on many of those nights she'll occupy the role Ronica Jeffrey played in this four round bout.

Alicia Ashley, over her eight year career, has occupied both roles against a "Who's Who" of female fighters. Ashley also figures prominently in any conversation determining who has the best ring movement in the sport of Women's boxing. "Slick" is not only Ashley's nickname, it's an accurate description of her silky smooth moves in the ring. That graceful aspect of Ashley's repertoire was on full display over eight rounds against a game, determined Brooke Dierdorff, who defines the description, "she comes to fight." Dierdorff took the fight to Ashley early in the bout, but Ashley's movement was the defining factor for the first couple of rounds. In the middle rounds, Ashley started to land her jab frequently and had Dierdorff bleeding from the nose. Dierdorff's best round was the fifth when she managed to catch Ashley with a couple of hard shots, but the veteran fighter regrouped, got back into her rhythm and clinched the bout with big seventh and eighth rounds, when Ashley landed her hardest punches of the bout. The final scores of 79-73, 76-74 and 80-72 were varying and accurate views of Ashley's dominance. It was a good bout for fans and a clear candidate for "fight of the night."

But best of all it was a good night for the sport of Women's boxing at the Paradise Theater on Thursday. It was a good night because four quality fighters stepped into the ring and gave examples of just how deep in talent the sport has become. Featured were two fighters making their pro debuts, both well trained, one a bit farther down the development track than the other but both possessing the ring skills to make a significant mark in the sport; a veteran fighter who showed the near capacity crowd exactly how good a combination of experience, skill and boxing know-how can look in the ring and a tough, action fighter who will have many future good nights against good fighters who do not possess the world class ring movement and boxing tools that she was up against on Thursday in the Bronx, and that's a lot of good nights.

Alicia Ashley was right, the two female fights on Thursday's card was a welcome sign. It went a long way towards carrying this particular night of boxing. It had nothing to do with the fact that these were women displaying quality boxing skill. These were boxers, boxers who deserved that label as much as anyone in the ring on Thursday night. And if those who are, ostensibly, making the decisions about what goes on the next boxing card or the next boxing telecast, one only hopes that the decision is made on the basis of what boxers will provide the best show. And if that's the case, female boxers, just like Alicia Ashley, Ronica Jeffrey, Brooke Dierdorff and Karen Dulin will be making more appearances on more cards in the future. It's just, purely and simply, about good boxing.

Bernie McCoy

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