Friday, June 02, 2006

Terri Blair story

Okay, it's almost a week after the fact. But I work for a weekly paper, so that's the way it goes. Here, finally, is the story I did on the Terri Blair win over Sumya Anani for the Women's IBA Welterweight title.

PRO BOXING - Blair retains crown with ninth round TKO

By SPC. IAN BOUDREAU/Turret staff writer

The fight was billed "Retaliation," but Sumya Anani didn't get a chance to avenge her March 25 loss to Terri "The Road Warrior" Blair, who defeated Anani by a technical knockout in a remarkable ninth round finish at Louisville Gardens Saturday, retaining her International Boxing Association champion title in the women's welterweight class.

Blair, who improved to eight wins (five by knockout), 10 losses, and two draws, took an early beating from the more-experienced Anani (25-3-1), who connected a powerful hook to Blair's head in the first round. Through the ninth round, Anani led on all three judge's scorecards.

Anani, widely regarded as the most feared fighter in women's boxing, was more aggressive throughout the match, with Blair stepping back or around as Anani pushed forward.

However, Blair--a southpaw from Paintsville, Ky., fighting in her adopted home town--was dishing out enough punishment to wear the visiting Kansas native down.

By the eighth round, Anani was hunched forward, and after lunging forward with a jab, she stumbled and fell to her knees as Blair counterattacked.

On her feet again, Anani quickly went back on the offensive, managing several hits to Blair's head and body. Blair kept her distance, though, and sent the wobbling "Island Girl" to the mat twice in the ninth with stunning blows to Anani's head.

The third and final knockdown came during the final second of the ninth round. Referee Robert Dixon halted the fight, declaring Blair the victor by technical knockout.

The victory occurred in an appropriate setting.

The Gardens is located on Louisville's West Muhammad Ali Boulevard. A native of Louisville, Ali battled George Foreman in the legendary "Rumble in the Jungle" on Oct. 20, 1974, in the Congo. On the line was the world heavyweight title, and Ali was a heavy underdog after three years of suspension from boxing.

However, after apparently dominating five rounds, Foreman was sapped of energy in the humid heat of the outdoor ring. In an interview displayed in Louisville's nearby Ali Center, Foreman said Ali whispered to him, "Is that all you got, George?"

Ali went on to win by knockout with a combination of a left hook and a straight smash to Foreman's face, sending him down for 10 counts.

Blair, who was born in Paintsville a year later, said the win should quiet any discussion of her March win by TKO over Anani for the IBA title as a fluke.

"I beat her legitimately," she said.

There was no ill-will between the two fighters, though. Immediately after she was declared the victor, Blair rushed over to Anani's corner, where the two hugged.

It was Blair's first time fighting in her new hometown. She dedicated the match to her grandmother, Renia Blair, who passed away at the age of 76 Tuesday in Paintsville to a sudden heart attack.

After hearing the news, Blair immediately headed home for the Friday funeral, missing a press conference scheduled that day and just barely making it back to Louisville in time for the official weigh-in.

Despite--or perhaps, because of--her emotional week, it was Blair who hefted the women's IBA welterweight title belt after the final bell sounded.