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A Place for Women to Duke It Out

July 07, 1999|MICHELE SERROS

The July 1 match at Hollywood Park had been the buzz of the boxing community for months. An undercard of amateur males was set to start the evening's fight, but boxing fans found the main draw to be the main event--the ladies.

In one corner, wearing blue trunks and weighing 137 pounds, was national female boxing champion Krysti Rosario. Her opponent, wearing white trunks and weighing 135 pounds, was 24-year-old Juli "The Headgear Dismantler" Crockett.

Thursday night's fight was Crockett's first licensed amateur bout, a fight for which she had been training only three weeks, though she has 10 months' experience under her belt with the highly regarded trainer Phil Paolina (of L.A.'s famed Paolina Boxing Club).

But last week's fight wasn't a mere lightweight battle of babes. It was a rock 'em, sock 'em social event. B.J. Sharp and her Huzz Band provided down-and-dirty blues as fans chowed down gumbo with black beans and rice and took in the balcony views of lush foliage and hot pink flamingos from Hollywood Park racetrack's center island.

"This is the first time we've had boxing here at the Hollywood Park Casino, but from the looks of this, it'll definitely happen again," said Francois DeSilva, the event's promoter.

Female boxers have come a long way since the 1800s, when they were sideshow attractions and bare-knuckle bouts full of scratching, mauling and gimmicks.

But the more things change, the more they remain the same. As a descendant of American folklore legend Davy Crockett, Juli Crockett, his great-great grandniece, has been asked to take advantage of her heritage while in the ring.

"Because of my lineage, I've been told I should really play it up," Crockett reported, "from fighting in a coonskin hat to arriving at the ring on horseback. But that's really not me."

Others' impressions aside, the kin of the king of the wild frontier is an Alabama native. Currently she resides in Lincoln Heights, where she is a second-year theater student at the California Institute for the Arts. Aside from wanting to someday obtain the world championship female boxing title, she says her thesis will be an opera based on Melville's "Moby Dick."

"I'd like to fight in Italy and Spain someday, but female boxing's still illegal there, as it is in the more religious regions of the world. It's just not acceptable to watch women fight."

This conception wasn't evident Thursday night at Hollywood Park, where fans had obviously embraced female boxing.

After the technical handiwork of undercard winners Angel Garcia, Rodney the Persian Bomber, Terrondus Chaney and co-main event middleweight Randal Parker, it was time for Crockett and Rosario to enter the ring, work some jabs and throw a few rights. With Crockett's long brown hair tied back in a ponytail and her eyeglasses put away for the evening, she still looked like someone more comfortable checking out books at a local library than donning gloves and headhunting for a crowd of screaming spectators. But after three two-minute rounds, the ringside report declared Rosario the winner. Many fans screamed foul, while some cheered loudly.

"I was thinking more of points," Crockett later said of her loss, while seated in her dressing room surrounded by friends and fans. "You gotta fight your own fight. Don't fall into your opponent's rhythm."

So while Crockett accepted her temporary new ranking of 0-1, the public demanded a rematch, set for Aug. 12, again at Hollywood Park--a rematch she is definitely looking forward to.

"It might have been an injustice for me to win so soon, I mean, experience-wise," she said. "Besides, Joe Louis lost his first amateur fight and so did Rocky."

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