#1 boxer Holly Holm Bellator debut Thursday night

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Holly Holm, the world’s No. 1-rated female boxer with a 32-2-3 record, strings together some of the sport’s most inventive punch combinations with the same dexterity she shows when stitching together, say, the burlap table runners she keeps threatening to sell on the craft site, Etsy, but gives away as gifts instead.

The 18-time, three division world champion boxer will now ply her creativity to the cage, where she’ll make her third mixed martial arts appearance on tonight’s Bellator card (airing on Spike, 10pm/9CT) against Katie Merrill of Brighton, Mass. (1-0-0). The fight will take place at the Santa Ana Star Casino in Rio Rancho, New Mex., a 45- minute drive from Holm’s hometown of Bosque Farms.

Holm’s Bellator debut in the bantamweight division marks her 36th out of 39 fights to occur within the confines of her home state. The boxer’s home-based performances largely explain why a fighter like Ronda Rousey has experienced fame best described as a phenomena while Holm’s remains more of an enigma.

Holm, like Rousey, possesses the trinity of marketability for female athletes: bona fides in her sport, universal beauty, and unquestionable intelligence. An argument could be made that Holm could indeed be more marketable than Rousey. While her MMA counterpart is brazen and oftentimes biting in her assertions, Holm is polite and pensive in her analysis — and more palatable to a general audience still adjusting to the idea of female fighters. Holm also achieves a rarity in the female sportscape: She manages to exude femininity but not sexuality.

Even though Holm might not be recognized widely, she is adored deeply, by both the New Mexico fanbase and its abundant promoters on the Native American reservations around the state who pay her four times as much money as promotions in Las Vegas or California have offered.

“We’ve tried going other places but they don’t want to pay,” she says. “There’s a big misconception that I won’t go anywhere else… A lot of people say, ‘Why don’t you leave?’ And I say, ‘Ask yourself this: ‘How come they’re coming here?’ Obviously, they’re getting paid or getting an opportunity they didn’t have at home. And who would, in any job, leave to make a quarter of what they’re going to make [at home]? Who would do that? Who? Nobody.”

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