Few people can make Bill Wallace admit that he’s stuck his “Superfoot” in his supermouth. Kickboxing champion Kathy Long is one of them.
Wallace slammed women’s kickboxing as “a novelty,” referred to women’s matches as “not real fights,” and chided five-time champion Long for “not having knockout power.” But after the blonde bombshell pummeled Kyoko Kamikaze last year (1992) at the World Martial Arts Challenge in Las Vegas, breaking the Japanese fighter’s ribs and bruising her kidneys, Wallace became a believer in Long’s skills. “She went out there and looked really good,” the gallant Wallace wrote in his monthly BlackBelt column before later apologizing to Long in person. “It is a slap in my own face . . . but that was a good fight.”
Long, the renowned “Princess of Pain,” has no grudge against her fellow fighter, to be sure, but it’s illustrative of Long’s power that she could change the mind of even hardcore nay-sayers, who believed that women should step through the ropes only as ring girls. (On another historical note, Long has championed the introduction of “ring boys” for her fights.)
Other female champions paved the way for Long’s acceptance in the fight game, but Long used her stunning looks to get spectators’ attention, and then kept it with a blend of ferocity, power and skilled technique once a bout began. In the long run, however, she’s not out to promote women’s kickboxing; she just loves to kickbox. She likes the opportunity to go full-out against an opponent, and she enjoys winning which she has done in 18 of her 20 fights. Her obvious enthusiasm has brought a new audience to the sport, increasing ticket sales whenever she’s on the card.
05-20 — Deborah Fettkether, Amsterdam, Netherlands, W 10
06-21 — Jane Couch, Los Angeles, CA, W 8
02-16 — Shakurah Witherspoon, Uncasville, CT, W TKO 4
08-28 — Diane Mary Dutra, Las Vegas, NV, W TKO 3
04-18 — Britt Van Buskirk, Miami, FL, W TKO 3
09-26 — Marcela Acuna, Uncasville, CT, W TKO 5
06-25 — Lisa Ested, Ledyard, CT, W KO 4
03-23 — Mary Ann Almager, Ledyard, CT, W TKO 1
11-20 — Jeanette Witte, Los Angeles, CA, W TKO 3
09-13 — Andrea DeShong, Las Vegas, NV, W TKO 3
06-14 — Gwen Smith, Biloxi, MS, W TKO 4
05-14 — Dora Webber, Ledyard, CT, W 6
03-22 — ChevelleHallback, Corpus Christi, TX, W TKO 5
02-04 — Irma Verhoef, Rotterdam, Netherlands, W TKO 4
12-17 — ZsuzsannaSzuknai, Rotterdam, Netherlands, W TKO 1
12-06 — Kelly Jacobs, Reno, NV, W TKO 1
03-21 — Melinda Robinson, Los Angeles, CA, W KO 1
“A True Champion”
5’6″ junior welterweight Lucia Rijker of Holland, now living in Los Angeles, California, may be the world’s most dangerous female fighter on a pound-for-pound basis. She has been referred to as “The Most Dangerous Woman in the World,” “Queen of Lightning,” “Lady Ali,” and “The Dutch Destroyer.”
Born in Amsterdam on December 6, 1967, Rijker began training in judo at the age of six.
At seven, she became a member of the Dutch National Softball Team. At thirteen, she took up fencing and won the Amsterdam championship, going on to become the Netherlands’ junior champion.
Rijker began kickboxing at age fifteen, studying in the gym of Johan Vos, one of the most respected training facilities in Holland and training primarily with male kickboxing, boxing and judo champions. She burst into prominence in the kickboxing world in her sixth match on January 15, 1984 … disabling veteran American champion Lilly Rodriguez (sister of then world champion kickboxer Benny “The Jet” Urquidez) just 30 seconds into a scheduled five-round fight with powerful kicks to the legs.
Rijker gained an international reputation as a kickboxer, fighting in Europe and Japan. She defeated then-world titleholder Cheryl Wheeler of the USA by decision in Amsterdam on October 6 1985 (and is considered responsible for helping to persuade Cheryl to retire, by breaking her nose in that fight!) She also defeated French champion Nancy Joseph in three rounds, Master Toddy’s British star Ann Holmes in 30 seconds in Amsterdam on April 26, 1986, and the skilled French kickboxer Danielle Rocard in just 15 seconds in Arnhem on February 14, 1988.
Bonnie Canino lasted a full seven rounds against Lucia in a clinch-filled affair but lost the decision, while Valerie Henin was dispatched by her in four rounds in Amsterdam on November 8, 1987 (though not without a struggle).
Lucia eventually amassed a 36-0 (25 KO) record as a kickboxer, and won four different world titles.
Her only defeat in a kickboxing ring was in a Muay Thai style exhibition match at SporthalleZuid in Amsterdam in October 1994, when Lucia fought male Thai boxer SomchaiJaidee, who knocked her out in the second round.
It was time for something new … regular boxing …
In Amsterdam on June 19, 1988, she had knocked out Vivien Gonzalez of the USA in the third round of a scheduled 12-round boxing match.
Her pro boxing career resumed on March 21, 1996 at Los Angeles’ Grand Olympic Auditorium, where she made her US boxing debut by knocking out Melinda Robinson of Austin, Texas at 1:37 in the first round. Rijker quickly rendered Robinson helpless with several rights and left hooks. One minute into the fight, she knocked Robinson down with a flurry of blows that opened a cut above the Texan’s left eye. After a standing eight count gave Robinson some breathing space, Rijker put her away with a combination of uppercuts followed by a left hook to the jaw. Robinson, who fought (and lost) to Christy Martin twice, has been quoted as saying that Christy Martin’s hardest punches don’t even compare to Rijker’s softest blows!
Lucia TKO’d Kelly Jacobs of Kansas City in the first round in Reno, Nevada on December 6, 1996.
Rijker then decided to go back to Holland and test her boxing skills further. She defeated ZsuzsannaSzuknai of Hungary by a first round TKO in Rotterdam on December 17, 1996 (Szuknai has since fought in amateur competitions in Europe!) and captured the WIBF European Championship from Irma Verhoef of Holland with a fourth round TKO in Rotterdam on February 4, 1997.
Now confident in her abilities as a pro boxer, Rijker was hungry for a championship fight in the United States.
On a March 22, 1997 pay-per-view event at Meorial Coliseum in Corpus Christi, Texas, Rijker knocked out then-novice (1-0) ChevelleHallback of Tampa, Florida in the fifth round. (Fight report). Chevelle later told me that she had no idea that she would be fighting someone of Rijker’s background and experience when she accepted this fight contract.
On May 14, 1997, Rijker fought gritty Dora Webber of Paterson, NJ in Ledyard Connecticut and won a sixth-round unanimous (60-54 x 3) decision. Webber, a veteran of tough bouts in the mid-1980’s, was heavier and strong, but gave away ten years, basic skills, speed and power to Rijker.
After this first points win of her pro boxing career, Lucia said it was a new experience being in the ring with a heavier woman who liked to fight inside. She also stated her interest in fighting Christy Martin.
On June 14, 1997 at Grand Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, Rijker did away with a very game but outclassed Gwen Smith by a TKO with 1:10 left in the fourth round. According to the fight report on the Women’s Boxing Page, the end came when “Gwen led with a looping right toward Lucia’s head. Lucia ducked under and weaved to the left and threw a left hook, to the head over Gwen’s extended right. Gwen’s right knee collapsed and she went over backwards, her neck fortunately landed on the bottom rope. The ref pushed Lucia backed to her corner. He turned to Gwen, who was trying to clear the cobwebs and gain some coordination to get up, when he stopped the fight with 1:10 left in the round.”
Lucia then defeated Andrea DeShong by a third-round TKO in Las Vegas on September 13.
Lucia (136 lbs) won the WIBF Super Lightweight title in her ninth pro fight when she easily defeated Germany’s Jeanette Witte (135 1/2 lbs) by third-round TKO in Los Angeles on November 20, 1997. The fight was stopped by the referee at 1:25 in the third after a bloodied Witte was knocked down.
The Rijker’s undefeated record and clearly superior skills and abilities made her the subject of television specials by ABC’s Wide World of Sports and HBO’s Boxing Series, and more talk of a superfight with Christy Martin, who was then the icon of women’s boxing to the sports media in the USA.
Lucia Rijker’s next fight was the first women’s bout to be seen on prime time network TV in the USA (albeit in a “death slot” opposite the Academy Awards). Weighing in at 139 1/2 lbs, she TKO’d former WIBF super welterweight champion Mary Ann Almager (140 lbs) at 1:03 of the first round on March 23, 1998 at Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard, CT. Almager, a 5’9″ southpaw with a solid record (9-1 with 7 KO’s) had been seen as an opponent who might test Lucia, but it was not to be. Almager seemed nervous and had been out of the ring since her bloody defeat by Valerie HeninWiet; she was also coming off knee surgery and had difficulty making weight for the bout. Lucia drove her into a corner with her first concerted attack, and decked her with a short left hook below the ear. The referee stopped the contest when Almager got up looking dazed. Lucia’s post-fight interview was as long as the action … she used it to make her disdain for Christy Martin painfully clear! (See the full fight report by Chuck McAllister) .
On June 25, 1998, again at Foxwoods Casino, Lucia (137 lbs) won a fourth-round TKO over Lisa Ested (141 lbs) of Virginia. As described by Brendan Bernhard of LAWeekly.com: “Ested … has no evident strategy except to throw quick flurries of punches and then tie Lucia up in a clinch while ducking her head so low that it’s almost impossible to hit her. This may qualify as a plan to avoid pain, but it isn’t going to win the fight. For a while, though, it does succeed in keeping Lucia at bay. The first two rounds go very slowly, with few punches landed. By the third, there are scattered boos from the audience. Lucia seems overcautious, and the crowd, which expects women’s fights to be wild, isn’t pleased. So far, this has been like a boring men’s match fought by women. In the third round, Lucia starts to close in, and the referee gives Ested a second warning for holding, and for keeping her head so low (it’s practically waist-high some of the time). Ested is clearly scared, and Lucia, wary of being sucker- punched, is biding her time until she gets an opening. In the fourth round she does. She lands a short left hook – the first good punch of the evening – and sends Ested down for a count. “Let’s take a walk,” referee Steve Smoger says to Ested when she gets up. “You all right? How d’you feel? Talk to me!” “I’m all right,” Ested says, blinking her eyes. “Good!” Smoger says, almost sarcastically – he obviously doesn’t think much of her chances – and waves the fight on. Twenty seconds later, Lucia lands a left-right combination that rocks Ested on her heels. With Ested cornered, Lucia lands three vicious rights to the head, loads up to land another and closes in for the kill – at which point a gallant Smoger, who seems determined to be a gentleman as well as a referee, dives between them, waves off Lucia and kisses Ested on the cheek: fight over.”
Lucia (137 1/2 lbs) won the IBO Women’s (WIBO) Junior Welterweight title when she TKO’d Marcela Acuna (135 1/4 lbs) of Argentina in the fifth round at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT on September 25, 1998. Acuna fell to 0-2, her other pro fight being a loss to Christy Martin. (She has since fought more successfully as a featherweight!).
On April 18, 1999 at Miccosukee Indian Gaming in Miami, Florida, Lucia (141 lbs) a third-round TKO of veteran Britt Van Buskirk (145 lbs) of Carbondale, Illinois, who took the fight a two days’ notice.
On August 28, 1999 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, Lucia (138 lbs) won by a TKO of former WIBF welterweight champion Diana Dutra (139 lbs) of Vancouver, Canada at 1:23 of the third round. Las Vegas photojournalist Mary Ann Owen, who was at ringside, told that “Rijker hit Dutra with tremendous power body shots. Lucia had a bloody nose and caught some of Dutra’s punches … they hugged after the fight and both were very good sports.”
Lucia was slated to fight in the co-Main Event on an America Presents card in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi on December 5th, 1999. Numerous sources told me that Denise Moraetes, who had been seeking a match with Rijker for over a year, also signed a contract for the fight. But Moraetes was told on November 29 that the match was off, making it the third time that a Rijker-Moraetes bout had been shelved at short notice.
On February 16, 2002 at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, Rijker finally returned to competition after a more than two-year absence with a fourth-round TKO of Shakurah Witherspoon of Williamsport, Pennsylvania in a scheduled six-round lightweight bout. Witherspoon, who took the fight at short notice after one scheduled Rijker opponent pulled out and a second tested pregnant, was in survival mode for most of the fight as Rijker attacked her with hard hooks to the body. Witherspoon went to the canvas from a right hook in the third round and dropped to her knees midway through the fourth, prompting the stoppage by referee Michael Ortega. Witherspoon fell to 9-27-1 (4 KO’s).
Rijker told Patrick Kelly of FightNews: “I had some good body work but she took some good body shots. Carla is a tough competitor and that is why we took the fight. We knew Carla would be a worthy opponent even at the last minute. I was anxious to make quick work of her. I was happy with my performance”.
On June 21, 2003 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, Lucia (138 lbs) reappeared again (after several more false alarms) to post a unanimous shut out (80-72,80-72,80-72) eight-round decision over a game Jane Couch (140 lbs) of Fleetwood, UK. Rijker looked confident and fought most of the bout with her hands down, while peppering Couch with strong rights, stiff jabs and vicious uppercuts. Couch stayed in front of Rijker the whole way and made her pay for her hands-low stance occasionally when she connected with hard shots of her own, some of which stunned Rijker.
Rijker landed two powerful rights to Couch’s head with about 30 seconds left in the seventh round, and when the bell sounded Couch appeared to have trouble locating her own corner. According to Couch, “I have been in with tougher punchers, but she is definitely a great fighter, probably the greatest women’s boxer in the world. She hit me with a right hand in the first round that busted my right eardrum and I couldn’t hear a thing.” Rijker complimented Couch after the fight, saying “It was a tough fight and Couch is an amazing opponent. She is a courageous woman. I tried to knock her out the whole time. I hit her with some great shots. I absolutely was trying to finish her the whole time.” Rijker advanced to 16-0-0 (14 KO) while Couch dropped to 20-5-0 (8 KO).
On May 20, 2004 at the Arena in Amsterdam, Holland, Lucia (134 1/4 lbs) won a ten-round unanimous decision over IFBA welterweight champion Sunshine Fettkether (138 1/2 lbs) of Mesa, Arizona.
At the peak of Lucia’s boxing activity In the late 1990’s, matching her with boxing’s (then) most-publicized woman, Christy Martin, looked like the one “superfight” that might move the sport up to a new level in publicity (and in compensation to the boxers, which still had a long way to go to match the men’s sport). At this time, the Martin vs. Rijker match looked intriguing because Martin could probably have tested Rijker’s defense and chin more than any of her previous opponents, and Lucia had had some problems with ChevelleHallback’s hard-charging style early in their fight. However, the Martin camp apparently felt there was too much to lose in this matchup.
Both fighters missed the opportunity to clash while they were at their peak, bypassing the major payday that their fight might have produced. Only after Martin had been supplanted by Laila Ali as the sport’s media icon, and after a period of prolonged inactivity (and repeated fight cancellations) by Rijker, did the promotional stars align in favor of the Martin vs. Rijker matchup. The key was Rijker’s role as an advisor and as an on-screen villain in 2005’s Oscar-winning movie “Million Dollar Baby”. This sparked more interest in women’s boxing and brought some media attention back to Lucia. Bob Arum decided it was time to strike while the buzz was hot and parlayed the “winner take all” idea into “Million Dollar Lady”, a deal whereby both fighters would be guaranteed $250,000 but the winner would earn an extra $750,000 to make the first infividual million dollar payout in women’s sport history. While close to the deal that had failed to turn into a Martin-Rijker fight in 1997, it brought Rijker and Martin to sign a contract for a bout in Las Vegas on July 30, 2005.
Lucia was the subject of an award-winning documentary film about Women’s Boxing, “Shadow Boxers” by KatyaBankowski, released in 2000. New Yorker writer Hilton Als called it “as visually stunning as it is politically important, witty and humane” and the Vancouver (Canada) Sun said that “Shadow Boxers is a subtle achievement in filmmaking that reaches far beyond the screen.” After Shadow Boxers her acting career isn’t finished just yet.
In 2002 she spent 7 months in Montreal, shooting the movie Rollerball (with LL Cool J, Chris Klein, Jean Reno and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.) In 2004 she had the chance of working together with Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman in Million Dollar Baby. The shooting for Lucia’s part in the movie took only 2 weeks, the end result was the one and only ‘Billie the Blue Bear’. But Lucia didn’t only act in Million Dollar Baby, she also trained Actress Hilary Swank in boxing. That’s probably why Maggie Fitzgerald (Hillary) makes such good punches, as seen on screen.