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© Copyrighted photo taken by Josh Hedges/UFC


5'2½" bantamweight Melinda Cooper was born in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 6, 1985. 

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.

Melinda at age 15Cooper 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, "but it 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 her. Pena 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 0-3.

Melinda and Elizabeth CervantesOn 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).

Melinda and Reiko MuruyamaOn 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 against the ropes with a fast paced barrage of leather. Muruyama then came back with several 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 swollen. 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.

Melinda goes after Antoinette WeaverOn 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 with 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 of leather. 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

On 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 back repeatedly 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, landing 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 point deducted for this offense. However, Sitzes faded under relentless attack by hard head-body combinations 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 Photo Gallery #173 on the WBAN Member Site.

Melinda mixes it up with Johanna Peña Álvarez
© 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 Johanna Peña Álvarez (115 lbs) of the Dominican Republic.  WBAN's insider reported that 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 holding. 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) while 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."

Melinda 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). 

On 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

On 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.

Former 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
Melinda Cooper vs Ada Velez in November 2011
© Copyrighted photo taken by Mary Ann Owen

On November 20, 2011 at Texas Station in Las Vegas, Nevada, Ada Velez (122 lbs) repeated her win over Melinda Cooper (121 lbs) for the IBF 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 Photo Gallery #532 on the WBAN Member Site).

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."

Melinda Cooper Photo (c) Doug WardMelinda has 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


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