New Mexico Boxing

"Nobody's Fault But Mine"
Holm takes the blame for loss to Mathis, but says rematch will be different

Story and photos by Chris Cozzone

For years, Holly Holm has rambled into the ring to a Led Zeppelin soundtrack. But after suffering the worst loss of her career, Dec. 2, 2011, it might be time to change her tune.

No reason to dump Led Zep, however, but she might want to consider swapping “Immigrant Song” for “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.”

Nobody's fault but mine / It's nobody's fault but mine / Try to save my soul tonight / Oh, it's nobody's fault but mine . . . .

“It was all my fault,” Holm said earlier in the week, before a mitt workout at the Jackson-Winkeljohn Gym in Albuquerque.

“I got no one to blame but myself.”

Toppled from the mythical pound-for-pound throne of women’s boxing and coming off a complete beatdown – the only one of her career – at the hands of Anne Sophie Mathis, the ex-queen of female fisticuffs says she not only pockets the blame, but plans to rocket her way back to superstardom, one week from today.

“I fought the wrong fight and I lost.”

On that fateful night, after building an early lead, Holm succumbed to slugging it out with Mathis.

Big mistake.

Staggered in the fifth and floored in the sixth, Holm went down for the count in the seventh.

“There’s a reason Mathis has 22 knockouts in 26 fights,” admits Holm. “You just don’t get that in women’s boxing without having that power. I’d be lying if I said she won by a lucky punch. She beat me. She was better than I thought she’d be.

“But she’s not unbeatable. She can be taken down.”

Devil he told me to roll / Devil he told me to roll roll roll roll / How to roll the log tonight / Nobody's fault but mine

For what might be the second time in her career, Holm will enter the ring a heavily unfavored underdog.
“I’ve been there before,” says Holm.

In 2005, Holm took on a fight with women’s boxing legend Christy Martin. No one gave her a chance – this writer included – but instead of finding herself on the wrong end of a slaughter at the hands of a veteran, Holm put on a clinic, winning every round on two judges’ scorecards. Since then, Holm has risen to the top of the female scrap heap.

Enter Mathis.

“I did well the first four rounds,” Holm reasons. “I was hitting her, landing shots. Well, then I got rocked . . . .”

Holm’s game plan was tossed out the window, bringing to life Mike Tyson’s famous quote about all of his opponent’s having a plan – until they get hit in the mouth.

“I went on ‘Don’t give up’ mode instead of fighting smart,” says Holm. “I’ve never had to fight through that before.”

Holm had been knocked out before. Little known to boxing fans, Holm suffered a nasty kayo in a pro kickboxing match in 2003 when boxer/kickboxer Trisha Hill turned off the lights with a kick upstairs.

“That was different,” Holm laughs about it now, nearly a decade later. “I got clocked and when I came to, and it was all over.”

Mathis is a different story. 

“I was out on my feet but I remember everything,” Holm recalls. “I remember thinking, ‘This isn’t good. This isn’t good.’”

Brother he showed me the gong / Brother he showed me the ding dong ding dong / How to kick that gong to life / Oh, it's nobody's fault but mine

“You can lose this one,” is what Holm has been hearing since she signed the rematch contract in late February.

“There’s a lot of negativity,” says Holm’s longtime trainer, Mike Winkeljohn. “A lot comes from people who care about Holly, and that’s understandable. But we got to get rid of it.

“We’re going to make this happen. It’s all about control. Execution of the game plan.”

Recently married and having already carved out a legacy in her chosen sport, Holm really has no reason to take a risk in the rematch – at least, that’s the sentiment coming from the boxing community.

“This is what I do,” Holm argues. “I don’t want to be 80 years old someday, regretting not having taken the rematch. And I didn’t want to take an easier fight.

“We’re doing this for legacy. To go as far as we can. A champion doesn’t just walk away to look for an easier fight if you’re trying to prove you’re the best.”

Easier said than done, most would argue. Hell, Holm would – and does – argue.

“This one makes me nervous,” she has no problem admitting. “I’m always nervous, for any fight, but this one makes me really nervous.”

Nerves are not such a bad thing, however.

“I think I needed to feel this,” says Holm. “This loss has reawakened nerves that have deadened over the years. Even training has been different this time.”

In a boxing town already in mourning for the loss of their greatest champion, Johnny Tapia, Albuquerque braces for the June 15 Holm-Mathis rematch.

Trainer Winkeljohn offers this final reassurance:

“This is one rematch that’s got a great ending.”

Got a monkey on my back / M-M-Monkey on my back back back back / Gonna change my ways tonight / Nobody's fault but mine  . . . .

. . . .

Chris Cozzone is a longtime writer, photographer and historian, and has covered boxing full time since 2000. A book co-authored with the late journalist Jim Boggio, “New Mexico Boxing: A History - 1868-1940” is scheduled for November release by McFarland Publishing.