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McGee keeping her championship belt in Gary
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McGee keeping her championship belt in Gary

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HAMMOND — Gary native Mary McGee brought her IBF Junior Welterweight World Championship belt home to Northwest Indiana with the intent of showing it off, not losing it. If she has her way she’ll retire with the title she first captured Dec. 5, 2019 in New York.

The belt is a symbol of hope, McGee said, representing what kids from Gary can aspire to be.

And it’s not going anywhere.

McGee defeated Queensland, Australia’s Denha Hobbs with a ninth-round TKO Saturday night at the Hammond Civic Center in the first of what McGee hopes will be a string of title defenses.

“(It’s) surreal,” McGee said in the locker room after the fight. “They consider my city impoverished, the most miserable city in America. It just feels good to bring something that the kids coming up can be proud of. (They can think) ‘If she did it, I can do it.’”

McGee (27-3, 15 KO) deployed an aggressive attack from the sound of the first bell and forced Hobbs (8-2, 5 KO) into a defensive stance early. McGee said she put emphasis on landing body blows early in the fight to wear on Hobbs, who has now lost back-to-back fights.

During the ninth of a scheduled 12 rounds, McGee knocked Hobbs to the mat only for Hobbs to quickly get back up and rejoin the fight. Not long after that, McGee landed a flurry of punches to the head and forced the referee to end the fight.

“I was surprised (to see Hobbs fall),” McGee said. “I knew I hurt her. I knew she was powerful, so I must have been just a little bit more powerful than she was. So that’s when I was like, ‘Oh great, good,’ because one of us is going down. We were throwing some bombs and I knew one of us was going down.”

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McGee spoke highly of Hobbs as a fighter and suggested that Hobbs likely won a handful of rounds before falling in the ninth. Hobbs was stronger than McGee said she expected her to be and managed to shrug off a number of strong punches like they were nothing at all.

McGee can still remember being a 13-year-old girl training in the backyard to be a world champion one day, and now she can say she not only did it once but twice. She admitted to not being completely healthy — a “tweaked” ankle and shoulder problems cost her weeks of training — and said she probably won’t fight again until later this spring at the earliest.

Time will heal the wounds, but for now McGee can celebrate with her championship belt still in hand.

She didn’t work 20 years just to let it slip away.

“It was really important,” McGee said, “because I’m trying to be a pioneer for other women.”

Fleming wins second professional fight

Anthony Fleming dreams of the millions of dollars the top professional boxers are capable of winning, and while the Hammond native is just two bouts into his professional career he already has a plan for what he’d do if he ever makes it big.

“If I can make enough money one day I’d want to open up my own boxing gym and daycare center,” Fleming, 23, said. “That’s what me and my girl want to do. She wants to have a daycare, and I want to have a boxing gym. It would be a safe haven. That’s what I want. Yeah, I want that Floyd Mayweather money, but I just want to help the kids.”

Fleming (2-0, 1 KO) beat Cincinnati’s Muhammad Adams (0-5-1) in the super middleweight undercard of the Triple Crown International Showdown in a 40-36 judges’ decision over four rounds. Fleming, a fighter out of the Hammond Boxing Club, said he’s been trying to fight in the Civic Center for more than a year and that he wanted to make the most of his opportunity.

He wasn’t flawless and was quick to point that out but imposed his will in his fight in walking away with the unanimous win.

“I’m happy with the win but not with the performance,” Fleming said. “I wasn’t that technically sound. My punches were too wide. There’s a lot I need to work on but I set the tone early and could have gotten him out in the first round if I was a little sharper.”

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