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Riley Spends Her Life in the Ring

March 08, 1995|MIKE HISERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WOODLAND HILLS — You look at Bridgett Riley and wonder.

Did she . . .

Knock her head in a nasty spill off the balance beam?

Suffer oxygen deprivation as the result of a sudden loss of cabin pressure?

The truth just doesn't add up.

Fact is, Riley, a 22-year-old former gymnast, cheerleader and flight attendant, loves to fight.

That's why she took up martial arts. That's why she took up kickboxing.

And that's why she is headlining tonight in the first women's professional boxing bout at the Warner Center Marriott.

Rah-rah, sis-boom- bam .

Riley, a 118-pound hard-body from Tarzana, faces Robyn Lopez, a television production engineer from Phoenix, in a four-round event on the undercard of two state championship fights. First bell in the hotel's Grand Ballroom is at 7:30 p.m.

The women will be boxing three-minute rounds, just like the men.

State Athletic Commission rules.

No headgear, no held punches.

"It's not a novelty," said Riley, who goes by the nickname "Baby Doll." "It's not going to be like a cat fight. It's not going to be wild.

"It's the real thing."

According an organization that calls itself the Women's International Boxing Federation, Riley is the top-ranked bantamweight on the planet.

Tonight's bout is her second, Lopez's first.

On the line is a place in history. If she beats Lopez, Riley can secure a spot on the first all-women's professional boxing card, next month in Las Vegas.

Riley certainly doesn't fight for the money. Tonight she will earn $400.

Rather, she does it for love. "It's my heart's desire," Riley said. "I just love it. It's in me. I wish that was all I could do."

Fortunately she has a real--or is that a reel?--job.

Riley earns a living as the stunt double for Trini, one of the crime-fighting Power Rangers, super-heroes of grade-school prime time.

Riley also receives residuals from a television advertisement she did for a popular video game.

Both jobs resulted from her success as a professional kickboxer. Honing her martial arts ability into a Hollywood career was the reason she moved to the San Fernando Valley three years ago from her native St. Louis.

As a kickboxer, Riley won three world titles--from the United Sport Karate Assn., the World Kick Boxing Assn., and the International Kick Boxing Federation.

Success came immediately.

In her first professional bout, Riley upset the U.S. champion.

Characterizing the loss as "a fluke," Riley's adversary, Denise Taylor of Kansas City, grabbed the microphone and demanded a rematch.

She got one. A month later, in Taylor's hometown, Riley won by technical knockout.

"I broke her nose and cut her eye," Riley said. "It was sweet."

Baby Doll, indeed.

Riley got the nickname as a teen-ager from her martial arts instructor in St. Louis.

"They said that's what I looked like, a little baby doll," Riley said. "No one believed I could fight until they saw me."

At the time, Riley was better known as a top gymnast. A regional champion at the Class II level, she was on her way up to national competition when she gave it up.

"I went and saw a karate tournament and I went nuts," Riley said. "It was love at first sight. I knew I had to fight."

After high school, Riley was a cheerleader for the St. Louis Storm professional soccer team. She worked at cheerleader camps across the nation before trying her hand as a flight attendant.

Since giving that up and moving to the San Fernando Valley, Riley has made a living as an actor and fighter.

Near the end of this month she plans to travel to Orlando, Fla., to work on a Fox Television pilot for a series called "Quest for the Dragonstar."

If the series takes off, Power Rangers might have to find another stunt double.

Fighting, which Riley says is her "passion," is one thing she won't give up.

"There are some things that are a lot more important than money," she said.

To get ready for Lopez, Riley has been training at a North Hollywood gym, sparring against the likes of former kickboxing champion Peter Cunningham and pro boxers Hector Lopez and P.J. Goossen.

Goossen, who will face Kenny Lopez for the state junior middleweight championship in tonight's 12-round main event, reports Riley has flashed ability that left him at least partially envious.

"I wish I could throw my hook as good as she does," Goossen said. "She has a good left. For her size and her being female, she throws good punches."

For Riley, Goossen's testimony only confirms what she has known all along.

Truth be told, Riley might describe herself in much the same way her super-hero character is summarized in a Power Ranger book.

"Quiet, intelligent, patient," but . . .

"If pushed over the limit, she becomes a razor-sharp fighter with lightening reflexes."

Couldn't have said it better herself.

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