NEW ORLEANS — Tiffany Junot gives double meaning to the term “knockout.”
With penetrating green eyes and luxurious, chocolate-colored locks, the New Orleans-based fighter appears better suited to roam fashion runways than boxing rings.
“After each win, it takes me about 15 minutes to clean up, get into heels and a hot dress,” said Junot (10-3-1, six KOs). “Opponents think they have an advantage against me because I am a ‘girly-girl’ and don’t look rough, but it doesn’t take long before they realize these punches hurt.”
Junot, 33, walked the talk Nov. 10 when she met Mia St. John in the main event of the “Fight for Life” charity boxing card in Bakersfield, Calif.
After taking the bout as a replacement challenger with only two weeks to prepare, Junot rattled St. John with a formidable flurry of jabs en route to earning a unanimous decision victory and the Women’s WBC World Super Welterweight belt.
In the process, she became New Orleans’ first women’s world boxing champion.
“There are some really feminine-looking girls who can really fight, and Tiffany is one of those girls,” said Junot’s trainer, Aaron Navarro. “She’s got a strong jab that’s as powerful as most girls’ right hands, and she’s also got a really strong chin.
“About halfway through the (St. John) fight, I started thinking ‘We’ve got this.’ Tiffany won unanimously in St. John’s hometown, so you know she won convincingly.”
Moments after the judges’ scores were announced, “Fight for Life” promoter Roy Englebrecht offered Junot a compliment that underscored the true significance of the evening.
“He told me that my dad would have been so proud,” she said. “He was my biggest fan.”
Junot lost her father to lung cancer on Dec. 21. She took a hiatus from training to care for him during his final three months.
In addition to affording Junot a title shot, the “Fight for Life” show raised more than $1 million for cancer research, a cause that’s dear to her heart.
“My dad would have been ecstatic to see this fight,” she said. “He would have done all of the research on Mia and studied up on her strengths and weaknesses. It was his life.”
The same could be said for Junot. The Karr alum became a scholar of “the sweet science” ever since the day first she saw St. John on the cover of a magazine more than 10 years ago.
It made her consider the possibilities.
“I grew up a tomboy and was a star high school athlete in volleyball and softball, and I used to love fighting the boys when I grew up,” Junot explained. “I knew I wanted to get into boxing, because I figured I’d be good at it.”
Junot commenced her career at the James Joseph Boxing Gym and experienced immediate success as an amateur, achieving a No. 1 national ranking after capturing the 154-pound open division title at the 2003 National Women’s Golden Gloves Tournament in Chicago.
She turned pro in 2006. Through it all, she continued to harbor dreams of facing St. John.
“I always thought Mia was a mediocre fighter at best,” Junot said. “Even at her peak, she was always pretty one-dimensional.”
For the past six months, Junot split training sessions with Navarro in Houston and former International Boxing Association champion Ron Weaver in New Orleans. She also stepped up her cardio regimen.
This helped her capitalize on the opportunity of a lifetime.
“(Junot) was looking for her big break, and she got it,” said sparring partner and fellow pro boxer Vashon Living. “I told her ‘Tiff, this didn’t happen by accident. This is your time.’ Even though she had a short time to prepare, she always stays ready. I always call her the ‘Energizer Bunny,’ because she keeps going and going and going. I was so happy and proud of her.”
In the days following Junot’s victory, St. John Tweeted scathing comments about the ineptitude of the judges and expressed her desire for a rematch.
Those are the kind of fighting words Junot relishes, and she welcomes another showdown.
But next time, she’d prefer to defend her title on her home turf.
“Mia is talking smack and wants another fight, and that sounds good to me,” Junot joked. “This time, I’d have time to prepare. She’s a big name, and it would be good for New Orleans.”
Either way, Living knows what to always expect from the WBC’s newest Super Welterweight champion — the perfect mix of beauty and visceral brutality.
“Tiff will come out in the sexiest dress, but when it’s time to get down to business she will give you a serious whoppin’,” she said. “(Junot) is a lady on the street and a beast in the ring.”