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Making a Mismatch: How Miranda Adkins came to fight Seniesa Estrada, Part Two

How did a 42-year-old mom with a beyond questionable boxing background wind up fighting a world-class boxer? The second part of this two-part series.

Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos/Golden Boy

Check out part one of this piece if you missed it.

It was a couple days after the KO ricocheted around the internet, a minor viral sensation, and the chatter had died down.

People watching on DAZN July 24 saw Seniesa Estrada blast out Miranda Adkins on the undercard of an event promoted by Golden Boy, topped by a Vergil Ortiz Jr vs Samuel Vargas main event.

The WBC “silver” junior flyweight title held by Estrada was there for the taking, but Adkins wouldn’t be the one to wrest it away. Adkins didn’t get a chance to get going, because Estrada, one of the top fighters in the small sphere of women’s professional boxing, came at her like a sleep deprived pit bull seeing a postal worker carrying a bag full of steaks. Or, a pro fighter looking to get her job done in the most efficient way possible.

Anyone reading this knows that happens in boxing. It’s not a sport for the squeamish or timid. Every time I write on the “sport,” I try to keep that in mind, and come to the keyboard ready to give due credit to any being that enters the ring and gives their best effort.

That would, to me, include Adkins, who BoxRec tells me is 43 years old, lives in Kansas, and entered the ring in Cali with a 5-0 record. BoxRec also tells me that her 5-0 record wasn’t built on a real sturdy foundation.

I’ve covered the sport long enough to know that the game is structured a certain way, and sometimes to some of us can feel a bit brutish. Fighters who are deemed more promising are given more attention, and more time is taken with their development. Promoters and matchmakers, the better ones, take their time in helping an athlete round out their game. They do that while also trying, more or less, to remember that this is a sports entertainment business, and that people watching don’t want to see what amounts to a teaching clinic.

Robert Diaz has decades within the game, and he is aware of the factors I just touched on. We talked a few days after Estrada’s rubout. He chuckled, at one point, and said at times he tells his missus that he feels like the field goal kicker. He can nail one from 51 yards out in the second quarter...and a 43 yarder into the wind in the third quarter. But if he shanks a 37 yarder late in the game, oh yes, he will hear it from the punters. I think he kind of felt like he got showered with stale beer and half eaten hot dogs when Estrada put Adkins on the mat.

But talking to Diaz helped me see a little bit beyond some of those hot takes I saw on Twitter, and beyond. (In part one of this piece, I noted that the esteemed Teddy Atlas weighed in on the fight, and didn’t pull a punch in terms of the matchmaking.)

Diaz made quite clear to me that he always hopes everyone in every match he makes exit the ring on their own power, suffers no great head trauma, lives to fight on another day.

“The last thing we (matchmakers) want is a tragedy in the ring,” Diaz said. “We live off it; while the fans may cherish it, we live off of it. When a ring fatality happens, we have that in the mind the rest of our life. That’s a very heavy responsibility, and thank God, that hasn’t happened to me. I understand criticism and attacks are part of this. I accept it, 100 percent.”

Diaz did see that Andy Foster of the California commission told media that he’d do things differently if he were able to go back in time.

“On paper, hindsight is 20-20 for everybody,” Foster told The Ring. “Now that we know the outcome, I think it’s fair to criticize me for approving that because I’m critical of myself. I kinda blew this one.”

Props to Foster for stepping up to accept culpability. But Diaz takes issue with Foster taking on full responsibility for Adkins getting steamrolled.

“It’s nobody’s fault,” Diaz said. “If anything, I’ll take it.”

Estrada had been training to fight on Mar. 28, but that card got scrapped. Diaz wanted to get Estrada, and other boxers who lost dates, onto cards when the all-clear sign was given. Top Rank got out in front, setting up shop in Las Vegas, which worked for ESPN, as the network needed live programming. Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy went a more conservative route, deciding to go live when California’s oversight body got together a protocol to allow live combat sports events again.

And if circumstances allowed, then this examination of the fight and the match wouldn’t be needed. Jacky Calvo (12-5-2, 1 KO) had accepted the assignment against Estrada earlier in the year, coronavirus postponed the fight, and Calvo withdrew from the rescheduled July date because of a leg injury.

“She’s a tough Mexican opponent,” Diaz said of Calvo, and he added that her withdrawal wasn’t a dodge. “It wasn’t an excuse, you are seeing now more and more, people just wanna fight.”

Makes sense, boxers are independent contractors. They don’t fight, they don’t earn.

And so now Diaz needed a replacement. He made calls, emails, heard from managers, booking agents, he did the whole drill. He had two weeks, and yeah, that sounds like plenty of time, but while economic realities are making some athletes more eager to work, other factors kick in. Most athletes, especially in some of those “fruitful zones” like California, Texas, and New York, haven’t been able to train in normal fashion. People who have been fighting at 108 pounds, some of them ticked up into the 130s or higher, because of stress eating and less regular cardio.

“With travel restrictions, the pool is small,” Diaz explained. And the pool is already kiddie-sized. There aren’t copious amounts of female fighters, period; boxing is building up the base of talent, but the going has been slow.

Diaz inquired about Anabel Ortiz (31-3, 4 KO), an experienced veteran. “We called, we’d pay her good money. She planned to fight anyway, but she said she can’t take it on two weeks notice, and she was right,” he said.

Calls kept coming in and going out, and then one came about Miranda Adkins, and Diaz was told she would take the fight. He wasn’t familiar with her. And he did what most of us do, he went to BoxRec. Surface looked good — 5-0, all wins by stoppage.

“Then I saw her age, a little old for this assignment, maybe,” he said. Estrada is 28, at her athletic prime. Adkins was 42, about to turn 43. But Diaz wanted to save that fight. Estrada hadn’t fought since Nov. 2019.

So Diaz touched base with Miranda’s agent, who happens to be married to her. John Carden promotes boxing in Kansas, and Diaz asked him to furnish more info. Carden said Adkins had amateur boxing experience did, and some in MMA, too.

Diaz knows from booking women’s fights for Golden Boy, he’s less likely to be able to help inform himself off of material found on YouTube. Finding foes for Franchon Crews-Dezurn, Marlen Esparza, Estrada, Sulem Urbina, has challenges that don’t present in booking the males. At times, the matchmaker has to take something of a leap of faith. BoxRec doesn’t tell you everything. It did tell Diaz that Adkins fought debuting opponents in her first four outings, so he wanted to make sure Adkins wouldn’t be out of her depth. She knows what she’s doing, he was told, and she wanted a stern test.

“And she goes in there, she got blasted out, and I felt like crap,” Diaz said. “I felt like the kicker who missed the field goal. I started at Golden Boy and from the start, I’m not here just to build those pretty records, I’m here to help build world champions.”

And, he says, records can be deceiving. He remembers a now-retired fighter who had a record around 1-15, but she gave her opponents good work, and was better than the W-L tally would suggest.

Yeah, it turns out Adkins was the other way around. But let’s remember, even non-neophytes can get taken out right quick. I still haven’t seen Adkins fight long enough to see if she could actually hang a bit longer with Estrada, if Seniesa hadn’t taken out her frustration at COVID cancellations on her.

“Thank God Adkins is OK,” Diaz said. “I think she’s happy, I saw her (social media) post, that she fulfilled her dream.”

If I had to guess, Diaz re-learned that it is better most always to trust, but verify. Maybe next time, he asks that agent or manager to track down some tape, so he can use his own eyes to make it less likely he sees a KO that gets him worried.

“It’s not like in baseball, where in the preseason, you can test a new pitcher. It’s very different in boxing,” Diaz said, as we talked about how the game functions, how we all know that the favored prospects get put against people who are not as seasoned as them, who do not have a lofty ceiling of promise.

Now and again, we in the game see a situation that reminds us of this tradition, and sometimes we might get to feeling sensitive. But, I told Diaz, I know sometimes I don’t apply my indignation filter with total uniformity. I fail in that regard in boxing, and outside, too. We all have to step up our games about being intellectually consistent, because in the social media age, BSing is just too easy, and too prevalent.

“You know, I think also people are not all used to seeing women in fights, and getting knocked out,” Diaz pointed out.

Videos go viral of guys blasting out a foe, and it is less likely that scrutiny will be applied in the same way it gets applied to a lady among some fans and media. And that scrutiny might be applied subconsciously. People don’t groove on seeing an Edgar Berlanga KO the same way they do an Estrada takeout, Diaz believes.

“And I get it, a Vergil Ortiz is knocking out contenders,” Diaz said. “But in women’s boxing, the pool is smaller,” Diaz continued. “That doesn’t affect that above all else is the safety of all fighters. But you’ve still got to give the opportunity to someone who wants to dare to dream. Someone who’s willing to step in the ring. As fighters, they know the risks they’re taking. Anyone who said we just threw in a body, Ms. Mailman, get in the ring, no way. They all have to be licensed. Hey, maybe it is time for one commission, for the whole country, so in cases like this, we’re all working together.”

I reached out to John Carden, to ask how Miranda was doing the following week, and he responded, “Miranda is just fine! You do realize that it looked much worse on TV?

“Everyone has a slow starter in the gym, and that’s Miranda. Seniesa did the one thing I was hoping she wouldn’t and rushed in, catching her with a left hook,” said Carden, who has been taken to task for the quality of the fight sports shows he’s promoted. “(People) calling her inexperienced, she has not been knocked out in MMA, or kickboxing, or in boxing, until now. She prepared hard for this fight, buying training equipment, because gyms are closed, and (she was) running two to five miles a day. After the fight because we weren’t allowed to stay to watch (the other) fights she went dinner and enjoyed live music at the casino. The next day she went to the beach without a scratch on her to catch a break after training and being locked into the bubble after arrival.”

I messaged Miranda, to verify, and will insert that response when furnished. I also wanted to know, would she fight again or hang up the mitts, celebrate turning 43 on July 28 by finding a shorter mountain to climb?

Carden sent a pic of Miranda sporting a solid shiner, and said that pic shows an eye swollen from a kickboxing match in which she handled herself against a much heavier opponent. He said he didn’t appreciate that some of the reporting about the Estrada-Adkins fight has been shoddy and said if it continues, he might bring a lawyer into the mix. As of Aug. 1, Carden hadn’t been put off the fight game. Carden Combat Sports did a show in Topeka, five boxing matches, three amateur kickboxing scraps, and one amateur Muay Thai bout. Four days later, though, it looks like, he put a “Professional Boxing Bell” up for sale on a social media account.

Diaz was under the impression that Adkins really wanted to try her hand with Estrada, and wanted to prove doubters wrong. He generally likes to be in a position, he said, to help make unlikely dreams come true.

We spoke more about the sport as a whole, and how the virus is proving to be a stubborn test for the nation, and world. Yes, I will say it, the pandemic probably caused this perceived mismatch to unfold. Diaz again repeated he’s happy that Adkins got up from that Estrada beat-down, and left the ring under her own power. We also touched on how we see some media sorts appear to lose the love for the upsides in the gritty competition, and grow more cynical and hunt only for things to take issue with. So I didn’t want to come off a relapsed junkie, addicted to playing the proctologist probing dark places for imperfections, and say to Diaz that it’d help grow the sport to have fewer showcase bouts.

I told Diaz, I’ve been working with my kids, 13 and almost 10, to hammer home the saying that people in the boxing game probably should keep tacked up on their office wall. “Trust, but verify,” it applies in boxing and pretty much everywhere else, too. Maybe get a batch of tees for my offspring and me. I think I’ll ask if Diaz wants to wear a Russian proverb which got hot in the US when Ronald Reagan embraced the assertion that he’d not be the one accepting low grade terms, or promises of spoils next summer, or spring. Diaz, you a Large?

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