A Couple of Tough Dames

9 Mar

      The week before last I watched a couple of really tough dames throw down. No, I’m not talking about the Ronda Rousey – Liz Carmouche fight. Instead, on the same evening those women headlined UFC 157, I drove up to Connecticut to watch my friend Jody-Lynn Reicher take on Rachel Campbell at an American Kickboxing Federation event.
      Campbell’s opponent for a boxing match had dropped out just five days beforehand so when promoter John Carlo called Reicher’s trainer, Phil Dunlap, and asked if he had any woman who’d be interested in fighting a “hands only” exhibition bout, Reicher jumped at the chance. The fact that she is a mixed martial artist who had never done pure boxing, even in the gym, was no impediment for her. Nor was the fact she’s a 50-year-old mother of two who weighs all of 105 pounds soaking wet, while Campbell has been training exclusively in boxing for six years and weighs 122 pounds, a hindrance.
      Dunlap, who’s trained everyone from pro MMA fighters to navy SEALS, describes Reicher as the toughest person he has ever worked with. That’s not just hyperbole. Reicher joined the Marines at 18 and when she got out of the service, began running marathons. But since that wasn’t enough of a challenge, she started participating in ultra-marathons setting various records in grueling races of 100 miles or more. But after suffering a criminal attack during a training run several years ago, she showed up at Dunlap’s MMA gym looking for self-defense training. Eventually, at age 47, she decided she wanted to compete and, perhaps, even turn professional as an MMA fighter. But since amateur women’s MMA fights at her weight have often been tough to find, she decided to step into the ring with Campbell just to stay sharp.
      I’d never seen her fight live before but one thing I could clearly see upon watching her mix it up with Campbell was that Dunlap had not lied about her being his toughest fighter. Despite giving up a considerable amount of size, she never took a step backwards through the entire three round match constantly pressuring her opponent. For her part, Campbell, who only had one prior fight on her record, boxed well using good movement and a strong jab. And when Reicher cornered her and turned the fight into a brawl, Campbell showed she was equally tough, hanging in the pocket without flinching and firing off hard shots.
      Since it was an exhibition there was no judges’ decision at the end but that would have been superfluous anyway.
      Sports, nowadays, especially combat sports, are often about some combination of money and ego. But watching an event like this one, while it wasn’t necessarily contested with a high level of expertise or in front of a massive audience, reminded me of why I’ve always had a passion for sports, not just combat sports but all sports. Here were two women, ages 38 and 50, literally pouring out everything they had over three rounds for no other reason than they loved what they were doing. With no money or fame on the line, with not even an official W at the end of it all, still both women couldn’t have been happier with the result. There was no posturing or trash talking before the fight and certainly none afterwards. Campbell was not just appreciative of Reicher’s performance but truly grateful to her for stepping in at the last moment and giving her a chance to compete, even expressing her thanks to Reicher for pushing her to fight so hard. If I hadn’t been friends with Jody, I could just as easily have rooted for Rachel, a computer programmer who seemed sincerely polite and enthusiastic.
      In the future, when I’m feeling a little jaded and discouraged by the sports world, I’ll remember to look back at this fight. It will remind me there continue to be a few athletes out there who can conduct themselves with class and grace outside the ring (and still fight like a couple of damn tough dames inside it).


2 Responses to “A Couple of Tough Dames”

  1. Kate Andrews March 10, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Reblogged this on MMA, Wrestling, Comic and Gaming News.

  2. Jody-Lynn Reicher March 10, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    Wow! Nice piece. That was truly wonderful. Thank you.

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