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Boxing:

Women’s champ dazzles in long-awaited rematch

McCarter shows little ring rust against Raika despite lengthy layoff

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Steve Marcus

Fujin Raika, left, of Tokyo battles with WBA/GBU lightweight champion Layla McCarter of Las Vegas during a 10-round fight at the South Point Friday, July 3, 2009. McCarter defended her titles with a unanimous decision win.

McCarter defeats Raika

Fujin Raika, left, of Tokyo and WBA/GBU lightweight champion Layla McCarter of Las Vegas pose after a 10-round fight at the South Point Friday, July 3, 2009. McCarter defended her titles with a unanimous decision win. Launch slideshow »

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Beyond the Sun

Layla McCarter didn’t end her long-awaited rematch with Fujin Raika with the explosive knockout she’d hoped for Friday night, but the dazzling display of boxing she did put on at the South Point arena was as fitting as any fireworks exhibition reserved for later on this Independence Day.

The Las Vegas-based fighter scored a decisive unanimous decision victory, with all three judges scoring the bout 100-90, despite an 11-month hiatus from the ring.

“I could definitely feel I was a little off early on, but it was good to knock some of that ring rust off,” said a smiling McCarter, who with the victory retained the World Boxing Association (WBA) and Global Boxing Union (GBU) women's lightweight championships.

“It was a very hard fight, much tougher than our first time. She’s 100-percent better fighter.”

The 30-year-old McCarter defeated Raika by majority decision in 2002 in Tokyo in an eight-round bout. This time the contest went 10, but McCarter was in control the entire time.

“She definitely charged me the whole match and made me box every second,” said McCarter, whose last fight before Friday was Aug. 15 when she defeated Lori Munoz at the Orleans.

But the long break certainly didn’t seem to show much in McCarter’s 50th pro fight.

McCarter (32-13-5) gained control with a sharp jab in the opening rounds. When Raika (18-6-1) charged aggressively dipping her head in the third and fourth stanzas, McCarter made her pay with a pair of punishing uppercuts.

An accidental head butt in the seventh opened a cut under Raika’s right eye, dripping blood that seemed to affect the Japanese star the rest of the night.

McCarter staggered Raika in the late rounds but never took a big risk to go for a finishing blow.

“She has a lot of power. She didn’t actually land a lot of power shots. She wanted the knockout,” said McCarter's trainer and manager Luis Tapia.

“Her footwork was excellent, but there were some specific things missing. She’s better than this.”

McCarter — who during her time off switched boxing promotions and also finished a degree in criminal justice from College of Southern Nevada in May — agreed with her trainer’s assessment. But she quickly said she wouldn’t mind working on that one weakness during a championship bout in the fall.

“If it happens it happens. It’s not a big dream of mine,” McCarter said of possibly facing World Boxing Council lightweight champ Ann Marie Saccurato.

“She happens to be the champion so I’d like to see that. But if not I’d like to work on my legacy and create equality in women’s boxing.”

McCarter was hoping to start down that path Friday when she petitioned for her bout with Raika to go three-minute rounds instead of the normal two-minute intervals.

“It’s what it should be, we’re professionals. We’re not just women coming off the street trying to fight,” she said.

“We’re professional athletes training in the same gym with the men. It should be three-minute rounds and 12 rounds for title fights. I’m gonna keep pushing it until we get to go through.”

Andy Samuelson can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.

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