5’8″ southpaw Holly Holm from Sandia Heights in Albuquerque, New Mexico was born on October 17, 1981. The preacher’s daughter grew up in Bosque Farms and graduated from Manzano High School in 2000 and studied for a year at the University of New Mexico. She played soccer and tried gymnastics, swimming, and diving before getting into boxing and kickboxing. Holly’s path to a boxing career began with aerobics. “I started aerobics to keep in shape, saw the (kickboxing) class, thought it looked pretty cool, so I thought I’d try it for one fight and see what it was like,” says Holm.
Her aerobics instructor was Mike Winkeljohn, who also taught kickboxing. Winklejohn soon saw Holm’s potential. “She’s got that instinct,” he says, “When she gets hit, she knows it’s time to come back. I wish I could bottle (what she has) and sell it.” “(Boxing) came easier to me than I thought it would,” says Holm. “When I first started, my punches seemed real clumsy, but Mr. Winkeljohn is a great instructor. He helped me with my technique, and he felt … he could work with me.” Holly won a national amateur championship in Kansas City, MO in the Fall of 2001, her last kickboxing appearance before her pro debut. Her overall amateur kickboxing record stood at 6-0-2.
She made her professional kickboxing debut on June 1, 2002 in an IKKC five-rounder against Valerie Anthonson of Grand Junction, Colorado at Santa Ana Star Casino in Bernalillo, north of Albuquerque. Her pro boxing debut came on January 25, 2002 at the Isleta Casino and Resort south of Albuquerque. Holly weighed in at 141 lbs and won by a TKO over debut fighter Martha Orozco (141¾ lbs) of Denver, Colorado at 1:38 in the third.
On June 21, 2002 at Sky City Casino in Acoma, New Mexico she won her second pro fight by a TKO over debut fighter Terrie Carillo at 0:24 in the first round.
On August 17, 2002 at Santa Ana Star Casino in Bernallilo, New Mexico: Holly (144 lbs) won a four-round unanimous (40-35) decision in a rematch with Martha Orozco (142¾ lbs). Holm controlled this fight from the start, putting Orozco down for a six count with a barrage of punches in the opening round and staggering her again near the end of the stanza. Holm out-punched Orozco in the second but both looked tired at the bell. Orozco wilted with Holm working her over against the ropes in the third, but held on gamely. She survived a solid pounding in the fourth to end the fight on her feet. Holm advanced to 3-0-0 (2 KO) while Orozco fell to 0-2.
On September 6, 2002 at Santa Ana Star Casino in Bernalillo, New Mexico, Holly (149¼ lbs) won a lop-sided four-round unanimous (40-32,40-32,40-30) decision over Bonnie Mann (148¼ lbs) of Morrisville, North Carolina. Holm dominated the bout with pounding straight lefts and knocked Mann down twice in each of the second and third rounds. Mann, who fell to 0-2-0 as a pro boxer, had won the bronze medal at 147 lbs at the 1998 US Nationals and again at 156 lbs in 1999.
On April 5, 2003 at Cowboy’s Bar and Grill, in Albuquerque, Trisha “TNT” Hill of Kennesaw, Georgia knocked Holly out in the fourth round of a five-round 139-lb Muay Thai bout. Hill, a featherweight who had moved up two weight classes to face Holly, gave up the weight advantage believing that she could KO Holly to get the victory. Trisha picked her shots carefully and when Holly started to tire in the third round, she went for the KO in the fourth, tagging . Holly with a couple of jabs and then stepping in with a right that knocked Holly out cold. As reported by Chris Cozzone of New Mexico Boxing, “Keeping the shorter Hill at bay, Holly managed to take the first two rounds with her kicks. Hill won the exchanges at close quarters but Holm scored the damaging blows with her feet. The tide changed in the second part of Round Three when Hill landed a bomb of a right hook that had Holm staggering. After tying up and then using kicks to fight back, Holm showed a big heart trying to win back the round. Hill was relentless in closing the distance and suckering Holm into brawling. Early into the fourth, she landed a picture perfect right hand that flattened Holm to the canvas. While Holly continued to throw a half-hearted left right while horizontal, the ref jumped in and immediately stopped the contest after seeing Holm’s eyes roll dangerously back.”
On August 9, 2003 in Baraboo, Wisonsin she TKO’d Alisa Cantwell at 1:30 in the first round of a kickboxing bout.
On August 26, 2003 at Sandia Casino in Albuquerque, in a much-anticipated cross-town showdown between two unbeaten fighters, Holly (141 lbs) won a four-round majority (40-37, 39-37,38-38) decision over Stephanie Jaramillo (142 lbs) from Albuquerque’s South Valley. Holm was the early aggressor, landing solid straight lefts to Jaramillo’s face. Jaramillo stormed back in the second but Holm outboxed her and landed more good right hooks, straight lefts and combinations. Jaramillo landed some power shots cleanly in a good third round. Holm didn’t seem fazed and closed the fight out well in the fourth, again landing with hard straight lefts to Jaramillo’s face. Holm outworked the shorter but determined Jaramillo and is now reportedly being considered as an opponent for Mia St. John. Holm was now 5-0-0 (2 KO) while Jaramillo slipped 3-1-0 (2 KO).
On October 3, 2003 at Sandia Casino in Albuquerque, Holly (142 lbs) and Stephanie Jaramillo (139¾ lbs) battled to a six-round (58-56 Holm, 58-56 Jaramillo, 57-57) draw in a rematch of their August four-rounder. Holm dominated the opening round but Jaramillo turned it around in the second, coming back with hard counter left hooks and straight rights to keep herself in the bout. Holm used her jab well and out-landed Jaramillo in most rounds, bloodying her mouth, but Jaramillo landed the hardest shots of the fight and wobbled Holm in the fifth round to keep the bout a tossup on the scorecards. Holm remained unbeaten as a pro boxer at 5-0-1 (2 KO) while former US national amateur team member Jaramillo was 3-1-1 (2 KO).
On December 12, 2003 at Kiva Auditorium in Albuquerque, Holly (144 lbs) won a six-round unanimous (59-54,59-55,59-55) decision over Angel Martinez (142 lbs) of Dallas, Texas, who fell to 2-1-0 (1 KO).
After the fight, Martinez said she thought it was close, then added the kind of remark that I never understand when you’ve just lost … “I don’t think she’s much of a fighter. She’s a wild boxer. Anybody can throw wild punches and overwhelm you. She’s overrated.” Excuse me, but if you’ve lost a fight, don’t say the girl who just beat you “isn’t much of a fighter”, as that makes you even less of one!
On April 10, 2004 at the Convention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a near sellout crowd of 2220 saw Holly (140 lbs) TKO Janae Romero Archuleta at 1:09 in the first round of a scheduled six rounder that was the card’s co-main event. Holm came out like a whirlwind to score an explosive victory over the usually rugged Archuleta, who fell to 3-4 (2 KO). Holm snapped Archuleta’s head back with a stiff jab in the opening moments of the bout, then pounded Archuleta around the ring before the referee intervened to stop the carnage.
“She should’ve taken the money yesterday.”said Holm, referring to the weigh-in when Holm had come in a pound over the contract weight. Archuleta’s camp refused to take extra money and forced an already-drained Holm to spend the next two hours sweating off the excess pound. “She got me mad,” said Holm. “She made it so easy for me, she came out with that slow jab and we’d been working on throwing hooks over a jab and timing it. When I had her up against the ropes, I knew she was hurting so I pushed for the end.”
On May 15, 2004 at the Sky Ute Casino in Ignacio, Colorado, Holly Holm and Angel Martinez (2-1-1, 2 KOs) of Dallas, Texas fought to a six-round majority draw (59-55 for Holm, but two 57-57 scorecards). Holm appeared to control and outland Martinez but Martinez’s crisp rights connected enough to win her several rounds on the judges’ scorecards. Holm moved to 7-0-2 (3 KOs) while Martinez progressed to 2-1-1, (2 KOs) Martinez started slowly while the southpaw Holm peppered her with jabs and an occasional straight left. At the end of the round, they started to mix it up and Martinez landed a good right inside. Martinez took over in the second round, walking Holm into a solid short right whenever Holly tried to throw something at close quarters. Holm adjusted in the third and out-hustled a less-busy Martinez. In the fourth, they went toe-to-toe with Holm, now bleeding from her nose, giving more than she was getting. Holly landed well with uppercuts and right hooks while Martinez focused on her highly effective right. The final two rounds saw Holm trying to outbox Martinez, throwing more often and out- flurrying on their many close exchanges, but Martinez landing the cleanest, hardest shots. Both camps thought they’d won the fight. Martinez’s trainer, Pete Rojas, thought that Angel’s cleaner shots should have given her the win while Holm’s trainer, Mike Winkeljohn, felt that Holly had won by controlling the action better.
On June 27, 2004 at Sandia Casino in Albuquerque, Italian Rita Turrisi (140 lbs), fighting out of Las Vegas, won by TKO over Holly (140 lbs) in the fourth round. Holm’s corner threw in the towel due to a deep three-inch cut under Holm’s eye. Holm was the aggressor in the first, landing big lefts as well as an elbow or two at close quarters. In the second, Turrisi started to time her shots better while Holm tried to work on the outside. After one messy exchange, a mouse appeared under Holm’s left eye. Turrisi won the third while Holm, now bleeding from an open gash under her eye as well as from her nose, dominated the fourth with her big lefts. Holm might have won the bout but the cut caused her corner to stop the fight between the fourth and fifth rounds. The fight was then automatically awarded to Turrisi by TKO instead of going to the scorecards pending the referee’s decision on what had caused the cut. Turrisi improved her record to 3-4 while Holm dropped to 7-1-2 (3 KO).
On December 10, 2004 at Isleta Resort and Casino near Albuquerque, Holly (138 lbs) rebounded from her first pro boxing loss by winning the vacant IBA women’s junior welterweight title with a ten-round unanimous (99-91,99-91,96-94) decision over Terri Blair(138¼ lbs) of Louisville, Kentucky. Fighting her first ten-rounder, Holm made Blair chase her round the ring and then out-boxed her, but she also won the close-quarter battles. Blair had taken the fight on a week’s notice after Denver’s Angie Poe got the flu, setting up a rare two-southpaw match-up between Holm and Blair.
According to Chris Cozzone, “Blair spent the night walking into jabs and straight left hands when she got close enough, yet she never gave up. After four rounds of trying to pressure Holm, eating that jab and left hand every time she closed the gap, Blair could do little but continually shake her head at Holm as if to say, ‘I ain’t hurt.’” Blair’s corner then tried to taunt Holm, calling out “track star! Track star!”, and urging their own fighter to use her overhand left. In the fifth round, Holm started to trade with Blair at close quarters, outworking her with three or four-punch combinations before slipping away. Blair finally got to Holm in the sixth and landing several overhand lefts that visibly hurt Holm. Blair could not repeat her success in the seventh as Holm out-hit her in some of the fight’s best action. Holm then went on to out-hustle Blair for the rest of the bout. Holm improved to 8-1-2 (3 KO) with the win while Blair fell to 5-7-1 (3 KO).
“I feel awesome,” Holm said in the ring after being declared the new champ. “Blair had a lot of power and she rang my bell in the second round. But we watched and studied a tape of her last fight. We knew that footwork and technique was going to win.”
On April 15, 2005 in Albuquerque, Holly (142¾ lbs) won a four-round unanimous (40-36,40-36,40-36) decision over veteran Gloria Ramirez (143¾ lbs) of El Paso, Texas, who took the fight at short notice. Ramirez fell to 9-14-5 (1 KO) with the loss.
On June 24, 2005 at Isleta Casino in Isleta, New Mexico, Holly (140 lbs) defended her IBA Junior Welterweight title with a lop-sided eight-round TKO win over late replacement Lisa Lewis (136 lbs) of Fresno, California. According to Chris Cozzone’s report, Holm dazzled Lewis on the outside with jabs and straight rights then also obliged Lewis by fighting in close, battering Lewis with furious combinations to keep her on defense. “The biggest question was whether Holm’s hands could take the beating they were giving to Lewis.” according to Cozzone. “She was tough and I was getting tired hitting her,”Holm told Cozzone, adding “She hit me with a right in the sixth round that had me foggy, but I knew I was winning every round.” The shorter, lighter Lewis, who had substituted for the injured Layla McCarter on the card, couldn’t answer the bell for the ninth round. “I just didn’t have it tonight,” Lewis said, “My punches weren’t there.”Lewis fell to 7-12 (3 KOs) with her first loss by stoppage.
On September 16, 2005 at the Isleta Casino in Isleta, New Mexico, before a sellout crowd of 3000, Holly (142½ lbs) won a clear 10-round unanimous (100-92,98-92,100-92) decision over 37-year-old Christy Martin (5’4″, 141½ lbs) of Orlando, Florida in the Main Event.
According to Chris Cozzone of New Mexico Boxing, ‘Holm made it look easy; made the legendary Martin look amateurish.” Martin tried to close with Holm in the first two rounds but was unable to corral Holm who was using her jab and ring movement to control the action and stay out of trouble. Chris Cozzone reports that “Holm started to open in Round Three, not only firing her jab but taking the fight to Martin … Holm’s straight left found her mark while Martin, appearing clumsy, sailed her big rights and left hooks through empty air. In between rounds, Martin’s corner implored her to close the distance and keep her focus, but in Round Four, it only got worse for her. Holm put on a beautiful clinic, firing big hooks and straight rights and backing up Martin for the first time, then returning to her flawless stick-and-move game plan. Early in Round Five, Holm staggered Martin with a rapid combination, whipping the crowd to a frenzy. Martin could not get off; could not close the gap; could not land a solid punch, and her face was starting to show, both the frustration and the marks of Holm’s jabs and lefts. Martin had a slightly better round in the Sixth, landing hooks to Holm and forcing her to stay on the defensive–at least for the first minute. Then, it was all Holm again, using her footwork and picking her moments to fight. Holm and Martin exchanged rights as Round Seven began, but Holm out-muscled the veteran, forcing her to cover up and back away. By the end of the round, a mouse was swelling under Martin’s right eye –once again, another round for the home town girl. Despite the desperate insistence of her corner to get to work, Martin could not get on track. Holm’s rights and lefts connected with frequency in Round Eight, continuing to execute a perfect, dominating game plan. Martin came out aggressive and desperate in Round Nine, and made an argument to actually win a round. Despite landing her hardest shots on Holm–a left to the body, a straight right to the chin — Holm calmly took the punches and answered back with straight lefts. The final round saw the best exchange yet, but once again, it was Holm all the way, connecting with a left/right combination and winning the round on the outside, landing shot after shot.”
On December 8, 2005 at Isleta Casino near Albuquerque, New Mexico, Holly (139½ lbs) won a ten-round unanimous shutout (100-90) decision over Mia St. John (5’6″, 139 lbs) of Oxnard, California defending her IBA 140-lb world title. According to Boxing Scene’s Andy Rivera, “Round one started with St. John dancing around Holm, avoiding any contact she could. Holm immediately answered with a series of combos that backed St. John into the ropes several times. For every impending jab, it looked as if St. John was just trying to avoid being dropped to the canvas as opposed to just being hit. With Holm dominating the round, the crowd was sent into a frenzy cheering on their local favorite. In round two, St. John was cautiously looking for some sort of hole in Holm’s offense, landing several shots, but unable to keep any sort of defense up as Holm would drop jab after jab on her. The second and third round had Holm landing countless solid jabs and body shots without giving St. John any chance to retaliate. Overpowered, St. John had yet to land a decent shot on Holm yet. In the fourth round, Holm had St. John on the ropes several times. Already dominating the fight, Holm was relentless and never slowed down a bit. The fifth and sixth round continued to have Holm control the fight by unleashing a volley of punches, forcing St. John into the corner, unable to counter or escape. The few times St. John was able to land solid jabs, Holm would answer with an onslaught of body shots and the occasional uppercut. In the eighth round, neither fighters were showing any significant fatigue, but it was clearly evident that St. John knew she was losing and there wasn’t anything she could do about it except smile. Once again St. John is ineffective in either landing any punches or holding Holm back. The ninth round finally showed some physical wear on St. John. Upon several clean straight jabs by Holm, St. John appeared to be stunned, but not out entirely all the while Holm was still floating around the ring unscathed. The tenth round started with St. John able to punch Holm into a corner, but that was short lived when Holm fired back, easing the pressure St. John was putting on her. Into the ten second warning, both fighters unleashed whatever fight they had left in them before the bell had finally rung.”
St. John slipped to 42-6-2 (17 KO’s).
On February 24, 2006 at the Isleta Casino, Holly (139 lbs) TKO’d Shadina Pennybaker (5’5″,138½ lbs) of Pittsburgh in the seventh round defending her IBA Junior Welterweight title. According to Chris Cozzone of New Mexico Boxing: “Holm won the first several rounds at a distance jabbing, but the fight started to heat up in the fourth with a questionable knockdown of Pennybaker. The challenger took the fight to Holm in the fifth, but Holm willingly traded and started to make the fight one-sided from the sixth on. After two cuts near Pennybaker’s eyes, opened by headbutts in the second and seventh, started to pour blood in the seventh, the fight was stopped at 0:57 and the TKO win awarded to Holm, who had a near-shutout tally on the scorecards.” Pennybaker slipped to 9-5-1 (2 KOs).
Trainer Mike Winklejohn said of the Pennybaker fight: “Holly followed the game plan, we wanted to make the girl miss and eventually catch her and knock her out.”
On June 10, 2006 at the Isleta Casino, Holly (145¼ lbs) had her hands full in her third fight with tough Angel Martinez (147¼ lbs) of Dallas, Texas who had substituted on about a day’s notice for Lisa Holewyne in a ren-round bout for the WBA Welterweight title. Holly started well but she had to survive a late-round charge from the aggressive Martinez in order to come away with a hard-earned unanimous (98-92) decision for the title.
According to a ringside report from Chris Cozzone, “Holm … went to work at the sound of the bell, keeping Martinez at the end of her jab and popping her with solid straight lefts while using her footwork. Martinez, admittedly unprepared for ten rounds with the short notice, paced herself, but timed big counter right hands that found their mark. Holm utilized rare right hooks in the second, and the bout heated up as Martinez had marginally better success with her counter rights. Still, Holm retained control of the ring—for at least seven of ten rounds, it would turn out—and her irksome jab and lashing left was enough to raise a mouse under Martinez’s left eye. At the end of the round, the two went toe-to-toe in the neutral corner, four seconds past the bell. Holm continued to put rounds in the bank in the third and fourth rounds, jabbing and landing lefts while Martinez had to settle for the occasional right. The Dallas fighter had better success in the fourth when she backed Holly into the ropes but by the end of the round, Martinez, sporting two mice now, one under each eye, was going to have to do something dramatic to turn the fight around. Martinez turned up the pressure in the fifth and had her best round so far in the sixth—but neither round could be taken from Holm, whose big lefts scored repeatedly and whose footwork made her too elusive for the shorter Martinez, who had only an occasional but fleeting flurry to the body and those big right hand counters. Martinez tired in the seventh, but in the final moments, she landed a big right that stumbled Holm, who might’ve been off-balance. But in the eighth and ninth rounds, it was a different fight. Holm yielded to Martinez’s consistent pressure and took some big shots from Martinez, who finally appeared to be getting to the home-towner. Several times, Holm stood her ground and the two brawled, but it was Martinez who was giving better than getting. Holm went back to boxing in the last round but the steady pressure—almost desperate now—from Martinez made it a toss-up round.”
“I knew she’d be tough,” admitted Holm, “she was getting that counter-right in but there was nothing that made me go ‘whew!’ or see stars. I was tired at the end, I don’t know why, and should’ve finished stronger—I knew she’d finish strong.” Holm added that Martinez was much tougher than Christy Martin, who “was easier to counter.” Martinez fell to 4-2-1 (1 KO).
On September 23, 2006 at the Isleta Casino in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a near-capacity crowd of 2500 saw Holly (140 lbs) won a 10-round unanimous (100-90) decision over Jane Couch (139 lbs) of Bristol, England defending her IBA Junior Welterweight title. According to Chris Cozzone’s report, “The opening round was a tactical one, with both fighters feeling each other out until the final minute when Holm started to land a snappy left hand on Couch. The lefts continued to score in the second and third; her big power punches gave the impression that Holm was too big, too strong for Couch, who sought to counterpunch, sometimes successfully, but not often enough. In the fourth, the two mixed it up. While Holm continued to put rounds in the bank, Couch started to land a sneaky counter right hand. Success was short-lived for, Holm, willing to stand in front of her opponent, and trade, continued to land the bigger, hard shots—and not just the straight left; Holm started to throw in uppercuts and hard right hooks that found their mark. Holm’s reign over the rebellious Couch took on a dominating edge in the sixth, but in the seventh, Couch had her best round yet—might’ve even won a round, if it weren’t for late flurries by Holm. Couch landed nicely-timed rights for the first minute, but Holm, barely batting an eye at the assault, stood her ground and bombed back with heavier shots. Couch, too, took her punishment well, despite withstanding shots that snapped her head back on more than one occasion. At the end of the eighth, Couch retaliated with her best shots yet—straight rights—but Holm, again, on solid ground, showed little, or no, damage. Holm continued to not only outbox, but outslug Couch in the ninth, making it look easy, and in the final round, stepped up the pace yet again with the fight’s best action, closing the show by taking the fight to Couch, hammering her with big lefts while Couch sought to finish up with right hands of her own. Couch finished the fight bleeding from a deep cut over her left eye—the result of an accidental clash of heads.” Couch fell to 28-9-0 (9 KO’s).
On December 1, 2006 at Isleta Casino Holly (151 lbs) became a three time World Champion as she captured the IFBA Junior Middleweight title with a ten-round unanimous (100-90,100-90,99-91) decision over Tricia Turton (147¾ lbs) of Seattle, Washington. Holm was the quicker of the two and was able to dominate the game Turton, who was just too small, according to reporter Andy Rivera, who wrote: “Holm came out strong in round one landing lead left hands to the head of Turton, but to Turton’s credit she shook it off and landed a few left hands herself as both fighters being left-handed would use their left as their primary weapon. In the final: 30 of the round Holm turned it on and landed quick combinations to the head of Turton. Holm’s speed definitely paid off in the opening stanza. Much of the same in the second and third rounds as Holm’s speed was the difference. Turton would try to cut off the ring on Holm but Holm was able to move and land quick flurries. Turton’s nose started to bleed. Turton was unable land more then one punch at a time. Round four had Turton still coming forward with Holm picking her apart with quick flurries. Turton showed a lot of frustration as she was unable to land on Holm flush, but to Turton’s credit she kept coming forward and held nothing back. Turton kept the pressure on Holm in rounds five and six, but once again Holm countered well landing hard right hooks to the head of Turton, who had trouble getting inside Holm’s long arms and when she was able to get close didn’t have the power to do damage. Holm dominated rounds seven thru nine with constant right hands to the head of Turton with Turton being game but unable to land anything significant. Turton looked more and more flustered … unable to trap Holm; in fact Holm now had Turton going to the ropes more. Turton couldn’t get inside Holm’s long arms missing most of her shots while Holm continued to land. Holm looked to put more power shots in the tenth and final round as she trapped Turton early in the round landing hard left hands to the head of Turton but Turton would take it like a true Gladiator.” Holm improved to 16-1-2 (5 KOs) with the win while Turton fell to 8-2-0 (3 KOs).
On March 22, 2007 at the Isleta Casino, Holly (143¼ lbs) won a hard-fought ten-round unanimous (98-91,97-92,97-92) decision over reigning WBC Lightweight champion Ann-Marie Saccurato (141 lbs) of White Plains, New York for six (IFBA, WIBA, GBU, WBC, IBA, WBA) welterweight world title belts. The scoring does not do justice to a strong effort by Saccurato, who pressured the highly mobile Holm aggressively throughout the entire fight and often corralled her against the ropes. Saccurato was deducted a point in the seventh for holding Holm behind the head while hitting. Saccurato was the aggressor throughout and often controlled the tempo of the fight while Holm landed fast and effective scoring shots when she stood her ground. Every round was closely contested, and the lop-sided score did not reflect the overall action. The card was televised live on Fox Sports Net’s “Best Damn Sports Show Period”, marking the return of women’s boxing to live network coverage in the USA. Saccurato slipped to 12-2-2 (5 KOs) with the loss.
On May 24, 2007 at Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and televised live on ESPN2, Holly (139 lbs) won a 10-round unanimous (100-90,100-90,98-92) decision over Chevelle Hallback(137½ lbs) of Plant City, Florida for the IFBA Junior Welterweight world title. Hallback, ranked #1 in the world at junior lightweight by WBAN, was stepping up in weight to face Holm and also coming off an almost 18-month absence from competition. She appeared tentative for much of the bout and rarely closed the distance to Holm for long enough to shake Holm’s confidence. Hallback fell to 25-5-1 (11 KOs) with the loss while Holm improved her record to 18-1-2 (5 KOs).
On September 21, 2007 at the Santa Ana Star Casino in Bernalillo, New Mexico, Holly (142 lbs) won the IFBA Welterweight title with a 10-round unanimous (99-91,99-91,96-94) decision over Angel Martinez (142 lbs) of Dallas, Texas. Holm outboxed Martinez for the most of the first eight rounds but Martinez stunned her with several hard rights in the eighth and the late rounds became nail-biters as the two traded punishing shots. “I don’t take anything from Angel,” Holm said after the bout. “She’s tough. Her right hands are no joke.”
Martinez also praised Holm: “She’s an awesome fighter, the best in the world at welter. What can I say? I don’t have excuses. It just wasn’t my night.” Holm improved her record to 19-1-2 (5 KOs) while Martinez dropped to 6-4-1 (1 KOs).
On January 11, 2008 at Isleta Casino, Holly (145½ lbs) defended her with a TKO of Mariem Brakache (145¾ lbs) of Atlanta, Georgia at 1:40 in the seventh round. As reported by Andy Rivera, “There wasn’t much suspense on who would win, as Holm looked determined and ready to do whatever it took to beat the brash talking Brakache, who most of the week prior to the fight tried to get under Holm’s skin, but Holm would tell everyone the fight was Friday night, not before. Brakache had no answer for Holm at any juncture of the fight. The only thing Brakache had to offer was hitting behind the head when she got close to Holm. Holm used lateral movement and stood her ground and punched, which no doubt had Brakache confused in the first three rounds. Holm looked more and more determined to punish her opponent as she landed hard left hand over and over to Brakache’s head; all Brakache could do is make a face each time she got hit. In round four referee Rocky Burke warned Brakache for the second time of the fight for hitting behind the head, if anything Brakache knows how to use dirty tactics to try to throw her opponents game plan, but Holm would have none of it. More of the same in rounds five and six as Holm peppered Brackache with rights to the head every time Brakache tried to rush Holm. At the end of the sixth a cut on the side of Brakache’s left eye opened up. The cut was a bad one and Brakache’s corner was able to stop the blood momentarily in between rounds; Referee Burke would let the judges know it was from a punch, which led to drama after the fight. In the 7th, Holm who had blood all over her white top and forehead, but from Brakache’s cut, would continue where she left off, popping Brakache more and more frequently, Burke halted the action to have the ring doctor look at the cut. She was allowed to continue, but Brakache looked like a beaten fighter. As the two went back to the center of the ring Brakache looked at Burke like she wanted to quit; Holm went in for the kill landing one more flurry and prompting Burke to halt the fight.” Holm improved to 20-1-2 (6 KOs) with the win while the 33-year-old Brakache fell to 5-6-0 (1 KOs).
On February 7, 2008 at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California, Holm made her first appearance outside New Mexico and Colorado – against Puerto Rican-born veteran Belinda Laracuente, now fighting out of New York. This was considered a low-risk fight for Holm as Laracuente’s boxing style is usually quick and defensive like her own but Holm was taller, naturally heavier, and also the harder puncher. Holm used her reach and quickness to stave off Laracuente’s attacks throughout a somewhat lack-luster fight compared to a thriller of a co-main featuring Chevelle Hallbackand Laracuente’s protege Melissa Hernandez . Late in the fight Laracuente switched from her normally elusive counterpunching style to try to make something happen. She landed her best shot of the night in the eighth – a straight right hand that jolted Holm’s head back, and she connected with good body shots in the tenth, but the rally was too late to swing the outcome. According to WBAN correspondent Bill Ortega, “Holm used her steady jabs and movement to keep away from Laracuente’s combination attempts. Each round began to look like a carbon copy of the last as Holm built up an insurmountable lead.” The final scores were all in Holm’s favor: 97-93, 99-91, and 98-92. “The judges scored it the way I felt it went,” said Holm, who improved to 20-1-2 (6 KOs) while Laracuente fell to 23-20-3 (9 KOs). Holm’s IFBA Welterweight title had been at stake, but little at risk. Holly’s California trip may have gained her some much-needed road experience but it may do little to deflect criticism of her “Holm, sweet Holm” strategy, especially as the night (and perhaps the biggest benefit from Fox Sports Net TV exposure) belonged to the boxer who took on the biggest matchmaking risk – Melissa Hernandez.
On June 13, 2008 at the Isleta Casino and Resort in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in a PPV main event, Holly (150½ lbs) cruised to a 10-round unanimous (98-92,98-92,97-93) decision over previously undefeated Mary Jo Sanders (152¼ lbs) of Detroit. Holm won the IFBA Junior Middleweight title and a “history first” WBAN Championship Belt for this performance, which dropped Sanders to 25-1 (8 KO’s).
Jimmy Mallo, who trains and manages Sanders, said she was off her game plan in the fight in Albuquerque. But although there was no rematch clause in the first contract, according to Mallo, one was soon arranged. “It wasn’t difficult,” said Holm’s promoter Lenny Fresquez, who said the referee and judges must be neutral. “That was the biggest hurdle. Once we got past that, it was pretty easy.”
The rematch took place on October 17, 2008 at The Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan. This time, Mary Jo Sanders and Holly fought to a 10-round majority (97-93 Holm, 95-95, 95-95) draw for the vacant IBA Junior Middleweight title. According to a report by Mike Brudenell in the Detroit Free Press, “Rushing Sanders … Holm, 26, launched a two-fisted attack early in each of the 10 rounds, Sanders taking some hard shots to the head but fighting back with right and left uppercuts. In a storming final round, Sanders, 34, did everything she could to win, hitting Holm with left and right combinations in hopes of dropping her opponent. She caught Holm on the chin several times but couldn’t stop her.”
“I felt I did enough to win the fight,” said Holm. “The crowd roared every time she landed a single punch. I felt I threw two to her one and power shots as well.” Sanders was also in no doubt she’d won the brawl, according to Brudenell, saying “I definitely know I won the last three rounds, I really do. I did enough to take the points in the fifth and sixth too. But I’m a lot happier than in Albuquerque … but not happy enough because of the draw.”
Sanders progressed to 25-1-1 (8 KO’s) with this result.
On January 23, 2009 back home at the Isleta Casino and Resort near Albuquerque, New Mexico Holly Holm (145½ lbs) won a closely-contested 10-round unanimous decision over former WIBF/WBA Jr Welterweight champion Myriam Lamare (144½ lbs) of Marseille, France, for the WIBA Welterweight world championship. Chris Cozzone of New Mexico Boxing wrote that: “Holly Holm outboxed — but did not outslug France’s Myriam Lamare over ten rounds to retain her WIBA welterweight belt. Holm built up an early lead, landing crisp rights on her foe, but Lamare came alive in the late rounds, bombing Holm with big rights and looping lefts. The scorecards read 96-94, 98-92 and 97-93 for Holm.” Most observers agreed with the narrower margin in what was clearly a severe test for Holm, who said “She hit me with a few ringers … None of them had me going out. I didn’t see any stars, but they were pretty hard shots. It was definitely one of my toughest fights, but I felt I won. It was a chess match and there are a ton of things I could improve on, but I feel good about the fight.” Lamare fell to 17-3-0 (10 KO’s) with the loss.
On June 5, 2009 at the Isleta Casino and Resort, Holly (144½ lbs) TKO’d previously undefeated Duda Yankovich (139¼ lbs) of Sao Paolo, Brazil at 0:32 of the fourth round for the WIBA Welterweight title. Holm set the tone early with her jab and drew blood from Yankovich in the second with a series of powerful shots, one of which reportedly broke Yankovich’s nose. Yankovich defended more effectively in the third but Holm still ended that round strongly and got to business quickly to put Yankovich away in the fourth. Yankovich fell to 11-1 (5 KO’s) with this loss.
On August 28, 2009 at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico, Holly Holm (145 lbs) defeated Terri Blair (143½ lbs) of Louisville, Kentucky by a ten-round unanimous (100-90,100-90,99-91) decision for the WIBA Welterweight title. Blair fell to 11-14-2 (6 KO’s).
On December 4, 2009 at the Isleta Casino and Resort near Albuquerque, New Mexico, Holly Holm won a ten-round unanimous (100-90,100-90,99-91) decision over Victoria Cisneros of Albuquerque, who was a literally last-minute substitute for scheduled opponent Melissa Hernandez. Hernandez refused to fight after a behind-the-scenes dispute broke out over the pre-fight hand-wrap procedures. Cisneros, who has been one of Holm’s sparring partners, stepped up from the crowd attending the card in order to fight Holm, prompting many questions (including an investigation by the ABC) about the rules and procedures of the Isleta Boxing Commission. Cisneros’s record fell to 3-8-2 (1 KOs) but her willingness to fight at short notice earned her admiration throughout the boxing community, even though the propriety of the IBC’s letting her do so was questioned.
On March 26, 2010 at the Isleta Casino and Resort near Albuquerque, New Mexico, Holly Holm (139¾ lbs) won a 10-round unanimous (99-91,98-92,98-92) decision in a rematch with Chevelle Hallback (138½ lbs) from Tampa, Florida for the WIBA Junior Welterweight title. Rick Wright wrote in the Albuquerque Journal:“While absorbing some of the hardest shots she has taken in her eight year professional career, she (Holly Holm) withstood the challenge of a determined Hallback to take a victory by unanimous, deceptively lopsided 10 round decision … Holm agreed despite her similar dominance on the cards, this bout was far more difficult than her May 2007 victory over Hallback.” Hallback herself said: “I did do more this time, and felt the fight was much closer than the judges scored it. Holly never hurt me, but she had a good game plan and I let myself get frustrated by her movement, which resulted in me not throwing enough punches to put her away, especially when I had her hurt several times. People say she doesn’t come to fight, that she comes to run, but at the end of the day, she won the fight, and at THIS time, she is the pound for pound best. But – in saying that, I want to let my fans know I am not going anywhere and maybe somewhere down the line, there will be a fight #3 with me and Holly.” Hallback slipped to 27-6-2 (11 KOs).
On August 6, 2010 at the Hard Rock Casino in Isleta, New Mexico, Holly Holm (138½ lbs) won by a TKO at 1:53 in the first round over Jaime Clampitt (135 lbs) from Warwick, Rhode Island, in a scheduled ten-rounder for the vacant IBA Junior Welterweight belt.
As described by Chris Cozzone, “No telling punches had landed. There was no blood, no falls to the canvas and no fouls committed, yet something had brought Holm’s challenger, Jaime Clampitt, to her knees, then onto her back where she writhed in pain, shortly before the bell would’ve clanged to complete round one … Clampitt had been stung by an injury known as a “stinger”; stung harder than the 2,800 fans who had to settle for the action on the undercard to get their money’s worth. There was no doubt, five minutes after the premature ending, that Clampitt was in a world of pain. Behind closed doors, backstage, she sat with her head bowed, clearly distressed, clearly in pain, a stabilizing splint on her right upper arm.” The Canadian-born Clampitt fell to 21-5-1 (7 KO’s) with the loss.
On December 5, 2010 at Route 66 Casino in Albuquerque, NM in the main event, Holly Holm (139½ lbs) won by a TKO at 0:51 in the eighth round over Ann Marie Saccurato (138½ lbs). In this scheduled ten-rounder, Holm defended her IBA Junior Welterweight belt, and fought for the WBAN Junior Welterweight belt, the second WBAN belt she has won. Holm was much more aggressive in this fight than in their previous meeting. Saccurato fell to 15-5-2 (6 KO’s).
On June 10, 2011 at Route 66 Casino in Albuquerque, NM, Holly Holm (141½ lbs) won a 10-round unanimous (100-90 x 3) decision in a ten-round non-title rematch with Victoria Cisneros (137 lbs). Cisneros fell to 5-12-2 (1 KO) as Holm advanced to 30-1-3 (9 KO’s).
On December 2, 2011 at the Route 66 Casino west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Anne-Sophie Mathis (145½ lbs) of Dombasle, France faced Holly Holm (145¾ lbs) in a much anticipated showdown for the IBA and WBAN Welterweight belts. Both boxers were undefeated since 2004 and were at the top of WBAN’s world rankings at their usual weights but Holm had never before faced anyone with Mathis’s mix of reach, power and pressure.
Holm’s quick-movement fight plan worked for the early rounds but she got into trouble when she began to slug it out with Mathis as early as the third. Mathis, who never flinched from Holm’s punches, then began to punish Holm with quick, powerful shots. Holm told her corner she was hurt in the fifth then was knocked down cleanly in the sixth (although the referee ruled a slip). Holm looked beaten between the sixth and seventh but she chose to fight on, only to be KO’d against the ropes in the second half of the seventh. The referee initially intervened when Holm’s arm became entangled in the ropes (keeping her from falling to the canvas after a powerful shot from Mathis) but then let the fight go on although Holm looked defenseless and out on her feet.
Two savage rights to the head then ended it by KO at 1:38 in the seventh. Holm fell to 30-2-3 (9 KO’s) while Mathis improved to 26-1 (22 KO’s).
On June 15, 2012 at the Route 66 Casino near Albuquerque, New Mexico, Holly Holm (146 lbs) won a unanimous (96-94,97-93,99-91) ten-round decision over Anne-Sophie Mathis (145 lbs) of Dombasle, France for the IBA, WBF and WBAN Welterweight titles. Unlike in their first match, Holm stuck to her preferred strategy of boxing warily from the outside using her own lateral movement to deny Mathis good punching range. This time she added a tactic of ducking low and tying Mathis up in clinches to slow the fight down as much as possible. Holm’s movement and tie-up tactics kept the number of hard shots landed by either boxer low in the early rounds. She then survived a more aggressive (but rarely sustained) attack by Mathis who came on stronger in the later rounds. Unlike in their first fight, Mathis was unable to find the right distance early to connect with the hard shots that had knocked Holm out of her fight plan and produced the previous KO. Holm also kept her cool (or wrapped Mathis up in a bear hug) when she was hit hard and threw just enough in quick flurries to secure a narrow win on the scorecards (the 99-91 score for Holm was generous). Mathis stated after the fight that she would like a third bout to take place in France. Mathis fell to 26-2 (22 KO’s) with her first loss in nearly 17 years while Holm advanced to 31-2-3 (9 KO’s) .
Holly Holm credits Mike Winkeljohn for his skills in developing her as a boxer and, more recently, as an entry MMA fighter. “Practice makes perfect. It’s a lot of dedication; you just have to put your heart into it.” She commits to about three hours daily of training. “It’s very time consuming to train,” Holm says, “but it’s exciting. It’s worth all the training.” Holly’s hobbies are snowboarding and hiking. Her father, who was a preacher at Bosque Farms Church of Christ for 18 years, enjoys watching Holly but her mother is said to be less happy about her daughter’s chosen sport. “It’s exciting, like an adrenaline rush,” says Holm, however.