Sparring with Chevelle Hallback
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor

(NOTE: Part two of three-part series. Boxing Editor Lyle Fitzsimmons recently traveled to Tampa, FL to meet Chevelle Hallback, who'll challenge Holly Holm in a 140-pound women?s world title fight later this month in New Mexico. Today's second part recaps a writer-vs.-boxer sparring session on Feb. 20 at the Fight Factory gym. Part one previewed the March 26 fight. Part three will examine the status of women's boxing and Hallback's goal of becoming the first female in a feature fight on HBO.)

Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - As I made the 105-mile drive from my home in Ocala to the Fight Factory gym in Tampa, I assumed my in-ring sparring session with championship hopeful Chevelle Hallback would be something like the living room slap-boxing matches I used to have with my sister Tricia.

At 5-foot-6 and 140 or so pounds, Ms. Hallback is roughly the same size as my old crotchety sibling, so as I hurtled down I-75 on a glorious, cloud-free morning, I surmised the punishment she'd dish out couldn't be a whole lot worse than what big sis doled out decades ago.

I'm still deciding exactly when I realized my mistake.

My first inkling that a 13-year professional fighter might be a more threatening than a Niagara Falls teenager came a few paces inside the gym door, when I glanced across the cavernous former warehouse and saw Hallback in a warm-up stretch with trainer Sherman Henson.

Clad in red sneakers, blue jogging pants and a grey T-shirt, she surely looked the part from a distance. And when I got close enough to see the writing on the front of the shirt "" coupled with the annoyed scowl she wore upon my interruption, I'd never missed my sister quite so much.

Chevelle Hallback wants to be the first female in a feature fight on HBO.
From there, it only got worse.

Feeling like a death row inmate required to watch jailers spark the chair before taking a seat, I stood with notebook in hand for several minutes as my imminent foe whisked hurtful-looking combinations initially toward a mirror, and then onto Henson's padded hands in the ring.

It didn't help when Henson, himself a veteran of multiple world championship corners, stepped away from the action to chat for a few minutes, leaving me with a nothing if not ominous nugget:

"There's no one out there that really wants to get in with her. And I can't really blame them.

"I wouldn't want to either."

If either fighter or trainer were looking to throw a scare into their pasty visitor, it was working.

But because I'd carted ace camera chick Robin Redfearn with me and ultimately would have had to explain a 200-plus mile trip for a 5-minute interview and no pictures, I resisted the urge to feign sudden illness or answer a phantom emergency phone call from home.

Instead, I resumed observation from my ringside post until Henson's next menacing utterance:

"So, you ready to do this, or what?"

Having not come up with an excuse during the downtime provided, I had no choice but to nod.

And after successfully plucking gloves and mouthpiece from the decades-old gym bag I'd schlepped along for the ride, any escape time available was officially up.

I acknowledged my fate with a nervous climb to the ring, then stepped through the ropes and glanced at Robin as final hope vanished for an equipment malfunction that would perhaps stall matters until I found an older, feebler writing subject.

Henson joined me in the corner to secure headgear, and, sensing no need for further delay, motioned his fully warmed and still irritated-looking charge toward me with a curt "Let's go."

I stepped forward with a decided lack of aggression, not immediately aware of etiquette for lopsided exhibitions. Not surprisingly, it took all of a second before my approach was proven shoddy.


Chevelle Hallback shares a laugh with writer Lyle Fitzsimmons.
She stepped around my left side and began our union with a shot to the nose over my lazy guard.

In an instant, all delusions of grandeur from my car ride were replaced with a single galvanizing thought - "Dear God, please don't let her whip me in front of all these people!"

The next several minutes unfolded in similar fashion.

Peering from behind high-held gloves, Hallback picked and chose her shots, accurately sensing whenever I had A) left myself too far open after an unsuccessful attack; or B) remained passive long enough to invite her to take the initiative.

No blows landed solidly enough to do damage, though a well-aimed right to the ear raised a welt my wife spotted at home two hours later. More punishing to the psyche, however, was the "Oooh..." it prompted from the dozen or so gym- goers stopping to watch.

That sound alone inspired my own attempt at "offense," fruitless as it seemed beyond the few times Hallback later conceded I'd "got (her) good."

A short left hook to the head that finished a back-and-forth exchange was my shining moment, prompting a two-step retreat and slightly tempering her pursuit the rest of the way. Still, when the buzzer sounded to end things, Robin didn't need to charge the ring and lift me to her shoulders.

I knew I'd lost the decision.

And to quote Apollo Creed, "There ain't gonna be no rematch."

This week's title-fight schedule:


IBF/WBC 140-pound title unification - Uncasville, Conn.

Juan Urango (IBF champion) vs. Devon Alexander (WBC champion)

Urango (22-2-1, 17 KO): Second title defense, second reign; Held IBF title in 2006-07

Alexander (19-0, 12 KO): First title defense; Four straight wins by stoppage

Fitzbitz says: Alexander by decision

Vacant IBO lightweight title - Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Leonardo Zappavigna (No. 35 contender) vs. Fernando Angulo (No. 48 contender)

Zappavigna (22-0, 15 KO): First title fight; Second fight outside Australia (1-0, 0 KO)

Angulo (22-6, 14 KO): Second title fight; Lost WBA title shot in 2006

Fitzbitz says: Zappavigna by decision

WBC super flyweight title - Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Vic Darchinyan (WBA/WBC champion) vs. Rodrigo Guerrero (No. 12 WBA/ No. 15 WBC contender)

Darchinyan (33-2-1, 27 KO): Third title defenses; Unbeaten at super flyweight (8-0-1, 7 KO)

Guerrero (13-1-1, 9 KO): First title fight; Unbeaten since 2006 (11-0, 7 KO)

Fitzbitz says: Darchinyan in 9

Last week's picks: 1-1

Overall picks record: 170-61 (72.6 percent)

Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 21-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. E-mail him at, follow him at and read more at

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at

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