So what rhymes with Jelena?

MURRAY GREIG -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

An e-mail from a web reader in Las Vegas arrived this week, asking why Jelena Mrdjenovich doesn't have a punchy nickname.

After all, writes Sandy Romero, Edmonton's double world champion (WBC super featherweight and WIBF lightweight) "is one of the best female fighters in the world, but on the TV screen her last name looks like a doctor's eyechart."

That's an interesting observation. But should a vowel-challenged surname automatically qualify a fighter for a memorable moniker?

I don't think so.

Back in the day, before titles were handed out like Halloween candy, nicknames actually meant something.

Many of them were bestowed by promoters, but the best ones were cooked up by sportswriters or fans as a nod to a fighter's unique persona - or lack thereof.

ALMOST POETIC

During boxing's golden age, evocative nicknames were almost poetic. Lew Jenkins, a murderous puncher who held the world lightweight title in the early 1940s, was dubbed Living Death. Slick heavyweight champ Ezzard Charles was The Cincinnati Cobra. Henry Armstrong, the only man to simultaneously own championships in three weight divisions, was Homicide Hank, while wily light heavyweight champ Archie Moore was The Old Mongoose.

Indeed, as recently as the late 1970s and early '80s, ring handles still conveyed an instant image. Hit Man fit Detroit's Thomas Hearns like an eight-ounce glove. We also had Mike 'The Body Snatcher' McCallum, John 'The Beast' Mugabi and 'Marvelous' Marvin Hagler.

Sadly, those days are long gone. When it comes to current nicknames, the vast majority of today's fighters are self-christened - and rarely come close to living up to the billing. Even the ubiquitous Ray Leonard was a pretentious impersonation of the immortal Sugar Ray Robinson.

"A genuine nickname is when you don't have to use the guy's real name at all, because everyone knows who you're talking about," says octogenarian promoter Hank Kaplan, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame last year.

"Nowadays, because of TV, you've got guys with only two or three fights under their belt coming into the ring with goofy entrances and rap music blaring. They invent their own nicknames ... and it's silly."

But the Miami-based Kaplan has a soft spot for Edmonton fighters.

"The best nickname up there was The Bulldog, Scotty Olson. It fit him perfectly, because Scotty was like a pit bull in the ring, powerful and relentless," recalled Kaplan.

"Another good guy was Kenny Lakusta. He started off great when he was down here (Florida) in the early '80s. He was a strong, good-looking kid and he could hit, but he never got trained properly. I promoted his (Commonwealth) title fight in Edmonton against Trevor Berbick. I don't think Kenny had a nickname, but he didn't need one.

DIDN'T STICK

"Same with (George) Chuvalo. When I did a few of his fights here in the '60s, the papers called him the 'Toronto Tank', but it didn't stick. He was just Big George, the toughest Canadian ever. What's better than that?"

So does Kaplan think Mrdjenovich needs a nickname?

"She's got two world titles, so her reputation is already made," he said.

"Besides, what are you gonna come up with that rhymes with that name of hers? But if I was designing her posters, I think I'd call her 'No Mercy.' "

That's not bad, Hank. Not bad at all.

QUICK JABS: A reader in Rocky Mountain House wants to know why the Sun calls Mrdjenovich "a double world champ" when, claims said reader, RMH's own Kandi Wyatt "is the female boxing champion of the world."

The answer is simple: Mrdjenovich is a professional and Wyatt is an amateur. Mrdjenovich owns the World Boxing Council super featherweight title and the Women's International Boxing Federation lightweight crown. She will defend the latter against Ohio's Kelli Cofer on Sept. 28 at the Shaw Conference Centre.

Wyatt, a Grade 11 student at West Central High School in Rocky Mountain House, won her third women's 138-lb. title at the Ringside World Amateur tournament in Kansas City last month.


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