Boxing

 
              === Stubborn Hallback not ready to cede spotlight ===
 
 By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing Boxing Editor
 
 (Sports Network) - It's happened before.
 
 When it comes to gymnastics, it's impossible to ignore the Olympic influence
 that's been passed from Nadia Comaneci through Mary Lou Retton through Gabby
 Douglas.
 
 And if Chevelle Hallback ultimately gets her wish, the same sort of
 generational flow will occur with her sport, thanks to inaugural U.S. women's
 boxing gold medalist - 17-year-old Claressa Shields.
 
 "We made a bold statement with medals in the Olympics," she said. "Claressa
 Shields, Queen Underwood and Marlen Esparza all fought hard and represented. I
 can see new girls getting inspired by them, yes, and that is where women's
 boxing is gonna grow, with new talent and finally an entire world seeing what
 we can do.
 
 "Now promoters just have to take a leap of faith, and work with us."
 
 But in the meantime, the 40-year-old has some work of her own to do.
 
 A professional since Shields was not quite 2, the perpetually busy Floridian
 returns to the ring next week with yet another championship belt on her mind
 ... and the lingering dream of a cable television starring role still squarely
 - albeit realistically - in her sights.
 
 The Tampa native visits the unlikely locale of Whitehall, N.Y. for the next
 step in the journey on Aug. 24, when she'll face past foe Victoria Cisneros
 for the WIBA's interim light welterweight title in the main event of a card
 featuring both men's and women's bouts at the Whitehall Armory.
 
 When asked what's to gain by fighting a foe she's already beaten - by split
 decision in a non-title bout two years ago in Albuquerque - Hallback focused
 on improving the impression left.
 
 "The fight was close and I need to be more convincing this time, because
 Victoria Cisneros, she is a challenge because she never stops and will fight
 hard as she can till the end," she said. "Her conditioning allows her to move
 forward even when she's hurt.
 
 "Last time with her, I give myself - on a scale of 1 to 10, a 5. This time,
 with me being in better condition, with more experience and the better skills,
 I can beat her again."
 
 And while the jewelry to be gained is of the questionable interim variety -
 Hallback is ranked No. 2 beneath Zambian champion Esther Phiri, while her
 6-13-2 opponent is No. 13 a division lower at 135 - it does salve the craving
 for action after a March fight in Tampa was nixed at the last minute.
 
 Phiri, who's never fought outside of Africa, is 13-1-2 since turning pro in
 2005
 
 "We had some fights fall through, yes, but I didn't want to let this
 opportunity go by," she said. "We are fighting for a title - the WIBA light
 welterweight - so that means something, and with titles and belts different
 opportunities come up so it's a meaningful rematch."
 
 Hallback last captured a title belt in 2008 when she outpointed Jeannine
 Garside for the vacant IFBA lightweight crown in Albuquerque. She was beaten
 there by Holly Holm (UD 10) in a try for the full-fledged WIBA light
 welterweight championship in 2010, and traveled to Denmark and France in 2011
 for failed challenges of Cecilia Braekhus (UD 10) and Myrian Lamare (UD 10).
 
 The losses not only dropped Hallback to 28-8-2 and kept her from winning the
 WBA/WBC/WBO welterweight (Braekhus) and IBF junior welterweight (Lamare)
 titles, but they simultaneously prolonged her long-stated career mission - to
 become the first female in a feature bout on HBO.
 
 And while it may have seemed less of a long shot before the three losses in 29
 months, hope springs eternal for the social worker/barber/gym owner, whether
 it's ultimately her who breaks the barrier or someone else.
 
 "I've had a good career. I fought good fights against the best even not on
 HBO, and there's a lot of fighters out there who can't say that and they have
 been on HBO, know what I mean?" she said. "HBO is missing out by not having
 women box on their shows, but maybe with the women being such stars at the
 Olympics that could change.
 
 "I'd love to have my dream come true of being the first woman to fight on HBO,
 but I'm not gonna let it ruin my life if it doesn't happen. I'm proud of who I
 am as a fighter and the fights I've fought. HBO would be the frosting on my
 cake if it happened."
 
 And the way she figures it, new HBO boxing czar Ken Hershman and the other
 suits have about 24 months to get it done before she finally surrenders full-
 time to her non-gloved life.
 
 "I say I'm gonna be around fighting maybe two more years," she said. "The
 payoff isn't all about the money. No, it's about what I learned, how I fought
 and what I can pass on to other fighters when I've done everything I can do
 and call it a day.
 
 "I have been blessed to have a career with no serious injuries, but yes, it
 gets to a point where you've got to be smart about your body and learn to make
 changes in your game so you can still perform and fight to best of your
 ability. And yes, I am busy outside the ring and sometimes, sometimes it's a
 struggle to get it all done, but I just have to keep pushing.
 
 "I have a lot of goals, some of which are in motion. I'm training amateurs now
 and it's my desire to be in boxing to teach and motivate fighters,
 professional or amateur. I've been in this game a long time and want to be
 able to give to others coming up."
 
 
 This week's title-fight schedule:
 
 SATURDAY
 
 IBF junior lightweight title - Puebla, Mexico
 
 Juan Carlos Salgado (champion) vs. Jonathan Barros (No. 14 contender)
 
 Salgado (25-1-1, 16 KO): Third title defense; Unbeaten in Mexico (20-0, 14 KO)
 
 Barros (34-2-1, 18 KO): Sixth title fight (3-2); Held WBA title at 126 in
 2010-11 (two defenses)
 
 Fitzbitz says: "Challenger has been in with some big names at lighter weights,
 but reigning champion seems like the belt has made him better. That won't
 change here." Salgado by decision
 
 NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-
 fledged title-holder - no interim, diamond, silver, etc. For example, fights
 for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists
 in the weight class.
 
 Last week's picks: None
 
 Overall picks record: 415-141 (74.6 percent)
 
 Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally
 since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and
 posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at
 fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him on Twitter: @fitzbitz.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 08/15 21:19:46 ET

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