There are so many words that come to mind when I think of Holly Holm, but undoubtedly the most appropriate is “classy.” I was one of the few who predicted an upset in her November 14th UFC fight with super star Ronda Rousey. When I posted Team Holm’s “We Believe, Upset/Downunder” poster on my Facebook page, friends suggested I be institutionalized. Few, however, were as familiar with Holly’s boxing credentials as I was.
Holly Holm first came onto my radar when she upset Christy Martin in 2005. “The Coal Miner’s Daughter“ had slugged her way into the living rooms of boxing fans on the coattails of some notable male boxers, distinguishing herself by appearing on the undercard of Tyson-Bruno in 1989. Although her career was tapering off by the time she met Holly in the ring, Holm’s slick determination made it an easy fight against a still formidable opponent. Holly Holm displayed three things a great fighter requires: skill, patience and conditioning. I became and avid fan.
While the number of championships Holly has attained seems to differ depending upon the source, let it suffice to say she’s earned practically every accolade a female boxer could achieve during her years in the square ring - and all are well-deserved.
I was dismayed by her KO loss to French gargantuan, Anne Sophie Mathis, in 2011, but Holly’s championship heart drew her back to the ring six months later to outpoint Mathis and regain the title. Rarely do fighters who are soundly defeated reclaim the confidence to make a significant comeback, but Holly did, and she hasn’t lost a fight since.
When Holly announced she was switching to MMA a few years ago I got goosebumps. How would such a pure boxer fare in the brutality of the octagon? She had early kickboxing experience, winning the International Kickboxing Federation National Welterweight Title, and I wondered if Muay Thai might be a better choice. But even Jorina Baars, the undefeated Muay Thai welterweight champion with a victory over phenom Christiane “Cyborg” Justino, has languished in relative obscurity after 37 bouts. The fact is: MMA is the fastest growing combat sport in the world and its expanding fanbase is where today’s pugilistic glory lies. Holly’s decision was obvious.
Many pundits were unimpressed with Holm’s early MMA matches, but if you observed each one carefully, you could see that Team Holm’s approach was like building an elaborate jigsaw puzzle. Every fight included several essential pieces that were meticulously locked into place, and if you studied each one, there was a picture emerging. Like George Seurat’s technique of pointillism, at first it glance it only appears as a chaotic scattering of colored dots, but if you stand back and really look, a world of marvelous images is exposed.