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From the ring to the octagon

Plant City’s Chevelle “Fist of Steel” Hallback is a champion boxer making her debut in MMA.

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Plant City’s Chevelle “Fist of Steel” Hallback is a champion boxer making her debut in MMA.

By age 37, many pro boxers are ready to hang up their gloves. But Chevelle "Fist of Steel" Hallback is revving up for her mixed martial arts debut.

Friday at the St. Pete Times Forum, the 5-foot-6, 135-pound fighter will try her hand at MMA, which blends boxing, jiujitsu, wrestling and other disciplines. She's up against Melissa Vasquez, who is eight years Hallback's junior and has a pro record of 4-4-0.

Hallback, a Plant City native, is a four-time female boxing world champion. She's also one of eight women featured in the EA Sports Knockout Kings video-game series.

Four months ago at the suggestion of her promoter, she began training MMA at XFC on North Nebraska Avenue in Tampa.

Earlier this week, Hallback chatted with tbt*.

Why try MMA?

I've accomplished so much in boxing. Like you said, four-time world title-holder, well known in the boxing community. I want to come over to MMA and see if I can make that same impact. I want to see how many titles I can win with MMA.

At 37, is MMA going to tear up your body faster than if you had stuck with boxing?

I hope not. I have a lot of respect for those guys. It's a controversy, the debate between boxers and MMA fighters. Boxers say MMA fighting is much more dangerous than boxing. MMA fighters say, "No, it's not because over the long haul, you'll get more damage to your brain than MMA." Okay, you're right. The long haul. But in MMA, I could just go in there and somebody can pull my shoulder out of the socket. Or knee my teeth up into my nose. (laughs) But it is a big risk. I'm taking a big risk. ... But I'm up for the challenge. ... Bodywise, I feel the same as I felt when I was in high school. And with age comes more experience.

What's your M.O. for Friday? Do you want to keep your opponent on her feet because that's where you dominate, or do you really want to try grappling?

Like you said, I dominate on my feet, so of course that's going to be the idea — to keep her on her feet. But if we go to the ground, I am prepared. (laughs)

When you play Knockout Kings, which character do you choose?

Um, me. Yeah. (laughs) No, I don't always play me because they have both the men and the females on there, so I go between Shane Mosley, myself and another good friend of mine who is on there.

What tips can you offer people looking to get in shape for the new year?

My best advice, especially for the ladies — sometimes when we're going to the gym, we're not seeing the weight come off fast enough. So what I would suggest is go buy that favorite dress or that favorite outfit that you've been eyeing all year long. Just go ahead and buy it. Of course it's too small for you, but you keep working on your weight and then you try it on once every two weeks. "Okay, I got one leg in. Maybe next week I'll get the other leg in." By doing that, it'll give you motivation to stick with it.

Xtreme Fighting Championships

Catch Hallback and the other fighters in XFC's Salute to Our Armed Forces 6: Clash of the Continents. It's at 8 p.m. Friday at the St. Pete Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $22.75-$52.75. Hallback invites fans to sit in her unofficial cheering area, Section 116 ($32.75), led by her brother Bruce Lee — no, not him. Get details at (813) 301-2500 or mmaxfc.com.

From the ring to the octagon 12/04/08 [Last modified: Thursday, December 4, 2008 6:08pm]

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