Middleweight boxer Maricela Cornejo trains for her fight in the co-main event of a Golden Boy Promotions card. Cornejo has overcome childhood and young adult adversity to emerge as a possible signature face of female boxing.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Maricela Cornejo pulls her hair into a ponytail as she prepares for a workout.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Maricela Cornejo shadow boxes during her training routine for an upcoming fight on a Golden Boy Promotions card.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Says Maricela Cornejo: ‘I believe I have the talent, the personality and heart to be a face of boxing. I’m just getting to my peak.’(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Maricela Cornejo rehydrates during her training session in preparation for a middleweight bout.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Maricela Cornejo works with the striking bag during a recent training session.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Maricela Cornejo shares a lighter moment with a friend during her recent training session.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Maricela Cornejo’s plan is to remain a busy fighter, advancing her ring experience while striving to become one of the prominent faces seeking to advance women’s boxing – something a Southland neighbor from Venice previously did for women’s mixed martial arts fighting.
As Cornejo assessed her unanimous-decision victory over former women’s lightweight champion Eliza Olson on Friday night in a staging area at the Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles, Ronda Rousey’s trainer, Edmond Tarverdyan, listened while holding mitts for his main-event fighter, Glendale super-lightweight Art Hovanissyan and signaled a thumbs-up.
“[Olson] was very unpredictable in what she was doing, throwing wild punches, so my trainer sat me down and said, ‘What are you doing? Keep her at distance and be a smart boxer,’” Cornejo said. “She was rushing in with her head. My arm’s all bruised up. My face got bruised. Other than that, I think I did a good job of working the ring, not letting her get set.”
Cornejo admitted her first instinct was to match the brawling that the bigger Olson presented. Then, it clicked. This is why Cornejo spent all those hours learning more about the finer points of the sport working under veteran cornerman Mario “Yuka” Morales at Azteca Gym in Bell.
So instead of participating in a slugfest, Cornejo stayed on her toes, jabbed and found Olson with more precise effective punches that led the judges to award Cornejo (5-2) a 59-55, 59-55, 58-56 triumph over Olson (10-6-3).
Cornejo, a 29-year-old from Los Angeles, fought for the first time since dropping a split decision in April in New Zealand for the WBC middleweight title.
Cornejo’s attention to her hook in training worked, as did her advantage in punching and foot speed. While Olson charged and mounted good pressure in the fourth round, Cornejo returned to the jab and backed Olson to the ropes with a punch to the head later in the round.
Olson, correctly sensing the scoring in the six-round fight, blitzed Cornejo in the fifth, but was struck by consecutive power punches. Cornejo even answered Olson’s sneaky third-round punch after the bell by landing one on Olson to close the fifth.
A hard left by Cornejo in the sixth rocked Olson.
“Staying calm the whole time, being aware … she was a heavy girl, so it tired me, but I continued to move, and I only recall getting hit good once in the face,” Cornejo said. “When I did throw, I threw quality punches.”
Cornejo is scheduled to return to the ring in Cancun, Mexico, in December and would like to be a regular on Golden Boy Promotions bouts in Southern California and elsewhere, as she was Friday.
Bernard Hopkins, the former long-reigning middleweight champion who’s now a Golden Boy Promotions executive, texted Cornejo’s manager, Nancy Rodriguez, after the bout, “Congratulations, let’s do it again.”
In other Friday action, Indio-trained super-lightweight Diego Magdaleno (29-2) outworked Hovanissyan (17-3-3) in an action fight by three scores of 99-91, and Philadelphia’s Damon Allen and Mexico’s Luis Arceo fought to a draw, 76-76 on all cards.