Holly Holm finishes boxing career with a dominating win over Mary McGee
Ringside report by Chris Cozzone and Gerardo Martinez
Photos by Chris Cozzone
Bidding adios to boxing after more than a decade and marking the end of an era, on both local and global fronts, Holly Holm left an emotional sold-out crowd, last night at Route 66 Casino in Albuquerque, with a final-but-furious victory.
Relinquishing all claims to pound-for-pound supremacy, Holm securely stepped down from her throne in a safe scrap by dominating oversized, overwhelmed Mary McGee, of Gary, Ind., through ten rounds. It might not have been the showdown fans have been clamoring for – Holm vs. Cecelia Braekhus, of course – but the 3,000 in attendance at the Fresquez-promoted card wholeheartedly cheered on the champ that has reigned at the local box-office since 2005.
Giving up weight, size, speed, and every other advantage you can think of, McGee, really a lightweight, never really had a chance. Finagled by fast footwork, diminished in dimension and hindered by Holm's hustle, McGee sought a variety of solutions – all to no avail. Several times, she hurled herself at Holm, who merely tied up her foe or quickly countered with quick combinations. In the later rounds, she stood in place, trying to counter Holm's aggressive rushes. That didn't work for long, either.
Big straight lefts, hooks to the body and uppercuts while clinching all repeatedly marked rounds for Holm. Round seven proved the closest round, with McGee countering rights on Holm, but marginal success did not sway the judges, who all saw a shutout win for the hometown girl, 100-90 thrice.
Clutching flowers and two minor league belts at stake in the fight, Holm wiped away the tears to express her gratitude and mixed emotions. Still on top of the game, Holm retires from boxing with a record of 33-2-3, 9 Kos.
McGee, on her way back down to lightweight, falls to 20-2, 11 Kos.
Holmless in New Mexico: Holly goes MMA
Tearful for different reasons, both Holm and McGee spilled it – literally – at the post-fight press conference.
McGee gave Holm her props, but said, "I'd like to go back to my weight class," that being lightweight. "I walk around at 140, so Holly was a lot bigger than me.
"She was stronger than I thought. And fast. But it was good to fight a champ like Holly. I'm disappointed, of course, but I was fighting a world champion."
Holm returned the compliments, but, continually wiping away tears, confirmed her retirement in the squared circle.
"My heart is just not in it anymore," Holm confirmed. "I told everyone that I'd do this as long as I'm passionate."
Losing that passion, said Holm, was something that began two years ago when she started taking time out from boxing to fight in the cage.
"There was still that 'Hmmm, where will I be after this fight?'" said Holm. "But I really feel done. With this. There's a lot of things that brought me to this – it wasn't a decision made overnight."
One of those "things" had included a superfight showdown with Cecelia Braekhus.
"When that fight didn't happen in April, and she went on to fight Mia St. John instead, I decided, I'm going to go MMA," said Holm. "I will never sit around and wait for one fight."
Though ending a career in a sport that has made her name, Holm reminded the media that her fight career was far from over.
"I'm still young – 31," she said. "I want to make a goal at MMA. A lot of people think I'm taking the 'easier route,' but in MMA, I'm a beginner. It's what's intriguing me.
"It's not over. If you're a fighter, you're a fighter. I'll always remember the emotion and the defining moments I've had in my career in boxing. I've learned a lot of life lessons through this sport and I'm forever changed from it."
Lenny Fresquez assured the boxing media that he would continue promoting the sport that has made him the top local promoter for a decade-and-a-half, but that he would also put on MMA shows headlining Holm.
"We'll support Holly in whatever she wants to do," said Fresquez. "Our goal is now to make her the best MMA fighter in the world. Holly or Mr. Winkeljohn might not say it, but I can – our goal is Ronda Rousey. She's about a year-and-a-half away, four to six fights."
Without Holm in the ring, however, Fresquez admits that it may be some time before he's able to sell out another boxing event.
"It'll be tough," says Fresquez.
Baca bounces back at lightweight
Bouncing back from a beating by Yordan Hernandez, Fresquez-signed lightweight Matthew Baca (3-1, 2 KOs), of Albuquerque, outhustled Armando Gonzales (2-3, 1 Ko), of Tucson, Ariz.
Instead of following the local blueprint that warrants a zombielike opponent when you're coming off a loss, Fresquez' choice of Gonzales had Baca working for his win. The Tucson kid was aggressive and game, picking up late rounds as Baca backpedaled away.
Outboxing Gonzales, however, and throwing far more punches, earned Baca the majority of rounds. Short, fast inside punches copped the early stanza. As the fight progressed, while bleeding from the nose, Baca fought smart and kept his distance from Gonzales' one good punch – the straight right.
All three judges gave Baca the decision, with scores of 58-56.
Romero new threat at welter
Returning after a ten-year hiatus without an ounce of rust, Brian – "Rocky" now, though still "Torito" – Romero (3-0, 2 KOs) proved himself the top threat to state honors at welter with an impressive decision over Michael Coca Gallegos (1-11-1, 1 Ko).
Romero was all over Coca Gallegos in round one with relentless pressure and a variety of combinations. Fighting back in spots, but mainly weathering Torito's charges, Coca Gallegos showed his usual gusto. Despite the pressure, the most damage came from a headbutt that sliced open a gash over Romero's left eye.
Round two was much closer. Romero closed the gap, landing inside on the ropes but Coca Gallegos, also cut over his left eye by the end of the round, was able to land a stunning right halfway through.
Bleeding like a speared bull, Romero continued charging Coca Gallegos, hurting him several times in the third. Multiple left hooks to the body had Coca Gallegos wincing. In the final frame, Coca Gallegos was bulled into the ropes yet again, Romero blasting him with repeated combinations.
Two judges saw a shutout, 40-36, with the third, 39-37, all for Romero. NewMexicoBoxing.com/Fightnews also saw the shutout for old newcomer on the scene, Romero.
"I hope I proved I'm back," said Romero. "It's back to the future! It felt like I was 21 again."
"Pittbull" and "El Puma" might want to take note – there's a "Torito" loose in Albuquerque.
Gabaldon hooks debut win
In a high-action four-rounder between Albuquerque junior lightweights, Gabe Gabaldon (1-0) won his debut with a hard-fought majority decision over Brandon Salazar (0-1).
There was one big difference between the two debuters – a left hook. Simply put – and easier thrown than written about – Gabaldon had a hook that couldn't miss.
With both trading shots early, Salazar came at Gabaldon with a slower-but-hard-hitting right hand. Hooks over the guard and sneaky uppers in close edged the early rounds for Gabaldon, however. Both fighters – anxious and aggressive – showed a bit of fatigue after two.
In the third, Gabaldon, slower now but smarter, timed his left hook repeatedly while Salazar's continued aggression and big right hand edged him the round. In the last round, Salazar was on his way to picking up a second round but Gabaldon made scoring a toss-up with two big left hooks that might've stolen the show.
One judge, unswayed by Gabaldon's lefts, ruled it even, 38-38, while the other two saw Gabaldon ahead, 39-37. NMB saw likewise, liking Gabaldon's bigger punches and scoring it three rounds to one.
Everyone thought Flory Olguin, Jr. was crazy for attempting a pro debut at the tender age of 48. Though an accomplished amateur in his day, and the son and nephew to two of New Mexico's greatest warriors – the late Flory Sr. and Joey – Flory, Jr. was committed to honoring family legacy.
Unfortunately, wearing the robe his old man wore while headlining countless shows in the 1960s at the Civic Auditorium, could not save this old man from time.
Olguin's foe might've been a ring-unsavvy cage fighter, but Manny Rocha, also debuting, had one thing Olguin didn't have – youth. Better make that two things: besides youth, Rocha had a bit of power.
That Olguin was in for a rough ride was evident after the opening round that saw him shoved to the canvas. Though Olguin sought to box from the outside, his punches bringing smiles, if not laughs, from Rocha, big rights and a quickly-growing fatigue took their toll.
By round three, Olguin was ripe for the picking. After landing to the body – his best shot – Olguin was on the short end of a long, overhand right. Olguin plummeted to the canvas where he was attended to for several minutes. Official time of knockout was 1:55.
No doubt retiring at 0-1, Olguin was still muddled upon leaving the ring, saying, "I thought my corner went down."
Frowning, Olguin also stated, "Didn't expect this . . . ."