It's déjà vu for Holly Holm. Months after a dominating victory over Christy Martin, the 24 year old New Mexico welterweight finds herself facing another female boxing icon in Mia St. John. The bout, billed as the "Battle of The Knockouts" by promoter Lenny Fresquez, is scheduled for Thursday at the Isleta Casino in Albuquerque. A large turnout is expected for local favorite Holm, who says her preparation has been going well.
"It's coming good. We've been doing a lot of running, a lot of mitt work, a lot of sparring" she said, speaking by phone from trainer Mike Winkeljohn's gym in Albuquerque. "Fighting the two top names in women's boxing back to back, it's been an experience
A unique experience is how the introspective Holm views every fight. Every opponent has their own style, which requires her to prepare differently both physically and mentally. You can't prepare for two opponents exactly the same, because every fighter has different tendencies. This thinking woman's approach to boxing has served Holm well thus far, and trainer Winkeljohn gushed praise when discussing his prize pupil.
"I'm just tickled to train her. I'm kind of honored she stays here", said Winkeljohn. "She listens to me better than all my guys. She believes in what I say. Highly intelligent about the game". "She's teaching herself", he continued. "She understands the angles, she understands how to take the inside, how to get outside. She understands the theory of the game, (its) more than just being tough". Winkeljohn knows a thing or two about being tough. The trainer is a former Muay Thai kickboxing champion, who also had a couple of pro boxing fights.
Kickboxing is how Holm got her start in the fight game. Holly took cardio kickboxing classes at Winkeljohn's gym, before trying out the regular kickboxing class. A natural talent, she began to compete in amateur kickboxing bouts, before switching to the sweet science after an offer from Fresquez to fight a pro boxing bout.
"Kickboxing's what I did for all of my amateur career", she recalled. "I had a couple of fights cancel. Lenny Fresquez called and said that he could get me a fight, I said lets do it". Holm won her pro debut with a 3rd round TKO win over Martha Deitchman in January, 2002, and has been concentrating on boxing ever since. She entered the September fight with
Martin with a record of 10-1-2 with 4 KOs, picking up the IBA women's junior welterweight title along the way. Nevertheless, many thought she would be in over her head against Christy. The 37 year old Martin had over three times as many fights to her credit (51 to be exact), and had attained legendary status as a result of her toughness, longevity, and excellent won-loss record. Youth would triumph over experience however, as Holm followed a sound gameplan and dominated the action for a unanimous decision victory.
"I wanted to use my reach", she said of her strategy against Martin. "I was actually winning on the inside as well. I knew she was gonna be charging in so it was easy for me to stay back, pick my shots, counter, move. Every time she threw, in her tapes, she has to plant her feet. We really paid attention to that. So every time I saw her come in and plant her
feet, I knew she was gonna throw so I would counter down the middle and beat her to the punch and just stick and move. The plan was winning from round one, so we just kept the same gameplan. You don't have to stand there and let em hit you back". Hit and not get hit, the basic tenet of the sweet science.
So, what will be the gameplan against former Playboy centerfold St. John, a fighter who also likes to stick and move? Don't expect the southpaw Holm to be content to wage a battle of the jabs. "We're working on cutting off the ring and throwing some hard shots at Mia", explained Winkeljohn. "Holly's definitely stronger than Mia. She's gonna go get her,
make an exciting fight that way". Should Holm be victorious as expected, intriguing matchups against fellow welterweight standouts Sumya Anani and Mary Jo Sanders could become a reality in the not too distant future.
At the age of 24, Holm has seemingly come from nowhere to become one of the hottest names in female boxing. In a little over 3 1/2 years as a pro, she has won a title, beaten a legend in Martin, and gained recognition as one of the top competitors in her weight class. What are her long term goals in the sport? "I want to take my boxing career as far as I can. I never expected when I first started for it to get to this point, cause I never put any expectations on it. I want to retire at the top of my game, that's my plans. There's so many things out in life besides boxing. I have my whole life ahead of me. I have other plans for my life.