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,” and “Queen of Lightning”.
Born in Amsterdam on December 7, 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 15, studying in the gym of Johan Vas, 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
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
Daniëlle 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
Valérie 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
Her only defeat in a kickboxing ring was in a Muay
Thai style exhibition match at Sporthalle Zuid in Amsterdam in October 1994,
when Lucia fought
male Thai boxer Somchai Jaidee, 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
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
Rijker then decided to go
back to Holland and test her boxing skills further. She
defeated Zsuzsanna Szuknai 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,
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)
Chevelle Hallback 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.
Webber began aggressively, according to a Women's Boxing Page
"talking and roughing it up with rabbit punches, elbows,
head butts, hip thrusts and hitting on the breaks. Lucia took it for a couple
of seconds and replied with some rough action of her own. Rijker's jabs reddened Webber's face and started
her swelling. Webber was hard to hit squarely and moved inside every chance she got. Once inside Rijker's jab, the body blows, clinching and rabbit punches started. At first
Rijker seemed determined to slug it out on the inside. She held her own, but
she could not move Webber out. Then with her corner's help she started hurting
Webber with wicked uppercuts and paid Dora back for the rough stuff with
a couple of elbows and a cuffing. In the middle rounds Rijker followed her
corner's instructions and kept jabbing and moving. Webber's face became bright
red and her eyes began to swell. She continued to chase and run
into Rijker's jab. Webber obviously tried to unsettle Lucia with taunts,
"Is that all you got? Come on, get some!" Rijker looked angry after a while and delivered one of the stiffest jabs I've
ever seen right into Webber's open mouth. Webber was shaken, but she withstood
Lucia's onslaught and made it to the end of the round. In the final round Rijker went after the knockout, but still fought smart.
Webber was badly hurt and bloodied by the end, but she proved to be tougher
than Lucia's other victims. If the fight had gone on another round or two,
Webber would have gone down or the ref would have stopped the fight. Still,
it was a brave fight for the old vet, who at least can brag Rocky style that
she was never knocked down. I don't think she'll be looking for a rematch.
Lucia clearly won every round and showed her power early
and often. But Webber was game and who knows if the ten years and the lay
off made the difference."
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
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 (135½ 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
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
139½ 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
Henin Wiet; 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!
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."
(137½ lbs) won the IBO Women's (WIBO) Junior Welterweight title when she TKO'd
(135¼ lbs) of Argentina in the fifth round
at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT on September 25, 1998 (picture at right).
Acuña 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 and took the photographs shown above and
told us 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
Rijker disappeared from public view after this fight, for what now apears to
have been a mix of boxing and other reasons, and her reputation was diminished
canceled several fight opportunities.
manager Stan Hoffman also revealed in an
with Katherine Dunn that Rijker suffered a broken
eardrum in her fight with Diana Dutra. Her association with promoter
Bob Arum severed (Arum preferring to promote the more superficial talents of Mia
St. John, who was fighting four-rounders). With talk of male-female boxing
also in the air at the time, Stan Hoffman suggested that Lucia might fight a man
in a "handicapped" bout.
Lucia was slated to fight in the co-Main Event on
an America Presents card in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi on December 5th,
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
In 2000 she became the subject of a new flurry of publicity ... see the article
Rijker's Island by boxing writer Katherine
Dunn in the New York Times Magazine,
and the reports
of a fracas at the LA Boxing Club where Lucia got into a public fist fight
and wrestling match with Christy Martin in what
many observers saw as a staged lead-up to their long-awaited
ring tussle (read Lucia Rijker's
version as told to Katherine Dunn).
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 (134¼ lbs) won a
ten-round unanimous decision over IFBA welterweight champion
Sunshine Fettkether (138½ lbs) of Mesa, Arizona.
For Lucia's view and action photos of this fight, see her
interview with WBAN's Sue
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
Chevelle Hallback's hard-charging style early in their
fight. However, the Martin camp apparently felt there was too much to
lose in this matchup.
On March 10 1997, when both were interviewed for HBO's Real Sports. Martin questioned Rijker's status as a female,
and implied that Rijker's
phenomenal physical condition was enhanced by
supplements. It never became clear whether this charge was a try at hyping a
future "grudge match"
or Martin searching for excuses for not fighting Rijker.
In 1998, the WIBF offered a $1.5 million purse for a Rijker-Martin match,
but only Lucia was willing to sign the contract. Martin balked at splitting the
purse with Rijker, saying that she (Martin) would be the drawing card for the
fight. Lucia then offered to fight "winner take all", but there was still no
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,
Lucia was the subject of an award-winning
documentary film about Women's Boxing,
"Shadow Boxers" by Katya Bankowski, 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." See also the
official website for the film, and
the review by P. Llanor Alleyne