When the popularity of women’s boxing reached its peak in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Melissa Del Valle became one of the notable attractions.
Although Christy Martin and Lucia Rijker received substantial recognition, especially with Martin’s appearances on promoter Don King’s pay-per-view telecasts, Del Valle emerged as the most popular South Florida female fighter. In fact, the crowds attending Del Valle’s local appearances often equaled those of bouts featuring the top South Florida male fighters from the era.
But Del Valle also matched ring popularity with substance, winning world titles in two separate weight divisions.
Del Valle’s achievements have earned her deserved distinction. On June 25, Del Valle will be inducted into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame.
“I found out about it a couple of months ago,” Del Valle said of her Hall of Fame selection. “I was surprised to be honest. You never expect that to happen.
“I am a person who started boxing as something recreational. I did achieve a lot and for that I’m very proud.”
Del Valle’s venture into boxing began with a huge assist from her brother, former light-heavyweight champion Lou Del Valle. A New York native, Del Valle didn’t plan to box after a college basketball career at the University of Alabama.
“I never wanted to do it,” Del Valle said. “I just came home from college and wasn’t doing anything when I started noticing women’s boxing. My brother kept encouraging me to try it.
“Our relationship was estranged at the time, and boxing eventually made us closer again. He was there guiding me every step of the way. I went through hell with him training me, but in the long run, it helped me develop into the fighter I would become.”
Thanks to her brother’s guidance, Del Valle won two national Golden Gloves championships and a U.S. amateur title.
After winning her first 18 professional fights, Del Valle earned a world title opportunity against Lena Akesson in August 1999 at the Loews Hotel in Miami Beach. Del Valle scored a unanimous decision for a super-featherweight belt.
Three years later, Del Valle defeated Ada Velez to capture a super-bantamweight title
“My professional career had its ups and downs,” Del Valle said. “There were great moments like winning the world titles and meeting Marc Anthony, who wanted to meet after he saw me fight on the Tito Trinidad-Pernell Whitaker show in New York.
“But I also faced situations that I took fights for the money without being properly prepared. Boxing was my only source of income at the time.”
Del Valle retired in 2007 following a 10-round loss against close friend and former roommate Belinda Laracuente, who was another popular local-ring attraction. She finished with a 30-6-1 record and 12 knockouts.
“That was a very awkward fight because of my friendship with Belinda,” Del Valle said. “Belinda and I agreed never to fight each other, but when her original opponent withdrew, I took the fight. I was in those moments that I depended on fighting for an income.”
Del Valle, who now works at a human tissue laboratory in Edison, New Jersey, is part of the 2017 Florida Hall of Fame class that also features former heavyweight champion Michael Moorer and ex-middleweight champion and current trainer John David Jackson.
The Hall of Fame induction ceremony culminates three-days of events at the Westshore Grand Hotel in Tampa. For ticket information, call 813-884-7711 or visit the Hall of Fame website at www.FloridaBoxingHallofFame.com.
AROUND THE RING
Eight months after their close fight ended in a disputed decision, Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev will meet in a rematch Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) survived a second-round knockdown and won a unanimous decision, dethroning Kovalev (30-1-1,26 KOs) as light-heavyweight champion Nov. 17. Kovalev, a part-time Fort Lauderdale resident believed he deserved the victory.
“That I have no belts is for me new motivation to kick more [expletive] because he does not deserve these belts,” Kovalev said of Ward capturing the multiple sanctioning body titles previously held by Kovalev. “This was a gift for him from the judges for Christmas. Christmas is already finished, and the belts should be back with me.”
Saturday (9 p.m., pay-per-view): Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev, 12, for Ward’s IBF, WBA and WBO light-heavyweight titles; Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. Moises Flores, 12, for the unified WBA and IBO super-bantamweight titles.