Saturday, May 26, 2018
Sports

Plant City's Chevelle Hallback to fight at Tampa Bay Times Forum

TAMPA — Chevelle Hallback can emphatically recall the moment she fell in love with boxing.

At the age of 7, Hallback woke up late one night in her Plant City home to the sound of her mother and father cheering from the other room. Curious, she peeked her head out the door to see what the commotion was about.

There, she saw her parents huddled around the family's television, watching Muhammad Ali fight Leon Spinks.

"I was in the doorway moving (around)," recalled Hallback, now 42. "I'm like, 'Man, I wish I could do that. I know I can do that.' And I went to bed thinking that."

Years later, Hallback discovered the world of female boxing, entering the sport professionally in 1997.

She last fought in 2011, losing to Myriam Lamare by decision in a light heavyweight bout in France.

In a career that has since spanned across the globe and included the World International Boxing Association's super featherweight and light welterweight world titles, the woman known as "Fists of Steel" hasn't had a chance to fight back home where her mother can see her compete in person for the first time.

That will change tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum as Hallback (28-8-2, 11 knockouts) enters the ring against Dominga Olivo (8-10) in a six-round bout as the co-main event for the World Boxing Federation's Thunder at the Forum.

The six-fight card features Sarasota native China Smith (34-4, 27 KOs) fighting Mike Sheppard (21-16, 9 KOs) as the other main event for the WBF North American world heavyweight title.

"There's not a world title that I can win, there's not any country that I can fight in that can compare to this," Hallback said.

"I'm fighting at home; itty-bitty Plant City. It doesn't get any bigger than this."

Smith, 35, returns to the ring for the second time after taking six years off to start a nonprofit organization to help at-risk youth in Bradenton.

He called the chance to fight near his hometown before 40-50 friends and family members in attendance, "the biggest opportunity of my life and my late career."

Hallback said she doesn't expect to retire anytime soon. Instead, she has another plan: become the first female boxer featured in a bout on HBO.

"I really believe that I'm going to make history," Hallback said. "I want my name written down that I did the unthinkable. I did something they said could never be done."

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