By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Upon completion of their in-ring careers, a lot of fighters settle into a simpler existence.
Clearly, Terri Moss is not a lot of fighters.
The 5-foot-1 dynamo, who consistently weighed in just a shade or two north of 100 pounds, hasn’t stepped through the ropes as a professional for nearly six years. But by her own admission, a life that used to revolve around fight preparation and competition has become many worlds busier.
“Work is about 95 percent of my time,” said Moss, 47, a Denver native now living in Atlanta. “I’m opening a big new gym of my own in Atlanta, called Buckhead Fight Club, which is a huge undertaking. There, I will be training men and women and all of my corporate boxers as well.
“Then, my next show, Atlanta Corporate Fight Night 7, is scheduled for Aug. 8, with new growth and bigger productions with each show. I plan to take that show national this year as well, with our first show possibly being in Nashville, Tenn.”
The Corporate Fight Night model, a twice-yearly fixture in Georgia, sprang from Moss’s desire to give business people the chance to experience what she did 18 times between 2002 and 2007 in a pro career that ultimately earned her a world title – the WIBF’s 105-pound crown – in her final outing at age 41.
She’s got her hands on several other projects these days as well, including supervising title bouts for the WIBF and GBU, serving as a board member with the Champions of Dignity Association and working on a documentary called “Boxing Chicks” that’s being produced by Tomorrow Pictures.
“It’s a very realistic view of what motivates the majority of real women boxers,” she said. “Contrary to popular belief, most of us are college-educated career people and moms who do it to satisfy something inside ourselves. We certainly don’t do it for the money, do we? That will change one day.”
We caught up with Moss during a brief moment of downtime to discuss her career, the state of women’s boxing and what it might take to bring it closer to the mainstream.
Fitzbitz: You haven’t had a fight in almost seven years, yet you still seem as active with boxing today as ever. What is it about the game that’s kept you around it?
Terri Moss: Plain and simple, I’m in an ugly love affair with boxing. It’s like a bad boyfriend. You know you should leave, but you keep going back. All jokes aside, though, the reason I’m still here is that I’ve found much more to do in life after the ring than I ever had inside it. Fighting was incredible. I miss it a lot – especially the training at that level – and there is no feeling like the feeling of being in that kind of shape. But I knew because of my age that I had a short wick as a fighter, and once I laid my own career aside I found that there is a lot of good I can do for the sport of boxing – especially for women’s boxing – for the public image of boxing and for those I train and introduce to boxing.
Fitzbitz: You were a pro for five years and had 18 fights. Did you accomplish everything you wanted as a professional? Are you satisfied with the career you had?
Moss: Oh my gosh, who is ever satisfied? If I would have had my way I would have continued fighting, of course, but my trainer had had just about all he could stand of my career by the time I won my titles. He was turning everything down, much to my frustration, including two championship fights – one with Carina Moreno, one with Julia Sahin – and it was obvious I wouldn’t have the opportunity to defend mine, so I hung up the gloves and moved on to training and promoting. I guess in the big picture I did more than anyone expected me to do, considering my very late start and lack of experience when I did. I fought for five world titles, I became a champion and I set a world record. I can’t complain. It was understandable for my trainer to pull out since I never had a manager or promoter, and funding of my career was extremely difficult. I would have liked to go one more year, for sure, but I have my faculties, I’m still sharp, there’s no wear on my body and I can still move pretty fast, so I’m pretty content.
Fitzbitz: Because you’re so well known, you’re one of the go-to people for assessments on the state of women’s boxing. So, in your view, where is it? Has there been progress, or has it slipped backward?
Moss: People usually disagree with me here, Lyle, but I believe women’s boxing is on the rise, not the decline. We are just sneaking up there and people don’t recognize it yet. If you look at the past arches in the women’s boxing popularity polls, if there is such a thing, what you see are fads and pop culture sort of highs in the popularity, but nothing back then was solid. Christy Martin, of course, our first big hero, made people take notice, then again with Laila Ali, her name and the incredible marketing they did with her brought some good publicity to women’s boxing, but the depth of women’s boxing for both of those eras was so shallow that there was no way that they could actually change the state of women’s boxing. Incidentally, that’s OK though, because I don’t think either one was on a big mission to change the public appeal of women’s boxing. They were more focused on their own careers and the attention and money it brought to them by capitalizing on the novelty of being women fighters rather than on changing the perception of the sport, which is understandable. It was good timing on both sides of the fence I would say.
But things are different now. Women are becoming extremely skilled, talented fighters, and there’s depth. Not only that, they are gaining a solid stream of real fans. You have to be in tune with what is going on in the amateurs to see what is coming. They are the next series of women boxers in the pros who will change everything about it once they’re in. I probably don’t need to mention Claressa Shields, who is absolutely fantastic, but I will. She has the whole package: talent, speed, bang and she’s tricky. Then you have Queen Underwood and Marlen Esparza, both with many, many fights and amateur championships under their belts. Katie Taylor, of course, is probably going to be one of the most fantastic things to happen to women’s pro boxing of all time, if she turns pro. These types of fighters are the future of professional boxing in the women’s division, and it looks really bright to me. Even without naming the top Olympians, women fighters in the amateurs right now around the world are becoming fantastically experienced, just like men with hundreds of fights under their belts. This is what will make the real difference, where before there just wasn’t enough experience and depth to make good skilled women fighters. And it’s only going to get better.
I have to add that during the 2012 Olympics, NBC did a poll of social media spikes and found that women athletes and the women’s sports during the entirety of the Olympic broadcasts were mentioned and talked about over 70 percent more than male athletes and men’s sports. That appeals to sponsors. Then, if you look at the majority of advertisements displayed throughout the Olympic broadcasting period, almost all of what you saw was geared towards mothers of athletes, mothers in general, single mothers and women athletes. Not that the guys were left out, but even McDonald’s had Marlen Esparza as the athlete they spotlighted. Popularity means sponsors, sponsors mean money and money means change. We are on our way to a real and permanent change. I’m excited.
Fitzbitz: MMA might have reached its peak in the last couple of years, but it seems reenergized lately with the arrival of a female fighter – Ronda Rousey. Why do you think she’s made an impact as an MMA fighter than not many – if any – female boxers have been able to make?
Moss: I wouldn’t say that she’s made an impact never before experienced by women’s boxing. Laila Ali came out pretty hard, with just as much bang as Rousey, there’s just a lot more pop and glitter now. Also Rousey is a real Olympic champion, so there is a lot more depth to her experience than what Laila had. Not to take away from what’s going on with Rousey and the UFC, but I think also that as you mentioned MMA had reached a peak over the past few years and it’s very good timing to open up something new and intriguing to bring that sport back to the front line. I will say that several of us ladies are thumbing our nose at Dana White for being one of the dinosaurs who hated women’s fighting for so long who finally had to submit, and now its popularity has to be choking his ego. Go Ronda!
Fitzbitz: What does female boxing need to become as viable as Rousey is to MMA? What sort of prototype fighter would the ideal woman be? A mini-Tyson? A centerfold type? Something in between? What, if anything, will it take to make a female fighter a can’t-miss attraction?
Moss: Well, MMA has a different persona than boxing. It’s a more in-your-face kind of rebellious sport, especially when you’re talking about marketing. You can see where the marketing goes with the popular products sold to fans like T-shirts, etc. Sinful, Affliction, Wicked are among the popular names you see for sale at fights. Ronda Rousey is fitting that persona perfectly. I saw an interview with her recently and she even mentions in so many words that when she was an Olympian she had to be a good girl. Now she can say what she wants, be who she wants and it’s marketed for her to just be a badass. That works very well for MMA.
Boxing, on the other hand, seems to put a bad-guy label on the bad asses of boxing. Floyd Mayweather gets the label. Manny Pacquiao, however, gets the good-guy label. I’m not saying that the bad ass doesn’t have fans, but the popularity contest goes to the good guy, and that’s what we probably need with women’s boxing. We may need a bad-ass girl fighter who is the girl next door but will kick your butt. I’m sure that looking great will help that, but I really also think the era of the girl fighter/Playboy spread boxer may be past us now. Thankfully. It’s just not necessary now, and it certainly won’t guarantee success that’s lived longer than a year or two past the published issue. Mia St. John did a great job of capitalizing on that, but even now she puts more into her skill and experience, she set a world record and she does a lot of charity work, etc. She is also into broadcasting, so I’m sure a nice clean image is a big part of her identity now.
Fitzbitz: If you could wave a wand and make significant changes to the way women’s boxing is organized internally, or recognized from the outside, what would you change?
Moss: Ah, that’s easy. The male ego. That’s most of what hurts us. Those old-timers who just don’t like it slow our progress as athletes the most. Lack of opportunity in the pros is the biggest problem. It’s getting to where women can be way more active in the amateurs than in the pros, and in my time that was definitely not the norm. On my last boxing show I had six women’s matches and four men’s matches. Women need the opportunity to fight, and the fans want to see it, so what are they waiting for?
Fitzbitz: Who is the best female fighter out there today? Why? Who is the one who’s carrying the flag for the sport going forward?
Moss: Lyle, there are so many incredible women fighters out there now, it’s almost impossible to pick one. I will say that if anyone is carrying the flag, it’s Katie Taylor, not just because of her skill, but because she has all of the assets to change the world of women’s boxing. I’m just hoping she goes pro. She is the most popular athlete in Ireland, one of the most famous female boxers in the world and she has the skill, the backing and ability to make big, big change. In the U.S., I love Claressa Shields. She’s young, she’s got the right story, the right appeal and hopefully these stuffy American promoters will do what Dana did and put her out there once she goes pro. I feel pretty confident she will later. I can also say in the pros one of my favorite fighters is Brazilian world champion Yesica Bopp, and I really like American world champion Melissa McMorrow. Those two are worthy of mention, but so many are as well.
Fitzbitz: Who’s the best female fighter you’ve ever seen – outside of yourself, of course? Is there anyone you wish you’d have gotten in a ring with, but didn’t?
Moss: The best is so hard to pick! Again, I have to leave it at my favorite pick right now, and that would be Claressa Shields. She’s got so much going for her. I would have loved to have fought Carina Moreno or Yesica Bopp. Those would have been good fights.
Fitzbitz: Your Corporate Fight Night in Atlanta seems to be a growing entity these days? How much of your time does that occupy? Is it a suitable replacement for getting in the ring yourself? Does the background work get the adrenaline rushing in a similar way?
Moss: Corporate Fight Night has been a huge undertaking, but it has grown exponentially in only three years so it’s worth the huge effort. The hardest thing was just getting it off the ground, but now it’s beginning to be a ball in motion and it’s not so hard to push. Corporate Fight Night is much different than fighting in the pros, of course. It’s a white-collar bucket list kind of show that pulls out all of the stops to be a fantastic production for the boxers. One thing that differs in this show compared to other black-tie fight night type shows is that the event is really all about the boxers. It’s not about entertainment or other kinds of performances, it’s about giving the average person a chance to feel like a real prize fighter with all of the glitter and glamour of a top-tier professional boxing show. It doesn’t really replace the feeling of getting in the ring, but it is very fulfilling because so many lives are changed forever due to participation in something like this. And I’ve been able to do a lot of marketing and fundraising for charities, which is always very rewarding. I’m all about others now, as being about my own career, so it’s different but equally rewarding and really fun and exciting. I may feel a little like the Don King of white-collar boxing, too.
Fitzbitz: What is the hardest part of being a “former pro boxer,” especially to someone who looks like she could still get in the ring and handle a lot of people? Spotlight? Money? Competitive buzz?
Moss: Yes, being former stinks. But it is nice to still look like a fighter and to be about the same weight and in very good condition. I miss the spotlight, but then again I never really got a lot of play as a fighter. I think I get a lot more appreciation and admiration now, and if not for Corporate Fight Night, I get it for my stance and push for women’s boxing. If I am considered a voice on women’s boxing, that is extremely flattering to me and it gives me a sense of responsibility that I embrace and thrive under. I really hope I can do much more for the sport now than I did as a fighter.
Fitzbitz: If we revisit in five years and I ask the same “state of the women’s game” questions, what’ll be different in 2018 from now?
Moss: In 2018, you may not even need to ask that question. My hope and prediction is that you will see more, better, stronger, faster, then a big fat I told you so. That would be fantastic.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBO bantamweight title -- Accra, Ghana
Joseph Agbeko (No. 8 contender) vs. Luis Melendez (No. 59 contender)
Agbeko (28-4, 22 KO): Eighth title fight (4-3); Two reigns as IBF champion (two defenses)
Melendez (34-8-1, 25 KO): Second title fight; Winless outside Colombia (0-7)
Fitzbitz says: "Agbeko hasn't been on the highest level lately, but the challenge of a foe with zero wins outside his home turf shouldn't deter him here." Agbeko in 9
WBO super middleweight title – Magdeburg, Germany
Arthur Abraham (champion) vs. Robert Stieglitz (No. 1 contender)
Abraham (36-3, 28 KO): Second title defense; Held IBF title at 160 (2005-09, 10 defenses)
Stieglitz (43-3, 24 KO): Tenth title fight (7-2); Lost WBO title to Abraham in 2012 (UD 12)
Fitzbitz says: “Venue is different, but career resurgence should continue for Abraham against the foe from whom he swiped a second title belt.” Abraham by decision
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.
Last week’s picks: 1-1
2013 picks record: 9-8 (52.9 percent)
Overall picks record: 472-160 (74.6 percent)
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.