Three-year wait for Jelena

MURRAY GREIG, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:14 AM ET

Edmonton's Jelena Mrdjenovich doesn't suffer from triskaidekaphobia.

In fact, the former World Boxing Council super featherweight champ has 1,103 reasons not to fear her Friday the 13th rematch with Ann Saccurato of New York.

One thousand, one hundred and three.

That's how many days it's been since Mrdjenovich dropped a contentious split decision to the reigning WBC lightweight titleholder -- and she's been itching for another crack at the 135-pound crown ever since.

The two fighters will renew acquaintances at a media conference this afternoon before meeting in the headliner of KO Boxing's Redemption card on Friday night at the Shaw Conference Centre.

Saccurato is out to prove her win on Nov. 5, 2006, was no fluke. Judges Ron Hayter and Craig Metcalfe both scored that fight 96-94 for the American champ, while Usman Ali favoured Mrdjenovich by the same count.

Much has changed for both women since.

Mrdjenovich (23-4-1, 11 KOs) has gone 5-2-1 with no knockouts, while Saccurato (14-4-2, 6 KOs) is 2-3, with her lone stoppage coming in a title defence against tough Jessica Rakoczy, who was 27-2 at the time.

In her last outing, Mrdjenovich lost her super featherweight belt to Winnipeg's Olivia Gerula here in April, while Saccurato dropped a 10-round decision to Myriam Lemare in a non-title bout in France last month.

"What happened with Gerula is history; I'm not going to dwell on it or make excuses," said the 27-year-old Mrdjenovich.

"But the fact of the matter is that I went into that fight with a bad (left) knee ... bad enough that it required a second surgery in May.

"The knee was giving me grief for a long time. I was starting every fight at 80% instead of 100%, and then after three or four rounds, I was 60% of 80%.

"You can't go on like that ... but I tried. It was stupid. I should have said something."

Mrdjenovich first tore her miniscus while playing basketball nine years ago. She had surgery in the spring of 2008 to repair another tear, but her mobility was noticeably hampered in three fights (2-1) since.

"That's all behind me now," she said. "My doctor did a great job of rebuilding the knee and for the first time in a long time, I can honestly say it's 100%.

"I've been lifting and training non-stop since July because I didn't want an easy fight coming back. I've dreamed about this rematch with Saccurato since the day after she supposedly beat me three years ago, so this is a great opportunity."

Meanwhile, facing daunting challenges is something Saccurato mastered long before she laced up the gloves for the first time.

In 1995 she was a passenger in a horrific car wreck while returning from the volleyball competition at the Empire State Games.

The driver of the vehicle was killed while Saccurato suffered a punctured lung, broken pelvis and hip, two broken legs, a shattered arm, broken ribs and severe nerve damage.

Defying all odds, she went on to become a basketball and volleyball star for Seton Hall University, at the same time launching a stellar amateur boxing career.

She turned pro in 2002.

"We've both had some ups and downs and we've both got something to prove," said Mrdjenovich.

"But I was born ready for the tough fights ... they bring out my best. I'm more excited about this rematch than I have been for a long time."

MURRAY.GREIG@SUNMEDIA.CA


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