Jelena's foe likes underdog role

MURRAY GREIG -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

Kelli Cofer likes being an underdog.

The 30-year-old American, who is challenging Jelena Mrdjenovich for the Edmontonian's Women's International Boxing Federation lightweight championship on Sept. 28 at the Shaw Conference Centre, also enjoys being a road warrior.

"All the pressure is on Jelena," says Cofer, who's ranked No. 3 in the world by the WIBF.

"Let's face it, they wouldn't be bringing me to Edmonton if they thought I might knock her out. She's the champ - and you have to take a title away from a champion.

"I don't expect to get any breaks from the judges. If it's close ... well, it's Jelena's hometown.

"But in a strange kind of way, that motivates me. Last December I went all the way to Africa for a fight and beat the girl pretty easily, but they stole the decision from me. I expected it, because of where we were.

"Going into that one, nothing went right. We had seven layovers, four flight changes, and when we arrived in Nairobi, our luggage was lost.

"I'm not expecting anything nearly so traumatic fighting in Canada, but that experience really toughened my resolve.

"I'm not going to Edmonton to be a sacrificial lamb."

Cofer's 13-5-4 record is deceiving.

Since turning pro in 2000 she's fought the majority of her bouts outside her home state of Ohio. She's lost two in a row since fracturing her right hand 18 months ago, and hard sparring for her upcoming fight has been a problem.

"I'm still a little gun-shy about throwing the right too often in sparring because I'm fearful of breaking it again," she says.

But she's not about to use that as an alibi.

"Every fighter has aches and pains, but what separates the good ones from the wannabes is the way they overcome them," says Cofer.

"I'll be ready for Jelena. More ready than they probably expect me to be."


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