Perhaps more than any fighter on the planet, Kelli Cofer knows that boxing ain't rocket science.
The personable 30-year-old southpaw from Willard, Ohio, was introduced yesterday as the challenger for Jelena Mrdjenovich's Women's International Boxing Federation lightweight title on Sept. 28 at the Shaw Conference Centre.
The fight will headline K.O. Boxing's six-bout Dangerous Ground card.
When Cofer's not sharpening her skills in the ring, she's sharpening her mind.
Just three credits short of earning her master's degree in chemical engineering at Ohio State University, she's already served an internship with Pratt & Whitney Aeronautics as a material engineer on a joint venture between NASA and the Russian Space Agency to adapt liquid oxygen turbines for extended duty in outer space.
But right now the converted kickboxer, currently ranked No. 3 in the world by the WIBF, is focusing on just one goal: to make Mrdjenovich see stars.
"People look at me and wonder why I choose to be a road warrior and fight for little paycheques when I could be a full-time student, finish my degree and take one of the many engineering jobs I've been offered," said Cofer, a self-described workaholic who also owns and manages a landscaping business.
"The answer is simple: I love to fight. I love being the underdog and going into the other girl's hometown with everything against me.
"I'm not under any illusions. I'm a world-ranked contender, but Jelena is the world champion. This is her city, and she's expected to win.
"They (the promoters) look at my record (13-5-4, 3 KOs) and figure there's not much risk for the home girl, but that just motivates me more."
In her last fight, Cofer dropped a technical decision to Jessica Rakoczy of Hamilton, Ont., for the vacant World Boxing Council lightweight crown. After an accidental head butt opened a gash over her right eye in the fifth round, the referee stopped the fight.
"To be honest with you, I probably wouldn't have accepted the offer to fight Jelena if it wasn't for the title because most of the purses in women's boxing are peanuts," said Cofer, who lost a unanimous decision to Toronto's Lisa Brown here in 2005.
"Taking this one will let me pay off the medical bills for the broken hand I got in Kansas City 18 months ago. I won the fight, but the bones on the back of my left hand came right through the flesh.
"The promoter said his insurance wouldn't cover the operation, so I got stuck with it. That's a pretty sad commentary on the bad side of women's boxing.
"The good side is when you're dealing with promoters like you have here who are honest and up-front. Jelena is really lucky to have them in her corner."
As for her fight plan for Mrdjenovich (20-2, 11 KOs), Cofer said she'll use, well ... engineering.
"I'm longer and taller, which means the key to beating her is to keep her outside, not let her get close enough to get good leverage on her punches," said the challenger.
"There's a lot of science in boxing - and science is something I really relate to."
AMY ENDING LONG LAYOFF
Amy Johnson is coming back.
The Edmonton welterweight, who gained international headlines after she TKO'd former figure skater Tonya Harding here in 2004, will fight a four-round prelim on the Sept. 28 Dangerous Ground card.
An opponent has yet to be signed.
Johnson, 5-2, hasn't fought since dropping a unanimous decision to debuting Keri Scarr 17 months ago.
The undercard will also feature the pro debut of Canadian amateur flyweight champ Michelle Nelson of Saskatoon and bouts showcasing unbeaten Edmonton super middleweight Jason De La Ronde and Canadian cruiserweight champ Ryan Henney.