The Fire Inside: Hallback continues HBO quest
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Ocala, FL (Sports Network) -
It's a few hours before a fight... and Chevelle Hallback is a portrait of calm.
Her muscles are toned. Her technique is refined. Her conditioning is perfected.
But on the inside things are not nearly as, errr... settled.
"It's crazy," she said. "Every time I eat, I can't hold anything on my stomach. Three or four times a day, I have to run to the bathroom. And when I do sit down to eat, I don't have an appetite.
"Everything I eat comes right out of me."
The affable Floridian has fought 39 times in 10 states and five countries over a decade-and-a-half as a pro, but concedes each ring approach at least temporarily shapes up to be the last.
On Friday, when she'll perform for just the second time in front of fans, family and friends in her Tampa hometown... those ever-present butterflies are even larger and more fluttery.
"From now until I get in there is when I question myself," she said. "It gets so bad that I always insist to myself, 'This is my last fight. This is my last fight. This is my last fight.'
"I say it every single time. But once I get through the ropes, as soon as I step in, I'm OK."
Assuming she indeed completes the trip from locker room to corner, Hallback will encounter a familiar foe -- 36-year-old Kentuckian Terri Blair -- whom she beat by unanimous decision on a women's card at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, California.
And while six fights, three failed title shots and five years have passed since that competitive eight-rounder, the personal stakes have rarely been higher for the tattooed slugger known as "Fists of Steel."
Not only is it Hallback's first appearance in Tampa since a three-round no- decision with Melissa Del Valle in 2005, it's also billed as the first show with an all-female main event in Florida history.
"I'm excited to be home and I'm excited that we're making history," she said. "I've proven people wrong and shown them that I can sell tickets. Now I've gotta show up and do my thing. In my mind, I win the fight, but I want to win and make sure I put on a good show.
"I've gotta represent and show everyone again that females can hold their own."
But sentimentality aside, her impetus to impress doesn't apply solely to Tampa.
In spite of a 2-3-1 stretch that's yielded title-fight losses in New Mexico, Denmark and the south of France, Hallback remains far more steadfast in pursuit of a long-range goal -- an HBO date.
A loss to then-champion Holly Holm in a 140-pound rematch sidetracked the chase in 2010, but subsequent narrow defeats to Cecilia Braekhus and Myriam Lamare in title bouts last year have her believing a television breakthrough is as close as another return bout.
Lamare, the IBF junior welterweight champion, is ranked second at 140 pounds by the Women Boxing Archive Network; while Braekhus is third at welterweight and holds the WBA, WBC and WBO title belts.
"I'll do whatever I need to do to get into position for HBO," Hallback said.
"I'm waiting for those two to step up to the plate. There are plenty of girls out there that they've fought twice. I feel that I deserve rematches with them as well.
"If I beat one of them and do it in outstanding fashion, it will happen for me. But you never know. You can't be sure exactly what it'll take. It may be if I beat one of them.
"Or hey, it might be after this fight."
Still, one thing the ripped, multi-talented 40-year-old -- a college student, gym owner and licensed barber in her non-gloved time -- will admit is that a finish line is closing in as well.
In fact, when asked if the premium cable quest had "several" years remaining, Hallback laughed.
"Oh, I don't know about 'several,'" she said. "Maybe two. Three's pushing it a bit.
"The body feels good. But it's the nerves. The older I get, the worse the nerves get. I can't imagine being a lot older than this when it comes to nerves.
"I'm praying and I'm hopeful, but if not this year or early next year then it's time to leave it for the next generation."
This week's title-fight schedule:
WBC flyweight title -- Chonburi, Thailand
Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (champion) vs. Sonny Boy Jaro (No. 8 contender)
Wonjongkam (83-3-2, 44 KO): Fifth title defense; Held WBC title from 2001-07 (17 defenses)
Jaro (33-10-5, 23 KO): Third title fight (0-2); Last seven wins by stoppage (17 total rounds)
Fitzbitz says: "Veteran should have enough to offset Filipino slugger." Wonjongkam by decision
IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO heavyweight titles -- Dusseldorf, Germany
Wladimir Klitschko (champion) vs. Jean-Marc Mormeck (No. 9 IBF/IBO contender)
Klitschko (56-3, 49 KO): Eleventh IBF/IBO title defense; Unbeaten since 2004 (14-0, 10 KO)
Mormeck (36-4, 22 KO): First heavyweight title fight; Held WBA/WBC titles at cruiserweight
Fitzbitz says: "Mormeck has a recognizable big-fight name, but no real chance." Klitschko in 10
IBO super middleweight title -- Kempton Park, South Africa
Thomas Oosthuizen (champion) vs. Serge Yannick (No. 27 contender)
Oosthuizen (17-0-1, 12 KO): Fourth title defense; Won four fights in 2011 (44 total rounds)
Yannick (14-1, 7 KO): First title fight; Third fight outside Australia (2-0, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: "Champion still an unknown quantity, but should flex muscles." Oosthuizen by decision
Vacant IBO junior welterweight title -- Kempton Park, South Africa
Kaizer Mabuza (No. 19 contender) vs. Steven Wills (No. 25 contender)
Mabuza (23-8-3, 14 KO): Third title fight (0-2); Two straight losses in IBF and IBO title fights
Wills (16-0-2, 9 KO): First title fight; First fight outside Australia
Fitzbitz says: "Twice-beaten challenger takes novice into deeper waters." Mabuza by decision
WBO mini-flyweight title -- Tijuana, Mexico
Moises Fuentes (champion) vs. Michael Landero (No. 13 contender)
Fuentes (14-1, 6 KO): First title defense; Split decisions in both 12-round fights (1-1)
Landero (15-5-4, 5 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Last three wins by stoppage (20 total rounds)
Fitzbitz says: "Host title-holder improves to begin championship reign." Fuentes by decision
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full- fledged title-holder -- no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Last week's picks: 2-0
Overall picks record: 375-128 (74.5 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter.