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"A story that needs to be told."

by Sue TL Fox
August 2, 1999

We hear a lot about who's at fault when a mismatch occurs between a fighter that has much more experience than her opponent, and the misfortune that always follows.

Some think it is the manager's fault, or the promoter’s. Others feel it is state athletic commissions who should ultimately protect the fighters from getting into these mismatches. Through all of this, very few bring up the impact it has on the fighters themselves. A better name might be sacrificial lamb, or victim, these fighters who step in way over their head, when they go through the ropes as nothing more than an "accident waiting to happen."

This "Tiger Tales" is not going to be about the up and coming top women fighters who take these fights, but about fighters who are victimized by this system or process.

In 1998, a very distraught woman wrote to me about a fight she had taken for her debut in Kansas City against a fighter by the name of Mary Ortega, a young undefeated fighter, who had also fought as an amateur. Ortega, who was barely old enough to vote, is a very, VERY, talented fighter. Ortega's opponent on the other hand was a local  resident of Kansas City, working out in a karate school, 46 years old -- and never having one amateur or professional boxing match under her belt.

When she wrote to me, she had all the tell-tale signs of trauma and depression. This alleged fight left Ortega’s opponent on the mat three times, before the ref stopped the mismatch 1:59 seconds in the first round.  I ran her story in 1998, and she was so humiliated about what had happened, she requested that her name be left out of it. At that time, I gave her the aka of "Ms. Anonymous."

Just recently, after developing a long and trusting relationship with Ms. Anonymous, she revealed to me a letter she found that she had written a couple months after her ill-fated bout with Ortega. The letter -- which was never sent -- was addressed to her "mentor", a person that at one time she had highly respected, "Sensei Steve Mackey." Mackey was the person most responsible for setting up the match with Ortega in the first place. Mackey apparently played many roles in Ms. Anonymous' life -- half-manager, half-trainer, half-friend. That letter she sent to me, prompted me to ask her if I could now tell the whole story about her fight with Ortega, with her name included. "Ms. Anonymous" needed to think long and hard about that, and she finally said that the whole story could be revealed.

Meet Barbara Pretz. She was hesitant to expose her name for fear that she would be ridiculed or looked at as a poor loser, but I assure you, when you read about her story, there will be no doubt that she is NOT a "poor loser", but a nave fighter, not knowing the boxing game, just like so many other women who have been through this -- including myself. She wanted to tell her story to allow others to learn and to know what it feels like to be the opponent who is the one that is duped into the fight.

Pretz was Ortega's ninth opponent as a pro. She worked out in a karate school, run by Sensei Mackey. Pretz' respect and loyalty for Mackey was unyielding, and I believe even after the fight had taken place that it took her close to a year to understand that his intentions were not in her best interest, whether he did not know what he was doing or not. The fight took place on September 10, 1998 at the Flamingo Casino in Kansas City, Missouri. Barbara was not a boxer, but actually trained in karate and kickboxing. She was busy with her regular profession as a registered nurse, who had an MA in psychology.

Despite not starting her karate training until after age 40, she was far from a novice. She was actually a gym rat, and couldn’t wait to get the chance to box professionally. “I was in the best shape of my life,” Pretz noted, “taking every class our dojo offered and wanting more. I trained often from 6 to 10:30 at night after a full day at work. I could do 16 hard rounds of circuit training AFTER completing two karate classes. I even joined a gym to spar with Dwane Lewis, a champion kickboxer, on Sunday afternoons because the dojo was closed on Sundays.”

Barbara remembers on one occasion, Mackey asked her if she was interested in boxing, as he was getting requests for women boxers. She said that she "jumped" at the chance because she had a keen interest in boxing. She had been training very hard that summer, averaging about 15 hours a week, mixing it in with karate, kickboxing, aerobics and bag work. Barbara also worked with a boxing trainer one day a week. Barbara admits that she was very nave about the boxing world, and had no idea what was in store for her.

Apparently the "other camp" put off confirming her match with Ortega for weeks. Finally, Mackey had reached his limit. He gave them a deadline, which they did not recognize. But about two days before the fight, Mackey was re-contacted and they then expressed interest in having Barbara fight Ortega.

Barbara did not know very much about her opponent, and the information she and Mackey received she felt was misleading. Barbara felt partially responsible because in retrospect she felt that she and Mackey -- who didn’t even go to the fight -- should have done their homework before accepting the fight.

Barbara stepped in the ring that night with Ortega, and was intimidated before the first bell even rang. 

"Her shoulders are something I had never seen before,” Pretz said. “When I faced her in the ring I got the image immediately of a football player with shoulder pads on. And she was either covered with sweat from warming up or they sprayed her. It was intimidating. I didn't have time to think about it though, I just went on the attack every second. I would try to be aggressive in fighting, and then she would knock me clean off my feet with just the force of her blows.  She didn't hit a nerve to get me down, it was just the force of the blow."

Barbara said as a sideline to that night of the fight, "Sumya (Anani) had a fight with Alisha Sparks, the fighter mentioned in the Atlanta sleaze article. Anyway, Alisha was angry that night prior to the fight, saying that her own manager had misrepresented the experience level of her opponent. (Of course I am thinking, "My manager would NEVER do that".) Alisha had no idea what she had gotten into. Sumya destroyed her in about 30 seconds, knocking her down three times." Barbara said, "My fight was announced as my pro debut. Yet there is no record of it. A Missouri commissioner I know from kickboxing said months later that it was an exhibition. It was not!"

Seeds of suspicions had already been planted prior to the fight, she noted. “Neither my manager, Steve Mackey, nor anyone from my corner was able to accompany me to the weigh in, so I was not sure what to do. Bud Keyes of Eastside Boxing where Ortega trains seemed to be the man in charge of the event. He shrugged off my applying for the boxing license until the next day, the evening of the fight. The Missouri commish was angry about that and asked me if I wanted to fight. When I said "yes", he let me get the license and said he chewed out Bud. There was not time for the background check and he said Bud knew better.

“I knew from frequent trips to Ringside that Ortega was fighting that night, but couldn't find out who until we got the call. Her fight was highly publicized for weeks. They must have been short one opponent."

And, so, Barbara Pretz goes down in the books as another fighter duped into a mismatch with someone she knew nothing about. All that she has, is the memory, the experience, and the letter…..yes, the letter that was never sent to Mackey. I took an excerpt from Barbara's letter…..hopefully, Mackey will pay a visit to WBAN and finally read about the devastation he played a part in……

"The reason this was so hard is not because it was a loss. ...But I had NO CHANCE AT ALL. That was what was so completely demoralizing. I had no chance to box; to move , slip, block, punch back, nothing. I was totally overwhelmed from the first moment and reduced to instinct alone, which told me to keep getting up and fighting back, though obviously it was totally ineffective. That is why any attempt on anyone's part to tell me what I may have done well...fell on deaf ears. There was nothing I could have done to alter such an overwhelming, relentless assault... And then to have those I trusted not acknowledge the truth of the opponent's skill, but to act as if I could have done better seemed a painful absurdity and it left me no where to turn..."

Barbara recalls that after her fight with Ortega, her "trainer" told her
that Mary Ortega was NEVER going to lose, and that she was the "best" there was in women's boxing. Barbara now questions that comment with, "Why was I ever put in the ring with a fighter like that when I was nothing but a beginner." Good question, Barbara……TL Fox

Emails exchanged with Barbara before she told her story... 
emails she sent to me......

" Prior to my pro kickboxing debut against World Champion Kyoko Kamakaze, Mackey said, "I've been managing fighters for 25 years. Trust me." Those words were in the forefront of my mind as I accepted the match with Ortega.  It never occurred to me to second guess the fights he offered me.
I didn't think I had to.
"But in all that training, I never even one time sparred with a "real" boxer. Wouldn't that have been a likely first step for someone who says she wants to box?" Barbara

Special Message from Pretz for Ortega......

"If you hear from Ortega, please assure her that I have a great attitude toward her personally....I would really like to get a tape of the fight......  I just want a souvenir for myself alone - no grandkids to show it to- just me. "

Emails from TL Fox to Pretz in 1998.

10-14-98 "Reading your letter was heart-wrenching for me to say the least. I've been there, done that. The only way we are going to stop some of these mismatches, by innocent women being picked for the slaughter is to educate, and get this information out to the public. Maybe by doing this, people who get involved in the world of boxing and have little knowledge of that they are doing will take their blinders off!" T.L.Fox

"I went through the exact same thing as you. It is horrible. I remember the news media playing my TKO over and over and over again. Calling me a 'Wilted Lilly'. No one realized I had been duped. I also suffered from a concussion, I am sure. I was too humiliated and too broke to go see a doctor. There is nothing wrong with naming the fighter you fought. I did Kibby and every fighter that has it happen to mentions their opponents name. The public needs to understand that this is wrong, and it is also dangerous."
TL Fox

When TL Fox ran the story in in 1998.

Quoted on homepage 10-16-98 "The next inside story is by a woman who had one professional bout in 1998. She wishes to remain anonymous at this time. She is still having trouble dealing with how she was duped into this mismatch. Hopefully, as she begins to heal from this experience, she will want to include her name." T.L. Fox

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