There’s a reason Ana Julaton’s name is at the center of rumors about the appearance of women’s boxing on one of boxing’s premium networks.
A few reasons, actually.
Julaton, a former junior featherweight titleholder, has never ducked a fight. On many occasions, the Filipino-American boxer has traveled to her opponent’s territory. She fought Kelsey Jeffries in San Jose, Calif. Lisa Brown in Canada. Jessica Villafranca in Mexico. Yesica Marcos in Argentina.
Julaton also draws. In San Jose, she outsold Jeffries, who was from Gilroy, Calif., about a 10-minute drive from where the fight took place. Julaton, from the nearby Bay Area, brought Filipino fans in droves. Her follow-up fight against Donna Biggers in San Jose also drew well. Those two cards each drew nearly 4,000 fans, which outdid shows that major promoter Goossen-Tutor put on at the HP Pavilion the year before.
Julaton also does big ratings in the Philippines. Coming off a loss to Lisa Brown, her 2010 fight against Maria Villalobos did a 17.5% rating according to Kantar Media. Three weeks later, the Juan Manuel Lopez against Bernabe Concepcion card that featured Nonito Donaire only did a 6.5% rating.
None of these single reasons puts Julaton’s name in the mix to fight on the Sept. 14 Showtime Pay Per View card headlined by the Floyd Mayweather-Saul Alvarez showdown, by far the biggest show in boxing this year. It’s a compilation of all those things.
Plus, Julaton has never complained about the current position women’s boxing finds itself in, but she’s working to change it. In the last year, members of the boxing media have run into Julaton at a number of major fights as she tried her hand at on-camera interviews for Al Bernstein’s Boxing Channel. She and trainer/adviser Angelo Reyes also went out of their way to try and interact and sit down with people in the boxing industry who could help change the fate of women’s boxing rather than complaining about it on Twitter.
“For the longest time, the biggest misconception about women’s boxing in the United States is that it was sexism that was keeping it in the dark,” Julaton told RingTV.com after a recent workout at the UNLV boxing gym in Las Vegas.
“For a long time, I thought that was the case myself; but when I got the opportunity to sit down with some of these TV executives and promoters and pick their brains, I found out it wasn’t true. What is refreshing is that they aren’t sexist, but they are strictly business minded.
“Instead of sitting around saying, ‘I don’t like what is happening right now,’ I thought why don’t I go and try to meet these people. This is something Angelo and I have been doing for the past many months, this hasn’t happened overnight.”
Showtime has a proven track record in recent times of being innovators when it comes to boxing. The inclusion of additional undercard fights to their Championship Boxing broadcasts via the Showtime Extreme network has been something fans have long been asking for, and it has proven to be very successful. It is successful not just in giving fans more value for their subscriber dollars, but an opportunity to see talent they otherwise wouldn’t see until those up-and-comers made it further up the ladder.
It only makes sense that if a network is going to try their hand at women’s boxing, it would be Showtime. With the success they had with women’s MMA and Strikeforce – thanks to Ronda Rousey – they see that market more than anyone.
There are plenty of skilled American female boxers currently plying their trade. Julaton is the only one with a proven track record as a draw, both with attendance and TV ratings. She’s also proven easy to work with.
Julaton first has a fight on Aug. 17 against Celina Salazar in Cancun that she needs to take care of before any major announcement will be made. Make no mistake; her team isn’t looking past that fight.
“For me to be on the brink of bigger things, I have to treat it like every other fight,” said Julaton when asked if she feels additional pressure given what is possibly at stake.
The fight will be Julaton’s first of 2013. Her promoter, Allan Tremblay, has been battling cancer, which has made it hard to focus on finding Julaton a fight. However, Julaton has stayed in the gym and done what she could to bring an opportunity to her plate.
“There’s no laid out plan; you can’t wait around for something to happen,” said Julaton. “If there’s a fight for you to take that can elevate you, ready or not, you have to take it.”
Julaton’s fight against Salazar is the co-feature to a 130-pound title fight between WBC beltholder Takashi Miura and Sergio Thompson on a Golden Boy Promotions card. Both fights will be shown in the United States (on Fox Deportes; Televisa in Mexico).
Without naming names, some of the best American female fighters spend more time complaining on social media about their current situation rather than doing what they can to change it.
In fact, one of those names allegedly turned down the Aug. 17 fight with Julaton. When asked about the fight, the fighter simply said, “If it is not Showtime against Ana, it’s not worth the time.”
It’s that kind of thinking that has kept women’s boxing in the backseat for the last decade, more or less.
“It makes me angry, what some in women’s boxing say,” said Julaton. “Just do the work. I just feel some of these people need to look in the mirror and ask why they don’t have what they don’t have rather than assigning blame elsewhere.”
Julaton made a great comparison between women’s boxing and women’s tennis that made a lot of sense to me. To paraphrase, she talked about how Billie Jean King changed the outlook on women’s tennis forever, even helping establish their own league to play in. Women’s tennis players are currently the highest grossing female athletes in all of sports.
“At the highest level in the sport, it is about what you do outside the ring on top of what you do inside the ropes,” said Julaton. “If you have a big win but nobody knows about it, oh well. It takes much more than that.”
Fighthype.com first reported the possibility that Julaton would fight bantamweight champion Yazmin Rivas on the Mayweather-Alvarez card. If you break it down, it makes sense. Rivas is a Canelo Promotions handled fighter. She is a solid draw in Mexico and headlines a lot of her shows out there.
Though Julaton and Reyes wouldn’t confirm nor deny the possibility of the fight, they did discuss what makes Rivas someone deserving of such an opportunity.
“Yazmin is serious about the sport,” says Julaton. “She went into other people’s hometowns and fought them. She fought Ina Menzer in Germany, she fought Jackie Nava. I know a couple of American women who declined to fight Jackie Nava, an opportunity I would have loved to have.
“Yazmin has done the work. She has a promoter in Canelo, has the backing of a television network, and maybe most importantly, she has a fanbase. When you have all that setup and aligned, then yeah she deserves it.”
It wasn’t as though Julaton woke up and was a big name in the Philippines. She worked her way into her current position the hard way. She was trained by Freddie Roach early in her career, which brought her some attention, but everything she got in the ring, she earned.
“When I wake up, all I ever think about is fighting, all I want to do is fight. I remember hearing Mike Tyson at an MMA fight talk about how glad he was to survive a fighter’s life, and I think, ‘Wow, me too.’ I eat and breathe boxing; there is nothing else I would rather do.”
The 2012 Olympics was an opportunity to build momentum for women in the paid ranks. Only the women earned any medals for the United States, and none of them decided to take the next step. Claressa Shields, who was the lone gold medalist, has taken a backseat when she should have been made a star.
“Claressa is the next generation,” said Julaton.
“She got the gold medal. The ESPYs, she would’ve been a great nominee if not a great winner. But who is representing her out there? It isn’t enough to win. You’ve got to be put in the position where you’re going to benefit from that. This is also the entertainment business. You gotta have someone out there lobbying for you.”
While Shields is still an 18-year-old high school student, and obviously unable to focus 100 percent on her status as an American idol, but she should have somebody looking out for her in that regard. Her story is a compelling one, coming from a tough neighborhood in order to win a gold medal at such a young age.
A major difficulty that women’s boxing has to overcome is there are many with long histories in the sport that just flat out don’t like it. Their opinions are going to be impossible to change, and there will always be bad press associated with it.
Southern California boxing trainer Henry Ramirez, who handles Chris Arreola and Josesito Lopez, once stated on a radio show that he would rather watch gay porn than women’s boxing. When that is the kind of reaction one receives to their sport, it is quite a mountain to climb.
“It’s a question of ignorance and information,” said Reyes, who has managed Ana since the beginning of her career.
“Certain people who say they are experts aren’t really experts. Until you’ve stepped off a plane in Mexico and seen a women’s fight, until you’ve stepped off a plane in Argentina or in Europe, you don’t really know what you are talking about.”
“Keep in mind, Ana helped set records in Argentina with the Marcos fight,” continued Reyes. “To this day, it is still Argentina’s biggest crowd; 35,000 people were there. In Mexico, Jackie Nava headlined a card that Rafael Marquez was on the undercard. These are facts.”
When Julaton meets Salazar in a couple of weeks in Cancun, don’t be surprised if Rivas is there ringside to watch the fight. If Julaton can pass that tune-up, maybe then we will get the announcement that people have been anticipating since this rumor first picked up.
If anyone is ready to take the ball and run with it, it’s Julaton.
Photos / Anajulaton.com, Kirby Lee-Getty Images, Rob Tringali-Getty Images