While kick-boxing under manager Eric Nolan, California
featherweight Kathy "The Punisher" Long defeated some
of the best female fighters in the world.
Her ring career included wins over Ramona
Gatto and Bonnie Canino as well
as two defeats of Denise Taylor, and wins over Japanese star Kyoko "Kamikaze" Miyazaki,
French champion Dani Rocard and Canadian champion Nora Daigle.
Kathy also fought Pixie Elmore to a draw. In a
see-saw battle, Long was knocked down twice, in the second and
third rounds, but came back to get the better of the "Quiet
Tiger" in the late going. A controversial timer's error ended
the final round early, apparently robbing Long of an apparent chance
to earn a decision.
Long brought some pizazz to the women's ring,
always playing to the crowd and understanding well how to impress
judges with round-ending flurries and flashy action.
Some still question her credentials as an authentic
warrior. But we think she did a great deal to increase interest
in women's kickboxing, could hang tough when she had to, and made
the best of every opportunity she that came her way.
She rarely dominated good opposition and she may
have lacked a kayo punch, but we think she was a great asset to
the ranks of female fighters. Her early retirement took something
away from the ISKA/WKA scene, in our opinion.
Kathy was defeated by Willa Bell in an early fight
before turning professional but her only loss as a professional
kickboxer came in a Muay Thai match with Britain's Lisa Howarth
at Pickett's Lock near London in February 1990. There was to have
been a rematch later that year and Kathy trained in the Thai style
with that in mind. But then Lisa got badly cut in a loss to French
savate champion Nancy Joseph, and had to cancel.
Kathy Long (left) vs. Kyoko Kamikaze Miyazaki
She now writes for Black Belt magazine,
has appeared in several action movies and TV shows, and as a color
commentator for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. She is training
several male kickboxers.
Her long-rumored (no pun intended!) ring comeback
as a professional boxer was much anticipated because of her obvious "star
value". Long keeps herself in phenomenal condition, and was
thought ready to take on some big names soon if she adjusted quickly
to an effective boxing style. Her boxing debut finally came (after
many false alarms) on March 10, 1998 in an IFBA-sanctioned lightweight
tournament carried live on Cable USA's Tuesday Night Fights.
Kathy Long (right) vs. Sandy Yard
Kathy faced another Californian, Sandra Yard,
then 3-0-1, and she turned in a less than spectacular show against
Sandy's significant reach advantage. Kathy was heavier than before
(at 126 lbs) and was reportedly coming off a bout with the flu
two weeks earlier. She did enough to win a unanimous 4-round decision
... but not much more. She landed the harder punches, especially
in Round Two, but Yard threw more (but less effective) punches
for much of the fight, and was not intimidated by Long. If scored
purely on punches landed, like an amateur fight, Kathy might have
been in trouble. After her less than dominant performance, the
lop-sided (40-36, 39-37, 39-37) decision was booed in the Pikesville,
This boxing debut, solid but not dominant against
a scrappy novice, left plenty of questions unanswered. Was it just "ring
rust"? The flu? Was Long aiming only to land a few "big
punches" to control Yard, take the decision, and get out of
there? Or did she have real problems with Yard's reach without
her best long-range weapon (her kicks)? Even the fact that she
fought with her curly hair flying in her own face (as she had often
done as a kickboxer) left some in the boxing community wondering
if she was more style than substance.
Kathy's speed was a big component of her kickboxing
style, but she was never a devastating puncher and she used kicks
rather than punches to control the action and move her opponent.
Kathy Long (right) vs. Lena Åkesson
Facing the hard-hitting and skilful Lena Åkesson
in the final of this USA/IFBA mini-tournament on March 31, 1998,
Kathy went down to only her second pro loss. Åkesson, an experienced
boxer trained by one of the masters (Angelo Dundee) also had a
reach advantage over Long and used it well to keep Kathy at bay
most of the time. After they traded the first two rounds, Åkesson
put in a strong third round and Kathy needed a big final round,
and to work inside at close quarters to negate Åkesson's reach.
Long couldn't manage either, and she dropped a unanimous decision
by 40-36 on all three cards. This time the scorecards may have
been overly severe on her (we saw this as a 39-38 fight for Åkesson).
But Åkesson clearly showed that Kathy Long has still to figure
out a boxing style that will get her in to the range where she
can use her hand speed against bigger opponents in the lightweight
In this tournament, Kathy showed flashes of the
ring presence that had made her a star as a kickboxer. But it may
take her much longer to reach the top as a boxer than she realized.
On June 26, 1998 she struggled at times in a rematch with Sandy
Yard, taking an early knockdown and coming away with only a split
decision over four rounds. Frankly, we're puzzled over why she
fought Sandy Yard again so soon, as she had little to gain by another
win over Yard but had everything to lose by a poor showing. Her
difficulties show how the transition from kickboxing to boxing
isn't easy, even for someone with Kathy's ring experience and talent.
Is Kathy Long's comeback attempt good for her,
or for women's boxing? It may still be too soon to say. It has
certainly helped to fill our mailbox, and she clearly brings extra
fan interest to women's boxing, even as she obviously has a few
problems adjusting to it. It will be interesting to see if she
now stays what may be a longer course than she expected, to gain
a top ranking as a boxer.