featherweight/junior lightweight Mia Rosales St. John (shown at
right in her trademark pink tights) has parlayed her "camera-ready" looks
and an undefeated record in four-round contests into an unusual
and controversial combination of media coverage and lucrative payouts.
Mia comes from a family of martial arts practitioners and took
up TaeKwonDo when she was six. She was reportedly inspired by the
original "Rocky" movie at age 12 and a mini-rumble with
a fellow student at a high school football game as a teenager.
She began competitive amateur TaeKwonDo at age 18.
She made her pro boxing debut in 1997 with no prior amateur experience.
An aggressive fighter with a head-down, windmilling style, she
throws some solid shots amidst a blizzard of arm punches that overwhelms
novice opponents. Her ring style makes veteran boxing fans wince,
but her good looks and pleasant personality out of the ring have
made her a magnet for media and fan attention. She is promoted
by Bob Arum and has been on live pay-per-view TV on several major
cards. She reportedly earns about $20,000 per fight (about ten
times the usual pay scale for boxers who are still fighting four-rounders
against unranked opponents).
Her combination of evident media magnetism, (un)coverage in a Playboy pictorial
in November 1999, and (at least so far) limited boxing skills makes
Mia St. John a controversial figure in the sport.
An ongoing criticism of St. John is that her lengthy unbeaten
record has been built against a roster of unusually weak opponents.
We therefore include what we know of her opponents' records in
the list below, so that you can draw your own conclusions about
this aspect of her ring career.
On February 14, 1997 at Fantasy Springs Casino near Indio, California
Mia won her pro debut over Angelica Villian by knockout at 0:54
in the first round. St. John caught Villian with a stiff jab then
scored with rights until a powerful right dropped Villian for ten.
Villian fell to 0-2 with this loss. Villian was subsequently TKO'd
in the first round by Jayla Ortiz in Santa Fe on January 24, 1998
and in 24 seconds by Sonya Emery in Austin, Texas on May 1. 1998.
On April 19, 1997 in Phoenix, Arizona, Mia weighed in at 123 lbs
and won by a first round TKO over Dawn Graham (116½ lbs). We have
no other information about Graham.
On June 21, 1997 in Tampa, Florida, she won by third-round TKO
over Contina Frederinck. We have no other information about Frederinck.
On August 5, 1997 in Nashville, Tennessee, she won by a first-round
TKO over Dawn Wimer. Wimer is from Cleveland, Ohio, and was TKO'd
in the second round by Olivia Escobar in Escobar's pro debut on
February 25, 1999.
On November 28, 1997 at the Marriott in Irvine, California, Mia
won a 4-round unanimous decision over Dolores Lira of Boise, Idaho.
Lira fell to 0-3 (and has since lost to Brenda Burnside.)
On May 30, 1998, she won by a second-round KO over Kris Sepulvado
of Shreveport, Louisiana. (Sepulvado's record has been in some
doubt as she makes a habit of fighting under different names.)
On August 15, 1998 in Los Angeles, California Mia came in at 125½ lbs
and won a four-round unanimous decision over Brenda Felter (123
lbs) of New Mexico, who fell to 0-2. Felter had been TKO'd in the
third round by Leilana Salazar in Phoenix, Arizona on May 5, 1998.
On September 18, 1998 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas,
Mia advanced to 8-0 with 5 KO's with a four-round split decision
over Brenda Felter, who was a late substitute for Amanda Skelton
on the card. Felter dropped to 0-3.
On December 12, 1998 in Indio, California, she weighed in at 126
lbs and won by second-round knockout over Brandy Mae Vaughan (123
On February 13, 1999 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas,
Nevada, she weighed in at 127 lbs and won an easy four-round unanimous
(40-36) decision over Amanda Skelton (124 lbs) of Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Skelton had also defeated Brandy Mae Vaughan in September 1998
and came into the bout at 4-0 with 2 KO's.
On May 8, 1999 at the Hilton in Las Vegas, Nevada, Mia won by
TKO of Kris Sepulvado of Shreveport, Louisiana at 1:30 of the first
round. We think that Sepulvado fell to 0-4 with this loss (she
also fights under the names "Kris Vado", "Pamela
Sepulvado" and possibly "Christi Carter"). Sepulvado
had survived a full four rounds against Crisi Yaeger on April 15,
1999, but subsequently lost to Randi Saenz by first-round TKO on
July 24, 1999, to Jenifer Alcorn by first-round TKO on September
4, 1999 and to Melinda Robinson by first-round KO on November 12,
On June 26, 1999 at the Mandalay Bay Event Center in Las Vegas,
Nevada, Mia weighed in at 132 lbs and won a four-round unanimous
decision over Mary Ann Haik (133 lbs) of Pearl River, Louisiana.
Haik dropped to 5-6 with the loss. Haik's career includes a first-round
TKO over debut fighter Sarah Inman, split or majority decision
wins over Heather McVey (then 5-0), Sue Chase (then 1-13) and Pamela
Opdyke, and losses to Tamerah Hudgins (third round TKO), Vicki
Woods (then 5-3, by first round TKO) and Snodene Blakeney (unanimous
On September 18, 1999 at the Mandalay Bay Event Center in Las
Vegas, Nevada, Mia weighed in at 125 lbs and moved her record to
13-0 (8 KO's) with a TKO at 1:40 of the fourth round over Kelley
Downey (126 lbs) of Merriam, Kansas. St. John was clearly winning
this bout when it was stopped but the immediate reason for the
stoppage was unclear. Downey's record fell to 3-2 (3 KO's), including
a first-round TKO win over Lori Domagala and a loss by split decision
to Theresa Frye.
On December 11, 1999, Mia won by TKO at 1:40 in the first round
over Sharon Sirls of Lubbock, Texas at Dixie Junior College in
St. George, Utah at the end of what Marcel Niessen describes as "one
of the weirdest, if not the weirdest, night in boxing I ever had".
The card featured mixed-style matches between US boxers and Chinese
kickboxers, and confusion about who was fighting who and in what
style! Sirls had been flown in from Texas at short notice after
confusion had reigned about whether St. John was to fight in a
mixed-style match, as the Chinese promoters reportedly hoped, or
a boxing match as the Utah commission apparently believed when
it sanctioned the bout. Sirls had dropped a four-round decision
to Linda Robinson, another debut fighter, three weeks earlier in
Houston. (Read Marcel's report and follow-up comments from several
other contributors here).
On January 22, 2000 at the Fairgrounds in Delmar, California,
700 live fans and a Univision TV audience saw Mia win a four-round
unanimous (40-36) decision over Kelly Whaley (127 lbs) of Cedar
City, Utah, who fell to 1-1. "It was a tough fight for me," St.
John told a local reporter. "She had a good chin. I was hoping
she would knock herself out, but it gave me a good workout anyway." Whaley's
other pro fight was a four-round decision over then 6-0 Crisi Yaeger
of Texas, on November 18 1999 in Houston. (Yaeger is another fighter
who racked up a winning record against soft opposition, including
the always-overmatched Kris Sepulvado, novice fighter Victoria
Lara, and winless Martha Flores.) Whaley had posted a 3-3 record
as an amateur boxer and had competed in the 1999 National Women's
Golden Gloves tournament.
On February 26, 2000 at Madison Square Garden in New York City,
St. John weighed in at 127 lbs and won a hard-fought four-round
majority (39-39, 39-37, 39-37) decision over Kristin Allan (124½ lbs)
of Jefferson City, Missouri who dropped to 3-1. The two went toe-to-toe
in a slugfest that was decided by St. John's strong finish, which
included two rights that shook Allan. Allan didn't back down from
the more experienced St. John, but lacked defensive skills. "She
was a real tough country girl," St. John said. "I out
skilled her. She took everything I gave her, but I felt the last
round clinched it for me." Allan had previously posted wins
over Kim Raulerson, Fran Morrow, and Franchesca Alcanter, all by
TKO; the eight minutes in Madison Square Garden more than doubled
Allan's previous pro ring time.
On May 19, 2000 at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, California,
St. John (130 lbs) looked the equal of relative novice Franchesca
Alcanter (125 lbs) of Kansas City as she won a unanimous 40-36
decision that underestimated Alcanter's showing. Alcanter fell
to 2-3. Alcanter had knocked out Crystal O'Dell of St. Louis at
1:02 of the first round in both fighters' pro debut (O'Dell has
not continued in to box so far as we know), then was TKO'd at 0:37
of the first by Texan Linda Tenberg (127¾ lbs). Alcanter had failed
to answer the bell for the third round against Kristin Allan in
October 1999 but scored a third-round TKO over Theresa Gaulden
in March 2000. The St.John-Alcanter bout was seen live on ESPN2's Friday
Night Fights but neither boxer showed boxing skills to justify
a prime TV slot. Earlier the same day, the IBA announced that it
would no longer recognize the "Queen of the Four-Rounders" title
that it had awarded to St.John.
On June 17, 2000 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California,
she won a unanimous decision over Linda Robinson of Woodway, Texas.
St.John was the aggressor throughout this fight, scored 40-36,
40-36, 39-37 by the judges. Robinson, fighting outside Houston,
Texas for the first time, fell to 3-1; her three wins had come
against Sharon Sirls of Lubbock, Texas, Victoria Lara (0-3) of
Texarkana, Texas and Denette Montgomery (0-5) of Cleveland.
St. John was unable to compete for some months as a result of
a jet-ski accident which required two operations to remove a potentially
gangrenous blood clot from her left leg. She will have to wear
a protective cast on her leg, which required a skin graft from
her thigh after a mass 2½ inches deep and 4 inches wide that had
been affected by the blood clot was removed.
On December 3, 2000 at the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, she
returned to the ring at 126 lbs after recovering from the jet-ski
injury and TKO'd Amy Yerkes (5'4", 125 lbs) of Springfield,
Missouri at 1:33 of the fourth round. Yerkes lacked the boxing
skills to compensate for St. John's height and reach advantage.
Yerkes dropped to 1-3; she had previously lost to Brenda Rouse
and Sherri Thompson by six-round decisions (and had fought just
two days previously in Iowa).
On January 20, 2001 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada she
moved to 20-0 (12 KO's) with a third-round TKO over Sherri Thompson,
who fell to 3-3. Thompson, also from Missouri, had previously lost
a decision to Rolanda Andrews but had defeated Amy Yerkes in a
six-rounder a year earlier.
On March 25, 2001 at an outdoor event at the Park'N'Swap in Phoenix,
Arizona under a scorching sun, a crowd of 5000 saw St. John (129
lbs) advance to 21-0 (13 KO's) with a TKO of Amy Yerkes of Springfield,
Missouri at 1:49 in the third round of an action-packed fight.
Yerkes, who fell to 1-6 as a pro boxer, was a last-moment substitute
for Mexico's Imelda Arias, who failed to show up for the weigh-in
the day before. St. John earned $10,000, Yerkes $2,000, for this
match according to Arizona Republic reporter Norm Frauenheim.
On May 13, 2001 at the State Line Silver Smith Casino, West Wendover,
Utah, Mia weighed in at 129½ lbs and won a hard fought four-round
unanimous (40-37,39-37,39-37) decision over Linda Tenberg (125½ lbs)
of Austin, Texas. Tenberg fell to 5-4 (1 KO). Tenberg was a legitimate
featherweight contender whose previous losses had included going
the distance with tough competition in Ada Velez and Layla McCarter.
On July 28, 2001 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California,
she weighed in at 128½ lbs and was held to a controversial majority
draw by Imelda Arias (139½ lbs) of Ciudad Juárez, México. According
to reporter Andy Rivera of Inside Women's Boxing, "Mia
won the first round, jabbing and moving out of target from the
smaller, heavier Arias. But Imelda came back in the 2nd through
4th rounds, dominating those rounds by landing heavy rights and
left that kept Mia confused. When the decision was announced ...
38-38, 38-38 and one score that was withheld ... the crowd booed
heavily." St. John's record was 22-0-1 (13 KO's) while Arias's
was 8-11-1. Three of Arias's wins had come against 0-5 Deanna Wyman,
and she had lost her previous seven fights, including a first-round
TKO by California's Jenifer Alcorn.
Mia St. John's place in women's boxing continues to be defined
by her choice of opponents. There is no shortage of serious competitors
at her weight, yet she has continued to fight four-rounders against
almost-novices. One reason advanced for her four-round restriction
is that promoter Bob Arum doesn't want a women's bout to take up
more time on his cards, but this has worn thin with most true fans
of competitive women's boxing.
She held an IBA "Women's Four-Round Featherweight title" (one
of the proliferating minor awards that some boxing promoters use
to embellish their cards). This appellation was officially removed
from St. John on May 19, 2000. It not surprisingly matched the
one that the IBA had awarded to male boxing sideshow "Butterbean".
Both were withdrawn on the same day, with the statement that "from
the very beginning the IBA always made it clear that the belts
the Bean and Mia have were novelties used by the IBA to promote
our organization. No one ever said the Bean and Mia were "world
champions!" Unfortunately, that wasn't quite right, as Playboy had
not bothered to draw the distinction on its cover, where it identifed
St. John as "the" featherweight titlist. The IBA has
since been trying to improve its standing as a sanctioning body
for women's boxing by promoting more serious women's title fights,
e.g. the bout between Kathy Collins and Denise Moraetes.
The world of competitive women's boxing continues to wait
for Mia St. John also to step up to the higher level that befits
her publicity. She is reportedly now seeking a bout with Christy
Martin (normally 145 lbs), at a compromise weigh-in around 135
lbs. A solid performance against Martin, even in a losing cause,
could give Mia the boxing credibility that has been lacking so
far while a win would establish her as a serious fighter as well
a serious money-maker.
St. John is a Cal State Northridge graduate (in psychology). She
has two children, Julian and Paris.