By Lyle Fitzsimmons
It’s been nothing if not a slow burn for Chevelle Hallback.
The 40-something Florida native hasn’t been active in a boxing ring for more than a thousand days – or three years, one month and 11 days, to be precise – but when it comes to her next big competitive challenge she insists she remains ready, willing and able.
And if the woman standing in the other corner is one Cris Cyborg, even better.
Cyborg, for those unaware, is the UFC’s female featherweight champion, and she made headlines earlier this month when she applied for – and was granted – a boxing license and accompanying federal ID number by the California State Athletic Commission.
The mixed martial artist has recently been seen strutting her stuff in a videotaped sparring session with dual Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields, and it was that YouTube clip that got Hallback – who turned 46 on Sept. 3 and won the vacant WBF female welterweight title in her most recent fight – thinking.
“I’m like well, dang, why I can't get any fights?” she said. “I thought females would be coming for that belt. I was wrong. So, moving forward, I saw that Cyborg had received her boxing license. I was like, ‘Yes!’ She is said to be feared by many in the MMA world and I, for whatever reason, can't seem to get a fight. A fight between two highly-feared females would be a great fight. So I decided to put it out there that I would love to fight her when and if she comes to boxing.
“I've only seen this girl one time in the ring and that's when she sparred Claressa Shields. At that time, I said I feel that she has decent skills and she is tough and she's very strong. So I think that she would be a good match for myself and it will be a great fight, no judges needed.”
Hallback took to social media to make the suggestion public and attempted to initiate a conversation with Cyborg, though her would-be opponent initially refused to take the bait.
That changed Monday, when, after a Cyborg tweet saying “I got 99 problems but my boxing ain't 1,” Hallback replied with “Meet me in the ring and prove yourself. I’m the only one publicly calling you out. Put your fist where your mouth is. It would be a GREAT 1.”
It was enough to finally generate a direct response, though Cyborg’s claim that Hallback was “publicly calling (her) out because no one knows who you are” and subsequent “settle down with this prove myself nonsense” didn’t exactly leave the veteran boxer feeling warm and fuzzy.
“I thought that was very funny,” Hallback said.
“To me, it’s just another way of saying ‘I'm scared and stop calling me out because if enough people are interested then I would have to fight you and I really don't want to fight you.’ Then she blocked me on Twitter. She blocked me from going on to her page and looking at anything she posts on her page. So my response to all of that is if I'm not well known now, I will be soon. I will be known as either the female that is not afraid and wants to fight Cyborg, or the female that Cyborg was scared to fight.”
The she said/she said exchange comes on the heels of the late August ring encounter between five-division boxing champion Floyd Mayweather and two-division UFC kingpin Conor McGregor, a front-page clash that now seems destined to spawn a year’s worth of similar crossover dares.
Hallback watched the Mayweather-McGregor fight with friends, and though the match unfolded in much the way she expected, she nevertheless came away with a new admiration for McGregor.
“I knew exactly what Mayweather was doing,” she said. “But McGregor really, really impressed me. I think he also did a fabulous job for a person that has never been in a boxing ring before. He did excellent to me and I have a lot of respect for him.”
Hallback is a two-time opponent of the most successful boxing/MMA crossover athlete, Holly Holm, who became the UFC’s bantamweight champion when she upset Ronda Rousey in November 2015.
Holm earned unanimous 10-round ring decisions against Hallback in both 2007 and 2010.
Still, Hallback anticipates it’ll be easier for MMA fighters to come to the ring and succeed than it will be for a boxer to enter a cage and win.
“Boxing is incorporated in that sport,” she said.
“You have some very good stand-up fighters that will do very well in boxing. As far as fighters that have never fought MMA, you have groundwork you have to worry about, you have wrestling, you have knees, you have elbows. And it really takes a lot of time to learn how to do those type of fighting tactics in order to perform and look halfway decent. In MMA there is so much you need to know, you can't just go in there and only know stand up.”
Either way, though, she’s happy for the additional buzz it’s creating.
“I think it’s great,” she said.
“If you feel that you can do well from one sport to another, the only way to know is to do it. Bo (Jackson) did it. People didn't think McGregor would do as well as he did against Mayweather. If Cyborg wants to box, if she fights me or not, I think she has the skills to cross over and be successful at it. But if she doesn't fight me, she should not be called the most feared woman on the planet, because I don't fear her at all.
“I'm going to keep calling her out until I have all of her fans talking about how scared she is to fight me. I will either fight her or embarrass her. She is not the most-feared female on the planet.”
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBO super middleweight title – Stuttgart, Germany
Chris Eubank Jr. (champion/No. 5 IWBR) vs. Avni Yildirim (No. 6 IBO/No. 9 IWBR)
Eubank (25-1, 19 KO): Second title defense; Twelve KOs in 17 fights above 160 pounds (17-0, 12 KO)
Yildirim (16-0, 10 KO): First title fight; Seven KOs in 10 fights in Germany (10-0, 7 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Though the prospect of a Turkish champ with the nickname “Mr. Robot” is certainly one for the hope chest, it’s not likely Yildirim has the skill set to hang with Eubank over 12. Eubank by decision
IBO super flyweight title – site TBA, South Africa
Gideon Buthelezi (champion/No. 13 IWBR) vs. Roberto Domingo Sosa (No. 29 IBO/Unranked IWBR)
Buthelezi (20-5, 4 KO): Fourth title defense; Has held IBO belts at 105, 108 and 115 pounds
Sosa (28-3-1, 15 KO): Third title fight (0-2); Lost two previous fights outside Argentina
Fitzbitz says: A champion who’s been stopped three times is hardly a sure thing against any opponent, but Buthelezi should have enough in reserve to out-skill a two-time top-shelf flop. Buthelezi by decision
Last week's picks: 1-0 (WIN: Briedis)
2017 picks record: 69-25 (73.4 percent)
Overall picks record: 891-299 (74.8 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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.