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 promoters. 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 Ortegas 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 naïve 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 couldnt 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
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 naïve 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 didnt 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
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
..yes, the letter that was never sent to Mackey. I took an excerpt from
..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,
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.
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
"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
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