On February 22 at the Arena Puebla in Puebla, Mexico, WBO flyweight champion Melissa McMorrow (9-3-3, 1 KO) will put her title on the line against hometown hero Marina Juarez.
Fighting in her opponent’s backyard is nothing new for McMorrow, 32, who resides in San Francisco, California.
Twenty-one months ago, she traveled to Frankfurt, Germany, to face undefeated hometown hero Susi Kentikian. After 10 exciting rounds, McMorrow, a decided underdog going into the bout, was declared the split decision victor.
The win highlighted a career of sacrifice and dedication.
McMorrow figured that her conquest of Kentikian would lead to more fights. But, other than another road victory over Nadia Rauoui, the year 2013 was a major disappointment.
“As always, fights at the highest level for women's boxing are hard to make,” McMorrow told this writer on the phone last week. “I signed an exclusive contract with a promoter in order to make it a bit easier to get fights, but it really didn't work in my interest. The contract was not abided by and, since March of last year, all fights have either never materialized or fallen through.”
Frustration set in as McMorrow was forced to sit on the sidelines and wait.
“I have been offered a number of fights in the last year that did not come through my promoter, but have turned them down due to contractual obligations,” said McMorrow. ”I planned to have a longstanding relationship with the promoter, but since I have had no fights, no exposure, and no boxing income in a year, I can no longer afford to do so.”
Stifled by her own promoter, McMorrow made the decision to head in a different direction.
“I'm in the sport of boxing because I want to fight, so I have decided that I can no longer fight under those contractual obligations and accepted the invitation to fight Mariana Juarez on February twenty-second.”
Juarez (38-7-3, 16 KO) captured the WBC International super flyweight title last July by avenging a knockout loss to Rio Togo in Mexico City. The 34-year-old's most recent bout was a 10-round decision over Buakaew Onesongchaigym.
McMorrow recently watched tape of Juarez and came away impressed.
“Mariana has a good jab and boxes well,” said McMorrow. “She’s a lot taller than me (five inches). She has a legacy in boxing and is very experienced. I never put too much stock in watching punch combinations, because boxing is so situational that people rarely do the same things against different opponents.
“But I do count out my opponent's rhythm, because I have found that their rhythm rarely changes,” she added.
Out of the ring for 11 months, McMorrow is thrilled to be boxing again.
“I can't wait to get back in there. I'm so excited for the fight. I have gotten better and stronger and, as always, will give everything I have in the fight.”
Her lengthy layoff doesn’t concern her.
"I’m not worried about right rust at all,” McMorrow said. ”I train every day. There is no rust.”
To draw additional interest, the promoter has turned the bout into a “USA vs. Mexico” grudge match. Juarez will have the crowd cheering her every move. A close fight will favor the challenger.
McMorrow’s counter plan is simple.
“I definitely need to make it decisive,” she said.
The quietly confident champion is not one to make predictions, but she does have a good idea how the fight will play out.
“I’m thinking the fight will be like Broner vs. Maidana,”said McMorrow.”Mariana will be trying to box at a distance and I’ll be coming in successfully with big shots at close range.”