On May 31st Jelena Mrdjenovich (@jelenaboxing ) will be fighting against Melissa Hernandez-Pacheco for redemption in Edmonton, Alberta at the Shaw Conference Centre. Jelena took time out of her busy schedule to interview with me recently.
Julio Garcia: Hello. How’s it going?
Jelena Mrdjenovich: HI! It is great, thank you.
JG: On May 31st you will be facing off against Melissa Hernandez-Pacheco for a third time; what will be different about this fight from the previous two fights?
JM: In the first bout with Melissa, I was a lot crisper and more effective with my jab and punches. In the second bout I came out a little flat and a little slow. I was lunging in punches and forcing a lot of things. In this bout I am going to try to get back to basics and be sharp and quick.
JG: 99.9% of the time, trilogies are special. What makes this trilogy special?
JM: Yes, this is our 3rd outing. In our first bout, myself with a lot of other people thought that I ended up on the wrong side of a decision. In our second bout, Melissa got the better of me that night. This third bout is giving me that chance of redemption… 3rd time is the charm.
JG: In your previous two bouts with Melissa they have gone the distance; would you like to close this fight with a knockout?
JM: Of course, who wouldn’t!! Knock outs ensure victories (laughing). They are the icing on top of the cake. But as long as I pull out a well executed and entertaining fight, I am happy.
JG: Speaking of knockouts; as I have mentioned to you before, the knockout of Olivia Gerula that I saw on YouTube ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6T-SPcAOj0 ) was brutal. I mean that was such a beautiful shot. Did you expect her to go down as hard as she did?
JM: THANK YOU! That is to date one of my favorite knock outs. But to be completely honest with you, no, I didn’t. It was the 9th round of a scheduled 10 round fight, I knew that I was winning the fight with the open scoring, but I wanted to finish the fight strong so I went in there and relaxed and just let my hands go. I put most of my power in my right hand which missed and just threw a light left hook coming back which landed perfectly.
JG: Back to your current fight. Are you holding camp here in Edmonton?
JM: Yes, all of my camps are here in Edmonton, training out of Avenue Boxing Gym and SVPT (Shara Vigeant Personal Training)
JG: How is camp going?
JM: Camp is going great, I am currently right in the middle of it, and everything is going according to plan. My trainers are saying I am right where I need to be. I’m healthy and focused and injury free!
JG: Are you still training at the Panther gym?
JM: No I haven’t been out of Panther Gym for MANY years. I currently train out of AVENUE BOXING which is owned by Roland Labbe. It is a great gym that I have made my home for quite some time now. I know Paul Mackenzie who also trains out of the Panther gym will be fighting on the card;
JG: are there any other fighters out of that gym fighting that night or from the Avenue Gym?
JM: There are actually 3 fighters fighting on this card out of Avenue, Ty McDougall who is Paul MacKenzie’s opponent actually, and great bout! Max Gagne, a young up-and-comer who is fighting Gary Kopas, which is also a great fight. And the last fighter out of our gym is Brandy Badry, who is fighting Vanessa Bradford, in another Edmontonian battle
JG: Who is on your team to help prepare you for your fight?
JM: Milan Lubovac, who is my number one and has been since I started boxing!! He is not only my mentor and coach, but also like a second Dad to me. Gasper Bonomo, who has been in my corner and camp for my last few bouts, Shara Vigeant, my strength and conditioning coach, who constantly pushes me to the limit. We have been using different sparring, thank you to Brandy, Eric, Dax, and CoraLee.
Also thank you to Jorge Ravanal for holding pads and working with me on the weekends, and Complete Fitness and Martial Arts for welcoming me into their beautiful gym to work out!
And a huge part of my team is my physio and chiropractors that allow me to keep pushing hard, thank you to River Valley Health, and Oliver Chiropractic!
JG: Do you feel more pressure or more relaxed fighting at home?
JM: I feel both, there is nothing like fighting in front of all the important and closest people in your life! I love fighting and putting on a good show at home, but at the same time, I hate disappointing those same people.
JG: Win or lose who would you like to face after the fight?
JM: I am sure that there are a few names out there, but right now I am only focused on Melissa, i have a goal in front of me and there is no point in getting distracted by thinking of other possibilities.
JG: I had read somewhere that you were originally a basketball player correct?
JM: Yes that is correct, I was attending the U of A and was “attempting” to play basketball there.
JG: When and how did you decide boxing was the sport for you?
JM: It was my first year at U of A when I was playing basketball, and I tore my ACL our first practice. In my rehab and cross training, I was bored and decided to check out a local boxing gym and instantly was hooked! Shortly after joining the gym, I had my first armature bout, and shortly after that I began training with Milan and we have never looked back. My, how it has been an incredible ride.
JG: How would you view yourself as an ambassador to women’s boxing in Edmonton?
JM: (laughs) Shat seems to be a lot of pressure. I do this because i love boxing, and if I can promote women’s boxing and boxing in general along the way, that is an added benefit. I always try and represent myself and my career in the best way.
JG: You have been fighting for 10 years now; how many more years do you feel you have left in you?
JM: It is weird, I have never really wanted to put a number on my career, my theory is that as long as you feel healthy and are taking care of yourself and still having fun why look towards an end? Right now I am probably the fittest and strongest and healthiest I have ever been in my life, so I guess the answer to that is that I’m not sure, hopefully many more.
JG: What do you see as your greatest accomplishment as a professional? What do you view as your greatest victory?
JM: That is always hard to answer, because it seems that every fight is always another big accomplishment and another big victory, I am not sure I can pick just one. In 2005, winning my first world title, a BIG KO vs. veteran Francesca Alacante. In 2011, fighting in Tokyo vs. Fujin Raika, in a tough comeback fight after losing 3 straight fights, that to me was a hard fought personal accomplishment, as I put a lot of pressure on myself in that fight . Again in 2011 against OLIVIA GERULA, a HUGE 9th round knock out to win the WIBA featherweight title in our 3rd outing . Finally in 2011 against LINDSAY GARBATT, again in another trilogy, after being defeated twice, knocking a tough opponent Lindsay, in 1:45 of the first round to win the WBC featherweight title.
The last 2 I mentioned were huge wins for me as I put a lot of pressure on myself because of losing to them before, and therefore the reward was phenomenal to me, and especially to end them in the fashion I did.
Accomplishments, they are all special to me, so I don’t think that I can pick one to be “THE” greatest.
JG: What are your thoughts on the mega-bout between Jean Pascal and Lucian Bute?
JM: This is an awesome fight for Canada!!! I am glad that this fight is happening and on our own turf! Great exposure for Canada and Canadian fighters! Good luck to both of them
Thank you for your time and I look forward to covering your fight come May 31st.