Chevelle Hallback has been a professional boxer for 25 years.
She’s fought in five weight classes, held titles in three of them and competed with many of the highest-profile names as the women’s side of the sport slowly climbed the relevance ladder.
So when she ponders the fact that Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano will not only fight at Madison Square Garden this weekend but headline there atop a card with several men’s bouts that’ll be broadcast globally by DAZN, she can’t help but crack a smile.
But she’ll not claim huge responsibility for it.
Other than simply working when work was offered.
“To be honest with you, some may say I am a trailblazer, but I don't see it,” she said.
“I mean I really don't know what role I played in it other than fighting whenever the opportunity presented itself. But if I did play some kind of role in it, I’m happy I did.
“This makes me feel really good to see this happening.”
Now 50, the native Floridian turned pro half a lifetime ago at the long since-demolished Mahi Temple Shrine Auditorium in Miami, erasing fellow newbie Connie Plosser in just 47 seconds while earning a cool $400 for the effort.
Plosser never returned to the ring, but Hallback surely did and faced one of the sport’s early stars – Lucia Rijker – in her second fight in Texas while making $3,000, before picking up her first title a year later.
“I'm not frustrated because everything that has a beginning had to start from somewhere,” Hallback said. “But do I wish the kind of opportunities that are presented now were presented 20 years ago, of course I do. I think women’s boxing has come a long ways compared to five, 10 years ago.”
More belts meant more travel and more talented foes, including Hallback’s two fights in New Mexico with Holly Holm – who later earned UFC fame with a KO of Ronda Rousey – and another in Copenhagen, Denmark with Cecilia Braekhus, who won her first 36 bouts in a row and was a five-belt champion at welterweight before finally losing two straight in 2020 and 2021.
“Evenly matched women with advanced and superior skill sets are being showcased on the higher platform,” she said. “And we have individuals in places that can make things happen and are not afraid of the naysayers or individuals that don't think women should be in the position of what they're being put in – in a man’s sport. We have proven what we can do, so let us do it. And they are.”
Hallback’s active participation has been intermittent at best over the last several years as she’s juggled multiple non-boxing interests – fighting twice in 2014, twice more in 2019 and once in 2021 – but she’s won all five bouts to get to 33-8-2, including two by KO, and is ranked first by the WBC at 154 pounds behind unbeaten Swedish champion Patricia Berghult, who was 2 when Hallback fought Plosser.
“I’m doing a little bit of everything, but I’m not retired from boxing,” said Hallback, who still lives in Plant City – about 25 miles outside Tampa – and dabbles in powerlifting, screenwriting, acting and public speaking, in addition to training fighters. “I want that WBC belt before I retire.”
Taylor and Serrano will fight for the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO titles at 135 pounds, where Hallback won the lesser-regarded IFBA championship in 2008. In fact, she fought 10 times as a lightweight and was 8-1 with four KOs and a no-contest but rose to junior welterweight for her second bout with Holm in 2010 and hasn’t fought lighter than 140 pounds since 2014.
Taylor has fought all but one of her 20 bouts below the lightweight limit, while Serrano has won championships in seven divisions while competing as light as 114 1/4 pounds and as heavy as 138 1/2.
“I think it’s a great fight. Styles makes fights. You have a very technical fighter in Taylor going against a power puncher in Amanda. Very interesting,” Hallback said. “The best fighter that night will win.”
Neither, though, would keep her from win No. 34 – competitively speaking.
“Both fighters, to me, come straight forth,” she said.
“With Taylor, my movement would have frustrated her, and my power would have overwhelmed her. With Serrano, because I think I have much more power than she, I would have stayed in the pocket with her and matched power for power. But because I can fight off of angles, there would have been a lot of punches she wouldn't see that would have landed and been too much for her, in my opinion.”
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
WBC/WBO super featherweight/junior lightweight titles – Las Vegas, Nevada
Oscar Valdez (WBC champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Shakur Stevenson (WBO champion/No. 5 IWBR)
Valdez (30-0, 23 KO): Second title defense; Held WBO title at 126 pounds (2016-19, six defenses)
Stevenson (17-0, 9 KO): First title defense; Held WBO title at 126 pounds (2019, zero defenses)
Fitzbitz says: This is a big-time matchup of legit world-class fighters. And to some extent, your pick revolves around what you think of Stevenson. I think he’s a superstar in waiting. Stevenson in 10 (90/10)
Last week's picks: 1-1 (WIN: Fury; LOSS: Ishizawa)
2022 picks record: 11-4 (73.3 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,220-396 (75.5 percent)
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.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.