Thaddine triumphs
Durango woman crowned world female featherweight champion

by Stew Mosberg

In sports, a nickname is often chosen to suggest ferocity and to strike fear in the heart of one’s foe. For boxing in particular, names like “The Punisher,” “The Executioner,” “Bone Crusher,” quickly come to mind. For local boxer Thaddine Johnson, her Swift Eagle moniker, though her real name, says it all. The African American-Blackfoot’s bouts end so fast that rivals have almost no chance to land a punch.

Johnson, originally from Queens, New York and now a Durango resident, has been a dancer with Alvin Ailey, a three-time kickboxing world-champion, a Golden Glove champion, a photographer and painter, as well as caregiver to her wheel-chair bound mother and a coach to troubled youth. As for her art work, the president of Women’s International Boxing Council bought a painting and two photos from her just last week.

However, one goal that has eluded the resolute woman has been a major world boxing title. The title has been elusive only because the quirky world of female boxing hadn’t given her the chance; until that is, this past weekend.

Thaddine Swift Eagle Johnson’s dream of being world champion came to fruition last Saturday at the Santa Ana Star Casino in Bernalillo, NM. Going into the confrontation, Swift Eagle Johnson was already ranked the number two pound-for-pound female fighter in New Mexico, just behind six-time world champion Holly Holm, which is astounding when you consider Johnson has had just five pro bouts and Holm’s boasts a 28-1-3 record.

The most coveted of the championships up for grabs in her featured bout at the Bosque Event Center Saturday evening were the Women’s International Boxing Association (WIBA) featherweight title and the Global Boxing Union (GBU) female intercontinental featherweight title. The WIBA is considered by many fans the most respected sanctioning body in women’s professional boxing for their accurate and up-to-date ratings, and for the overall caliber of their title fights. In addition to the USA, the WIBA has had title fights in Asia, Europe, South America, and the Caribbean, giving opportunities to an international contingent of female fighters all over the globe.

In this, her first main event, Swift Eagle Johnson’s battle for the belts was supposed to be against Karina Hernandez, a slightly more seasoned boxer than she. However, the Mexican protagonist backed out for an undisclosed reason days before the battle. The departure forced the promoters, Golden Girl Productions, to come up with a last minute replacement, Puerto Rican Flyweight Nancy Bonilla. With a feeble three wins and six loss record, Bonilla had no business being in the same ring with Johnson let alone fighting for any title. Obviously ill prepared, with only a short notice, the boxer entered the ring with rolls of flesh above her trunks, and a look of bewilderment contorting her face.

Swift Eagle on the other hand, bounded into the ring with confidence and attitude. The 2,500 seat arena was packed, and the crowd was audibly excited in anticipation of another rapid-fire assault by the buckskin clad Swift Eagle and her usual early round knockout. But it was not to be. The Durango pugilist admits to having a tough time making weight for this one. Losing pounds for the weigh-in left her dehydrated, which can cause fatigue and disorientation; not a good state to be in when climbing into the boxing ring.

Given the importance of the fight, Johnson sought the training expertise of former world-champion Roger Mayweather who is also the uncle and former trainer of Floyd Mayweather, and is considered one of the best in the business.

The grossly overweight Bonilla on the other hand, hadn’t fought for well over than a year and probably realized her mistake soon after Thaddine hit her. In defense of the fighter, she typically fights 20 pounds lighter and at a sea-level altitude, and is also ranked number one in Puerto Rico at 107 pounds.

Bonilla kept her guard up throughout each round, throwing a few wild round house counter punches that hardly ever connected and was overpowered and outclassed. Johnson pummeled her repeatedly, leading with double jabs and hammering away at the Puerto Rican’s head and body. When the onslaught became too much, Bonilla would clutch at Johnson and clinch, trying to tie her up and gain time to recover. Almost knocked down toward the end of round one, Bonilla slumped in her corner after each three-minute barrage, her face red and swollen by the close of the second round. While continuing to demonstrate a warrior-like spirit, Bonilla often had to beat a hasty retreat.

After standing in her corner, rather than sitting on the stool, and eager to get on with it, Thaddine moved quickly to the center of the ring with every bell.

By round four of the scheduled eight, Thaddine was clearly frustrated with Bonilla’s unenthusiastic performance and at times resorted to opening her stance and lowering her gloved arms to invite Bonilla to take a shot.

The less than appreciative fans briefly cheered when Bonilla went down in the fifth, the result of a punch Thaddine learned from Mayweather, but it came too late in the round for Johnson to finish her off.

At one point during the seventh round, the audience began to boo and continued to do so on and off until the remainder of the bout. It was unclear if their displeasure was aimed at Johnson for not swinging away or if it was toward Bonilla for her dismal showing.

In the final round, Johnson repeatedly snapped Bonilla’s head back with hard jabs, and would then step back, circle her adversary, drop her hands and practically beg for a response.

While the fight’s outcome seemed inevitable from the opening bell, the match ended with Bonilla somehow managing to go the distance against a proven knockout artist famed for quick defeats and a devastating punch.

As typically happens in boxing with short notice replacements, the bout turns into a ruse. Such hastily drafted match-ups are more than a disappointment for the crowd; they aren’t a real contest for the fighters, and in the worst case scenario, can be dangerous to the substitute contender.

The only glorious, redeeming conclusion to this particular competition came in the unanimous and overwhelming decision, making Thaddine Swift Eagle Johnson the winner.

The championships mean a great deal to her, “I am elated. I feel good and am even more elated that I went eight rounds.”

In realty, unless some worthy opposition steps into the ring with her, fight fans may not know just how good Thaddine is. In the meantime, she gets to hold and proudly display all six title belts as the undisputed female featherweight champion of the world! •



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