bantamweight Melinda Cooper was born in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 6,
She began boxing in 1996
after meeting trainer James Pena at the Nevada Partners gym. "I was wondering
what the place was," said Cooper, "then I was asked if I wanted to box and I
said 'yeah.' "
Pena recalls that he didn't realize that Cooper was a girl because she was with three
boys and the hood of her coat was over her head. "There was a group of kids
there and I asked them all if they wanted to box but no one really wanted to.
Then I said to Melinda, 'How about you?' and she said she'd try it. It wasn't
until the next day I realized she was a girl."
"I said, `Oh, sweetheart, I
can't let you box. You're a girl. I can't let you box with the boys. But she said she'd try and box them."
She lasted four rounds that day and made an impression on Pena, who had never
trained a female. "I said, `If you want to box, show up at 3:30 and don't be
late. Every day since, she showed up at 3:30."
Melinda Cooper went on to compile a depth of ring experience as an amateur boxer
that is quite rare among U.S. female fighters, some of whom still make
their pro debuts with no amateur experience at all.
At the September 1998 Blue and Gold Tournament in Baldwin, California,
Melinda won the intermediate 85-lb division by defeating Anna Mendez of Baldwin
Park on points by a 3-2 score.
In August 2000 in Augusta, Georgia she won the 112-lb 14-15 yr old division
of the Women's National Golden Gloves with a first-round retirement of Cienna Tover
of Grand Prairie, Texas. She also won national and regional (Nevada)
titles in Silver Gloves and a Police Athletic League title.
Cooper became the first female from Nevada to win a USA Boxing National
Championship. At the 2000 US Everlast national championships she won all three
of her bouts in the 106-lb junior (age 15-16) division, defeating
Alicia Arguelles of Los Lunas, NM on points, 16-7, and stopping Carmen
Rodriguez of San Antonio, Texas at 1:07 in the first round to win the junior
title. "I was kind of surprised," she said of winning her division,
wasn't so hard."
She won the 125-lb junior division
at the 2001 Women's National Golden Gloves with a 5-0 decision over Takesha Graham of Fort Meyers, Florida.
Melinda completed her amateur career with an impressive 37-2 total record. (Her
one nemesis was fellow Las Vegas teenager Jennifer Borquez, who won two of her
three amateur bouts with Melinda in 1999.)
When Melinda turned pro, she made
history by becoming the first female to be licensed by the state of Nevada to
box professionally under the age of 18. The move became necessary as it
was becoming increasingly difficult to find amateurs who were willing to fight
said he tried to enter Cooper in tournaments at the last minute to keep her
a secret, because "girls would find out that Melinda was in the weight class and
everyone would drop out."
Melinda made her pro debut at age 17 on March 23, 2002 at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada,
weighing in at 116 lbs and winning a four-round unanimous decision
over Annalisa Middleton (120 lbs) of Oxnard, California, who fell to
On May 17, 2002 at the Mardi Gras Ballroom in the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada,
Melinda (116 lbs) advanced by a TKO over
California-based Elizabeth Cervantes (5'1", 115 lbs) of Mexico when Cervantes did not answer the bell
for the third round on the advice of the ring doctor.
This was a spirited fight in which Cooper bombarded Cervantes with fast-paced, accurate combinations.
Cervantes fell to a reported 2-3-0 (0-2 known to me when she fought Cooper).
July 26, 2002 at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada,
Melinda (117½ lbs) won a four-round majority (39-37,39-37,38-38)
decision over Reiko Muruyama (118 lbs)
of Tokyo, Japan and Gardena, California. Muruyama (at right in photo)
took the fight to Cooper in the opening round and landed several good
punches but Cooper kept her cool and replied with hard rights.
Cooper put pressure on Muruyama in the second round and kept her
ropes with a fast paced barrage of leather. Muruyama then came back
good combinations near the end of the round. The rest of the fight saw
toe to toe action
and Muruyama ended the bout with her right eye battered and badly
Muruyama fell to 1-2-0.
On August 23, 2002 at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada,
Melinda (113 lbs) knocked out Stephanie Dobbs
(110½ lbs) of Moore, Oklahoma in the first round.
Dobbs fell to 1-3-1.
On October 18, 2002 at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada,
Melinda (119 lbs) made short work of 22-year-old Brittney Conan (117 lbs) of Broomfield, Colorado,
unleashing a barrage of leather that knocked
Conan down and persuaded the referee to stop the unequal bout at just 0:14 in
the opening round. Conan fell to 0-2.
December 27, 2002 at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, Melinda
(117 lbs) won
with a four-round unanimous (40-36) decision over unranked Antoinette Weaver
(117 ½ lbs) of Atlanta, who fell to 0-3. Weaver, substituting for the originally
scheduled Luz Rodriguez of Mexico, had a height and reach advantage that allowed
her to hang in with Cooper for the full four rounds. Cooper worked effectively
with Weaver against the ropes and turned loose some fast-paced combinations, but
also appeared frustrated when she got tagged by Weaver's shots from longer
range. Cooper bloodied Weaver's nose in the second and was never in danger
herself as she posted the shutout decision.
On February 28, 2003 at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada,
Melinda (117½ lbs) won by a TKO at 1:45 in the second round of a rematch
Reiko Muruyama (118 lbs) of Japan. Cooper came out aggressively, backing
Muruyama up with jabs and combinations. The fight was stopped
when Muruyama was driven into the ropes by a hard right to the
head; the crowd and Muruyama's corner were unhappy with the sudden stoppage.
Muruyama fell to 2-3-0 (0 KO) with her second loss to Cooper.
On April 4, 2003 at Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage, California,
Melinda won a TKO at 1:29 of the first round
over badly overmatched Evangelina Abeyta of Denver, Colorado.
The bout was stopped
after Cooper trapped Abeyta in a corner and overwhelmed her with a barrage
Abeyta fell to 0-4-0 (0 KO).
On July 11, 2003 at Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage, California,
Melinda (116½ lbs) TKO'd
Yvonne Chavez (117¼ lbs) of Albuquerque, New Mexico in the first round. Cooper
pinned Chavez in a corner and pounded her with a relentless attack that
persuaded the referee to stop the bout. Chavez fell to 1-1
as a pro boxer (she had an extensive kickboxing career).
On October 17, 2003 at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada,
a scheduled bout between Melinda and Para Draine
was called off when Draine failed a pre-fight medical. The bout had been much anticipated as a
step up in competition for the undefeated Cooper,
who at 9-0-0 (6 KO) was seen as needing to
establish herself against opponents who were above her in the rankings.
Melinda takes a solid right from Jerri Sitzes
© Copyrighted photo taken by Mary Ann Owen
February 27, 2004 at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada,
Melinda (118 lbs)
progressed to 10-0-0 (6 KO)
with a six-round unanimous (59-55,59-55,58-54) decision over Jerri
Sitzes (117½ lbs) of Springfield, Missouri who fell to
5-3-1 (3 KO).
Cooper came out using her jab effectively and snapping Sitzes' head
in the opening rounds as well creating a window for using
her right to Sitzes' body. Cooper's speed and aggressiveness made
Sitzes want to keep her distance
and try to work on the outside, but
Cooper pursued hard to keep the action at closer range and outhit
Sitzes by a wide margin.
Forced by Cooper's tactics
to stand and trade, Sitzes began to mix it up well in the third,
more effectively and shaking Cooper with several hard rights. Cooper
stepped up work rate her in the fourth as they traded more effectively
toe-to-toe in a round in which Sitzes bloodied Cooper's nose with
straight rights and Cooper was
first warned for holding behind the head while hitting, then had a
for this offense. However, Sitzes faded under relentless attack by hard
in the fifth and Cooper dominated the final round, moving Sitzes
effectively and landing almost at will. The bout was seen live on
ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights". For more photos of this fight, see Photo Gallery #150
on the WBAN Member Site.
Melinda batters Lina Ramirez to a TKO in May 2004
© Copyrighted photo taken by Mary Ann Owen
On May 28, 2004 at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, Melinda
(115½ lbs) TKO'd Lina Ramirez Dorado (115½ lbs) of Guasave, Mexico at 0:17 in the third round of a scheduled
six-rounder. Cooper dominated this bout from the start, snapping Ramirez's
head back with her jab, then following with strong rights. Midway through the
second, Ramirez was bleeding from her possibly broken nose, clearly outgunned and overwhelmed by
the fast-paced onslaught from Cooper. When the third began with Cooper
repeatedly landing cleanly to Ramirez's face, referee Robert Byrd stopped the
slaughter. Ramirez fell
to 3-3-1 (0 KO). For more photos of this fight, see
Gallery #173 on the WBAN Member Site.
Melinda mixes it up with Johanna
© Copyrighted photo taken by Mary Ann Owen
On July 23, 2004 at Agua Caliente Casino in Palm Springs, California, Melinda
(114 lbs) won a six-round unanimous (58-54,59-55,59-55) decision over
(115 lbs) of the Dominican Republic. WBAN's insider
Peña Álvarez began the fight by landing a hard lead
left to Cooper who initially seemed content to study the moves of the fighter
who had seen world title action against Regina Halmich. Later in the bout,
Cooper began to pursue
Peña Álvarez, prompting her to do a lot of
Peña Álvarez was deducted a point for holding in the fifth and was nearly
stopped in the final round. “I wanted to knock
her out,” said Cooper, adding “I thought I could have done it a
couple of times but she kept holding. I thought she was a tough fighter so I was
really ready for it. I know I won easily but I didn’t look good against her.”
Cooper is now 12-0-0 (7 KOs)
Peña Álvarez fell to
15-3-2 (10 KOs).
For more photos of this fight by Mary Ann Owen, see
Photo Gallery #190 on the WBAN Member Site.
On November 5, 2004 at the Plaza Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Melinda
(115½ lbs) TKO'd Tracey Stevens (115½) of Thunder
Bay, Ontario, Canada at 0:26 in the opening round of a scheduled six-rounder.
Cooper improved to 13-0 (7 KOs) while Stevens, who normally fights as a
straw-weight, fell to 5-8 (1 KO).
On January 14, 2005 at the Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage, California,
Melinda (110½ lbs) TKO'd Anissa Zamarron (110½ lbs)
of Austin, Texas at 0:39 in the ninth round of a scheduled 10-rounder to win the
IBA Flyweight Title. Cooper overwhelmed Zamarron with a non-stop attack and a
stinging left jab. Cooper, now 14-0 (9 KOs) controlled Zamarron with her speed
and aggression but the Texan stayed on her feet and survived until the late
rounds despite absorbing some very hard punches. The second round was
furious with hard exchanges, but Cooper outworked Zamarron.
Zamarron gained some advantage when the pace slowed in the early part of the
third, but Cooper turned on the high-speed combinations to back Zamarron into a
corner at the end of the round. Zamarron found the mark with her right in the
fifth as Cooper seemed to be tiring from her own effort, but Cooper picked up
the pace again in the later rounds and her relentless barrage of accurate
high-speed combinations eventually overwhelmed Zamarron.
Zamarron was pinned in Cooper's corner in the eighth and tried to fight her way
out, but her blows weren't landing while Cooper's were accurate and effective.
Zamarron fell to 16-13-2 (5 KO)
while Cooper remained unbeaten at
14-0 (8 KOs).
"She was really tough," said Cooper, who had repeatedly stunned Zamarron
with her combinations. "After the first few rounds I thought the referee was
going to stop it. But he let it go.
I was never hurt with any of her punches."
elinda was named WBAN's Fighter of the Month in February 2005.
Melinda vs. Lina Ramirez
© Copyrighted photo taken by Rick Pineda
On May 13, 2005 at The Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada,
Melinda (117 lbs) won a rematch with Mexico's Lina Ramirez Dorado (122½ lbs) by
a convincing four-round unanimous (40-35,40-36,40-36) decision. Cooper
tested the taller Ramirez with a barrage of body punches in a bout that
was cut back from six rounds to four to suit televsion needs. "If she had six
rounds, no doubt she would have stopped her," said Melinda's trainer James
Pena. Ramirez never stopped trying to land her own big punches, but they were
mostly too wide and two slow to catch Cooper. Cooper opened the third round with
a one-two combination that snapped Ramirez head back, then a lead right followed
by a left hook wobbled the Mexican fighter. "I almost knocked her out,"
said Cooper. "She was bigger than me, but I didn't feel it because she was
always moving away from me. I worked on a lot of things that I learned in the
gym." For more photos from this fight, see
Photo Gallery #259 on the WBAN Member Site.
Ramirez fell to 3-4-1 (0 KOs).
On July 1, 2005 at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Melinda (120 lbs)
again won a four-round unanimous decision over Lina Ramirez Dorado (124 lbs),
who fell to 3-5-1 (0 KO's).
n June 10, 2006 in Lucé, France, despite giving up a 20-lb weight
advantage, Melinda won a six-round unanimous decision over French junior
welterweight Daniela David, who fell to 1-7-0 (1 KO's).
Cooper remained unbeaten at 17-0 (9 KOs).
Melinda makes short work of Delia Hoppe
© Copyrighted photo taken by Mary Ann Owen
n January 25, 2007 at the Orleans Hotel and
Casino in Las Vegas,
Melinda (122½ lbs) TKO'd Delia Hoppe (122
lbs) of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in the first round of a scheduled
six-rounder. The fight was scheduled for six rounds. Cooper improved to
18-0 (10 KO's) while Hoppe fell to 4-4-1 (1 KO).
For more photos from this fight by Mary Ann Owen, see
Photo Gallery #405 on the WBAN Member Site.
On June 12, 2008 at
the Mohegan Sun Casino, in Uncasville, Connecticut,
Melinda (120 lbs) returned to the ring with a
fourth round TKO
over overmatched Donna Biggers (120 lbs) of South
Carolina in a scheduled six rounder.
Biggers fell to
19-8-1 (15 KO's) with the loss.
On June 13, 2009 at Centro Banamex in Mexico City,
Mexico, Melinda (122 lbs) won a four-round unanimous (40-36,40-36,39-37)
decision over Miriam Avila (121½ lbs) of
Tlalnepantla, Mexico. Cooper fell short of
KO'ing her opponent in the third round as she had predicted at the weigh-in but
advanced her pro record to 20-0 (11 KO's) while dropping Avila's to 1-2 (1 KO) .
Trainer Roger Mayweather has said he believes that
Melinda's talent, work ethic and maturity outside the ring are the marks of a
future world champion.
IFBA junior welterweight world champion Hannah Fox (seen
in Cooper's corner in the photo by Mary Ann Owen at left) also helped to train
Cooper. Her take on Melinda .... "She has as much, if not more, natural ability
than any young girl I can think of"
Coach and adopted
father James Pena said of the teenage Melinda "She's shy, she never
brags, and she's a joy to be around. She does everything my male boxers do,
and more. She walks into train every day, right on time. She's dynamite.
She's not a problem child and she does well in school. I wish everyone I
worked with was like her. She's a typical, well-balanced teenage girl who happens
to beat people up for a living."
On March 31, 2011 at National Stadium in San Jose, Costa Rica, Ada Velez of Puerto Rico won
the vacant IBF Junior Featherweight title
with a close, exciting ten-round split decision over Melinda. Velez
used an accurate jab with great precision and intelligence to
come out on the winning side of a 96-94,96-94,94-96 split
decision over Cooper.
Velez improved her record to 19-3-3 (6 KO's) while Cooper
dropped to 21-1 (11 KO's)
Melinda Cooper vs Ada Velez in November 2011
© Copyrighted photo taken by Mary Ann Owen
November 20, 2011 at Texas Station in Las Vegas, Nevada, Ada
Velez (122 lbs) repeated her win over Melinda Cooper (121 lbs) for
Featherweight title by a majority decision over ten rounds. Chris
Cozzone reports that: "This
time around, it
wasn’t even close – barring one official’s even scorecard. The
41-year-old veteran Velez not only her retained her IBF super bantam
strap, but used it to issue Cooper a spanking. Velez
could not miss. Every time she raised her glove, it collided with
Cooper’s face, embarrassingly so. To her credit, though, round after
round, Cooper came forward, trying to brawl her way back into a fight
completely out of her control. For
the first five rounds, the southpaw Velez made Cooper look clumsy and
slow, whether she was trading with the Las Vegas favorite toe-to-toe,
or boxing circles around her. Refusing to quit, Cooper
bit down and made the last half of the fight a little closer, forcing
Velez to trade and never taking a step back. Picking up one or two
rounds for her efforts, Cooper's only success was hurling her smaller
foe to the canvas, wrestling-style, in the sixth. Velez continued to
pot-shot, outbox and even outslug her in most of the exchanges. Two
judges saw the domination, scoring it 98-92 and 97-93 while the third,
somehow, saw an
even fight, 95-95, making Velez the winner by majority decision."
Velez improved to 20-3-3 (6 KO's) while dropping Cooper's record to 21-2 (11 KO's).
(For more fight photos by Mary Ann Owen, see
on the WBAN
While some fighters prefer to develop their skills away from the
sometimes critical eye of the public, Melinda and her team welcomed the
attention that her career is garnering. "If Melinda didn't have the quality of
training that she does and a sound amateur background we would be concerned",
explains co-manager Douglas Ward, "but Melinda has a natural gift for the ring.
Let's face it, women's boxing can take all of the exposure it can get and I
think Melinda is one of the best examples of women boxing that the public could
be introduced to right now."
Melinda's strong foundation and solid boxing skills have made her
a crowd favorite in Las Vegas and a popular feature on nationally televised
boxing programs. Melinda's strength and conditioning coach Bobby Stella
attributes a great deal of her appeal to her diversity. He explains, "Melinda is
pretty but powerful, she moves well but is willing to stand toe-to-toe and make
something happen. She looks unassuming, but is ferocious in the ring. She is
walking bundle of contradictions and, whether you are a casual fan or a boxing
purist, that's just plain fun to watch."
also been featured in several nationally-recognized magazines, including Girls Life, Teen and World
Boxing. Her personality and striking good looks are leading to
experiences and endorsement opportunities beyond the sport she does
so well. "What makes Melinda appealing both inside and outside
the ring is that she's real", says James
Pena. "There is nothing fake about her…there are no
masks. What you see is what you get. Melinda has the
least amount of ego of anyone I know. Don't get me wrong," he
continues, "she does have pride and that's what she protects when
she gets in the ring, but as far as her perception of herself and
how she treats everyone around her … that's her best asset and it
doesn't have anything to do with boxing." Advisor and friend
Dana White adds, "And that's exactly why we're having some success
with publicity and interest from people outside of the sport.
She's relatable and real. You can't teach that."
WBAN has Cooper's COMPLETE boxing
record, with HUGE DIGITAL photos of her in
GALLERIES #29, #37, #150,
#152, #173 and #190
on the WBAN Records Member Site
She is also on FANMAIL if boxing
fans would like to drop her a line!
Other Melinda Cooper links
Page last updated:
Friday August 09, 2013