Everyone's heard about boxing's ugly side. Now, meet its "Raging Beauty."
That's the calling card of female boxer Israh Girgrah, who will try again at the Wyndham Baltimore Inner Harbor hotel tonight to demonstrate that she has the knockout power to match her knockout looks.
The holder of three world boxing titles will carry an 18-2-3 record with nine knockouts into the ring in putting her Universal Boxing Association lightweight (135 pounds) title on the line against Tracy "The Lady" Byrd (12-4, four KOs). She also is junior lightweight champ in the International Boxing Federation and the International Women's Boxing Federation.
Their clash after 10 p.m. will be the main event on a five-bout card sponsored by Fight For A Cure, with proceeds to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Girgrah, 30, is no newcomer to the sport. She started boxing in 1994 "just to stay in shape." But the sport grew on her, she said, "and I decided to compete professionally." The Hyattsville resident fights under 10 KOunt management's Dansicker brothers - Arnie, 52, her promoter, and Casey, 45, her manager.
"I want to show that I'm more than just a pretty face," said Girgrah, whose training often involves sparring sessions with male professionals. She has swapped punches with former world champ Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson, Olympic silver medalist Clarence Vinson, and Lamont Pearson, a Washington-based, No. 1-ranked lightweight contender.
"It's OK if beauty makes a woman boxer successful," Gigrah said. "But it does dampen the women's boxing circuit if that person can't fight."
Girgrah proved herself worthy in 1997, taking an 8-1-1 record into an eight-round bout at Madison Square Garden with Christie Martin. Girgrah held her own and thought she was the victor over a woman now billed as boxing's best female fighter.
"I've begged Christie for a rematch for the past two years," said Casey Dansicker, "I've faxed Don King [her promoter] letters. I don't think she wants the fight."
She'll need that focus for Byrd, whose brother Chris is a heavyweight title contender.
"She fights like him, moving around a lot and using defense. She's not a boxer or a puncher but a little bit of both," Girgrah said. "I think I'm more powerful, but our styles will complement each other. It'll be two skilled fighters in there."
Born in Yemen, Girgrah moved with her parents to Canada when she was 3. She went back-and-forth between countries until moving to Atlanta in 1994, and, five years later, to Hyattsville.
A former honors student, Girgrah spent a year of high school in England, another in Saudia Arabia and the rest in Kingston, Ontario. She studied biology and health for three years at Queen's University in Kingston.
Girgrah said she has played about 10 sports, with soccer, badminton, rowing, basketball and volleyball her best.
She was recently featured in Baltimore magazine, Ring magazine and Boxing Digest, and will be the focus of a book. She's particpated in blood drives and reads to school children.
She also co-manages two fighters, and a clothing deal is in the works, along with marriage to salon owner Marty Wynn, her fiance, who has two young children.
"I told myself that 10 years was probably going to be the end of boxing for me," said Girgrah, who wants children of her own. "If not, my face won't be looking like it does right now."