Tica boxer Hanna Gabriels will defend her World Boxing Organization (WBO) Super Welterweight (154 lbs) title Saturday night in a 10-round fight against the U.S.’s Kali Reis at Edgardo Baltodano stadium in Liberia, Guanacaste.
Reis, a Providence, Rhode Island native, is currently the International Boxing Association’s (IBA) Middleweight (160 lbs) World Champion and holds a record of 14-1-1 with 10 KOs. She arrived in Costa Rica on Monday and attended a promotional presentation of the fight Tuesday, including the official face off with Gabriels.
Reis told reporters she is feeling well and that she’s used to fight outside the U.S. and with opponents from other categories as it can be difficult to find opponents of her weight. She has fought in Argentina, Bermuda and various European countries.
Reis is the first Native American woman to become a professional boxer. She has Cherokee, Nipmuc and Seaconke Wampanoag ancestry. The fighter says it’s an honor to represent her culture and that it was natural for her to choose a boxing ring as a career since her people “have been fighting for centuries.”
At Tuesday’s event she said she has watched videos of some of the Tica’s fights but “only to get a general idea of her style, without getting into details.” She said that, just like herself, Gabriels is a very skilled fighter, has good strength, power and endurance and throws a lot of punches.
Gabriels will defend her Super Welterweight title after defeating Mexican Paty Ramírez by TKO last Dec. 20 in Puerto Rico. Her professional record currently stands at 14-1-1 with 10 KOs.
The Tica said she already made the required weight and that she has been training with great sparring partners, all men, who have pushed her to the top of her skills. Currently Gabriels is mostly focusing on physical work at the gym, and waiting for the fight.
“I know Kali is very fast and strong. She administers her strength, moves very well in the ring and calculates every punch she throws,” she told The Tico Times.
Gabriels’ coach Marco Delgado said Reis is possibly the best professional boxer to visit Costa Rica. “It will be a very tough fight, but I’m confident that Hanna has everything to successfully defend her title,” he said at the fight presentation Tuesday.
Delgado noted that Reis is a very strong boxer with a powerful punch, however he believes she’s slower than the Tica. “Hanna has demonstrated a lot of discipline and her physical shape right now is very impressive,” he said.
In addition to the world title fight, the event in Liberia will include nine preliminary fights with Tico fighters facing contenders from Panama and Nicaragua.
Tickets range from ₡5,000 to ₡12,000 ($9 to $22) and are available at Liberia’s Sports Committee office inside the Edgardo Baltodano stadium.
See Hanna Gabriels training
Alberto Font contributed to this story.