‘Overlooked’ McMorrow is swinging into spotlight 

click to enlarge Champion: San Francisco resident Melissa McMorrow, left, won the flyweight title despite some dismissing the boxer because she didn’t look promising on paper. - PHOTO COURTESY KLAUS FREVERT
  • Photo Courtesy Klaus Frevert
  • Champion: San Francisco resident Melissa McMorrow, left, won the flyweight title despite some dismissing the boxer because she didn’t look promising on paper.

In boxing, there perhaps is no better of a word that illustrates a failure of a prizefighter than “bum.”

You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but Melissa McMorrow, a prizefighter, has something of a bum right knee.

Playing soccer from the age of eight through collegiate adulthood can do that.  

But her wounded knee aside, McMorrow is no “bum.”

Susi Kentikian, exactly a week ago today, found that out the hard way.

In what is being touted by some as women’s boxing upset of the year, the San Francisco resident McMorrow unseated the previously undefeated flyweight world champion Kentikian at Brandenburg Halle in Frankfurt, Germany, by majority decision. It was her first world championship.

It was an upset not because McMorrow was the inferior fighter — a notion many foolishly believed going into the bout — but because on paper it appeared that she didn’t have a chance.

A professional since 2008 and a full-time project manager at Bay Area solar company SolarCity, McMorrow was 30 years old and the owner of an unattractive 6-3-3 record, never having knocked any fighter out.

Kentikian, a contrarian, had knocked people out. The 24-year-old had stopped 16 of her 30 opponents, and had never lost a fight. She was also the claimant to the female WBO, WBA and WIBF flyweight belts. On those merits, the Germany-based Armenian was touted as one of the top 112-pounders in the world — the world.

But fights, and championships alike, aren’t won or lost on paper. Those are won and lost in the ring. And it was in the German prize ring where McMorrow, with San Mateo B Street Boxing trainer Eddie Croft in her corner, bullied the hometown hero over 10 rounds.

“They did say something that sounded like ‘new champion,’” McMorrow remembered, nervously anticipating the verdict. “But I didn’t know.”

She had reason to be nervous. It was only in February when McMorrow was “robbed” in her first attempt at a world title against Mexico’s Arely Muciño. “Robbed” is pugilistic journalese for getting stiffed out of a win — and getting stiffed when a championship is on the line hurts especially so.

“Melissa had been overlooked not only in boxing, but in our area,” Croft said, who has guided McMorrow since her pro debut. “When you talk about the best females boxers in the area, she should be one of them, and no one ever mentioned her.”

In his own day, Croft had his title shots. But with those shots came the misfortunes of challenging legendary champions Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales.

He never pulled off those upsets. Few could’ve. But “Mighty,” as Eddie likes to call Melissa, did.

Last year, she toppled Eileen Olszewski for the 2011’s women’s boxing upset of the year.

“I didn’t think it was an upset. I knew I was going to beat that girl,” she said. “At what point will they see I’m actually good and can beat people?”

But it’s bums who have trouble beating people. And Melissa, again, is no bum.

Alexis Terrazas is a freelance writer and regular contributor to The San Francisco Examiner.

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