Champion of Combat Becomes the Coach: Exclusive Interview with Bonnie “The Cobra” Canino
By: Ron Scarfone
The South Florida area consists of three counties: Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade. The city of Dania Beach was incorporated in 1904 and it is the oldest city in Broward County. It is known as “Broward’s First City” even though it was founded 11 years before Broward County was created in 1915. Dania Beach is also known as “The Antique Capital of the South” due to its many antique shops. When Bonnie Canino was a boxer, she was trained by Bert Rodriguez who owned US-1 Fitness Center in Dania Beach. Rodriguez inadvertently trained Ziad Jarrah who was one of the suspected terrorists that hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 which crashed in Pennsylvania. The suspected terrorist wanted to learn how to fend off attackers using knives and guns. Rodriguez did not know what Jarrah’s intentions were at the time.
Rodriguez has earned black belts in eight styles of martial arts. Rodriguez is a respected trainer of martial arts, boxing, and kickboxing. Rodriguez helped Canino become a world champion in boxing and kickboxing. Canino has also earned black belts in Chinese Kenpo and in WTA (World Taekwondo Alliance). Canino is currently a trainer at her own gym called Canino’s Karate and Boxing Studio in Dania Beach. Canino guided two female boxers to win world championships. Canino previously trained Ada Velez and helped her to win world titles at bantamweight and super bantamweight. Canino also trained Yvonne Reis who was the first WBC female middleweight champion. Canino runs the Women’s National Golden Gloves which is an amateur boxing tournament held every year. Canino was inducted into the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame in 2014.
When I entered Canino’s gym, I saw championship belts on the wall. They are up high so that no one can steal them. Canino’s world title belts in boxing at featherweight are displayed near each other. Canino’s belts from her world titles in kickboxing are also displayed. Her boxing belts are from the Women’s International Boxing Federation (WIBF) and International Female Boxers Association (IFBA). They look like relics that could be displayed in a museum or could be considered antiques like what is sold in the shops of Dania Beach. Both belts look a little different than the current belts from those sanctioning bodies. They are both significant in that these were inaugural titles, so Canino was the first featherweight champion of both sanctioning bodies. Canino agreed to be interviewed and she was very candid about the sport of boxing and also women’s boxing as well as her own boxing and kickboxing career. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Below is a transcript of our conversation.
Boxing Insider: When you won the WIBF featherweight title, there was a change of opponents for you and it was not sanctioned (by the Nevada State Athletic Commission) because of the opponent change.
Bonnie Canino: I was supposed to fight Delia Gonzalez. They had trouble finding an opponent for me. I went there to fight no matter what. (Writer’s Note: Delia Gonzalez was on the card, but her opponent was switched from Canino to Fienie Klee with the WIBF super flyweight title at stake. Bridgett Riley was originally scheduled against Klee, but Riley was eventually off the card. Klee needed an opponent, so Gonzalez was chosen. As a result, Canino had no opponent until they found a substitute. There were six women’s world title fights originally scheduled on the fight card which was unprecedented. The date of the event was April 20, 1995. WIBF President Barbara Buttrick still awarded Canino the WIBF title after her victory over the substitute opponent. Nevertheless, this fight is not on Canino’s official record because it was not sanctioned by the boxing commission in Nevada.)
Boxing Insider: That was in Las Vegas. That was the all women’s card.
Bonnie Canino: That was right before the Oklahoma City bombing (which occurred the day before on April 19, 1995). Barbara was supposed to get a lot of press (for her event). We were supposed to get a lot of press that day and everybody (the media) went to Oklahoma.
Boxing Insider: Barbara told me that too.
Bonnie Canino: Yeah. It was a shame, but we all fought our hearts out.
Boxing Insider: Was it on TV?
Bonnie Canino: No. They never aired it. I just know that they made a video. Back then, they didn’t have cell phones like we have now (that can show video).
Boxing Insider: The Internet was still new. There was no YouTube.
Bonnie Canino: It was a lot of money and a lot of work (to do the event). I ended up fighting this girl.
Boxing Insider: Unfortunately, there is no record of it on Fight Fax or BoxRec.
Bonnie Canino: I fought 5 rounds against her. She outweighed me. She was about 135 pounds, but I went ahead and accepted the fight. I was only 122 pounds. She didn’t have any skills for a championship. I had already held two world titles from kickboxing. Back then, Barbara gave a lot of opportunity to women kickboxers who really wanted to box. Back then, (women’s) boxing was behind closed doors. I was getting 12 round fights at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in kickboxing, five times on pay-per-view. These girls said why am I going to do boxing when I am getting paid and doing all these fights in kickboxing. When boxing (for the women) started coming through, she had gained all the girls that were top-notch kickboxers. Some of the girls on the (all women’s) card were kickboxers previously.
Boxing Insider: You and other kickboxers went to boxing?
Bonnie Canino: I always wanted to box. You had women’s kickboxing and they’re in the ring and that’s what I want to do. I just wanted to fight. I wanted to get in the ring and be like Muhammad Ali. I want to get out there. I want to show myself. It gave me the opportunity. The guys respected me as a woman fighter going out there, so they gave me a lot of opportunities. There were times when I had fights, they were behind closed doors. They were like gym fights without an audience. There were (also) wrestling shows, but in between they would have feature events like boxing. They would try to have women’s boxing, but if I couldn’t find another woman boxer to come, I would get a guy to fight.
Boxing Insider: You fought a man in front of an audience?
Bonnie Canino: Yes, I did.
Boxing Insider: How did you do?
Bonnie Canino: Well, there were not any judges saying if we did good or bad. I fought him three times. The third time was a little more dangerous because we had more of a rivalry, more press, and more people (attending). I think I fared pretty good. I shouldn’t be out there with a man, but we had a mutual agreement that he wasn’t trying to knock me out. He was trying to hit me, but not to try to finish me.
Boxing Insider: Was that in the ‘80s?
Bonnie Canino: That was in the ‘90s. ’91, ’92. I fought Christy Martin at the gym. I tried to hook up with fights like that.
Boxing Insider: In women’s boxing today, world title fights are 10 rounds, 2 minutes each. What did you fight when you were in the kickboxing championships?
Bonnie Canino: 12 rounds.
Boxing Insider: How many minutes each round?
Bonnie Canino: 2 minutes. Later on like in 1993, they had another sanctioning (body) and then they had 10 rounds for their world title fights. A lot of the fights, they were 12 round fights.
Boxing Insider: Regarding the limitations in time for women’s boxing today, how do you feel about that? Do you think that they should fight as long as the men?
Bonnie Canino: Well, I did a Facebook page for women’s rights to box 3 minute rounds, 12 rounds, and I had felt that to become a world pro, the champions that can do 12 rounds, 3 minute rounds, are not going to break down in that time period. I know as a professional fighter, I can take myself to the higher level if they gave me a chance at 3 minutes, 12 round fights because I was in that great condition. I think that now because the fights are 2 minutes and 10 rounds, most fighters could do that. They don’t need to have the years of experience to build themselves up to that level. Let’s say a guy who is starting out in professional boxing, he fights a 4 round fight. Then, he moves up to 6 round fights, then 8 rounds, then 10 rounds. Then, he gets 12 rounds, so now he is at his peak at that 12 rounds. If you were to give him 12 rounds when he started, he wouldn’t be at that peak. He needed to train his body, his mind, and his attention span to be able to withstand that long time period. When the fighters get up to 12 rounds, it is their attention span of staying focused and not letting their guard down the whole time. That shows a lot of professionalism.
Boxing Insider: When you train boxers, do they train 3 minute rounds?
Bonnie Canino: Yes. I feel that you want to train to the max.
Boxing Insider: That way, a 2 minute round is easier if they train for 3 minutes.
Bonnie Canino: Exactly. Except it could work the opposite way around too.
Boxing Insider: How?
Bonnie Canino: Because when boxers fight 3 minutes (per round), they have 3 minutes to box, so they are not in a hurry to show the judges who is winning. They have time to slow down their feet. In 2 minute (round) fights, they don’t have time to slow down their feet. It’s a fast speed because they only have 2 minutes.
Boxing Insider: They are not getting as much money as the men because they are scheduled to fight less time than the men.
Bonnie Canino: I asked myself that too. Why would I want to fight 3 minute rounds and 12 rounds when I am not going to get paid any more money?
Boxing Insider: They would probably get paid more because a lot of the promoters say we’re not going to pay you as much because you’re fighting less time than the men.
Bonnie Canino: I don’t really think so. I think it’s just the pecking order. You look at the girls doing MMA. They are doing 5 minute rounds, 5 rounds (total). They are going to the max. In the martial arts, the guys respect the women fighters.
Boxing Insider: Holly Holm and Ronda Rousey, they are probably making as much money as the top men. They are fighting for the same length of time in mixed martial arts. There is equal time for women and men in MMA.
Bonnie Canino: Because they are more respected in that field. In kickboxing, they gave me and a bunch of other girls the first opportunity to step in that ring. Barbara had given the opportunity, but there weren’t that many (opportunities).
Boxing Insider: Say for example you were in your prime again fighting today and you had a choice between boxing or mixed martial arts, the way the businesses are run now with the money and respect in each sport, what sport would you choose?
Bonnie Canino: I would be like Holly Holm. I would win my championships in kickboxing and boxing and MMA. In fact, I did have an opportunity to do MMA in 1997. They didn’t have any weight divisions. This fight took place in Japan.
Boxing Insider: You did it?
Bonnie Canino: No, I didn’t. I said to myself why am I going to do that sport when they don’t have any weight divisions and the pay is only that much money and I’m getting paid this much money to box. I am going to stick with the boxing because it was a growing sport and that sport (MMA) was just developing, but I would have taken it on and I would have been a bad ass in all three (sports).
Boxing Insider: Did you think in the mid ‘90s when you were a champion in women’s boxing that it would have progressed more than it has now with the money and the exposure?
Bonnie Canino: In the 1990s, we were getting on pay-per-view a lot all the way until 2002 and then we went down into a little plunge. Even men’s boxing did too. That’s when the MMA came out. (Writer’s Note: The UFC was purchased for $2 million in 2001 by brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta. The UFC began to rise in popularity after that.) I think we’re going to build up again eventually. Through Biblical times, there have been great women warriors and now the sport is so populated that these are the women warriors that we have today in boxing, kickboxing, and MMA.
Boxing Insider: How is women’s kickboxing doing? Are those organizations that you were champions for, are they still around?
Bonnie Canino: Yes. In fact, the WAKO (World Association of Kickboxing Organizations) is and the KICK (Karate International Council of Kickboxing). They joined together and they are going to be in the Olympics in 2020 in the amateurs. They’re still strong. They’re getting a little bit more regulated.
Boxing Insider: In MMA, you can do almost anything. In boxing, you are limited to your hands. Kickboxing has not had the same popularity as either of those sports.
Bonnie Canino: They have. It just depends on what country you’re living in. If you go to Japan, Thailand, some of those areas, kickboxing is really huge. Also in Europe.
Boxing Insider: And Muay Thai.
Bonnie Canino: Not really Muay Thai. I would say K-1 type of rules which has Muay Thai into it.
Boxing Insider: I know that the WBC sanctions Muay Thai.
Bonnie Canino: There’s a lot of money into it. All three sports are the hardest because you have to condition yourself. Boxing is really hard because you have to be in really good shape to have all those rules and just using your hands.
Boxing Insider: There are boxing promoters with their own stable. Their “A side” boxers (on a fight card) are matched up against “B side” boxers and they don’t want them to lose to the “B side” boxers, so the “B side” boxers are subpar with mediocre or losing records because they invested their money into their stable and they don’t want their boxers to lose, so they are trying to see how much money they can spend to get an opponent who is not going to beat their boxer.
Bonnie Canino: Exactly. So if you are really good, you are not going to have the opportunity unless you have someone behind you.
Boxing Insider: You defended the WIBF featherweight title a few times and they were like exhibitions. When your opponent was Deirdre Gogarty, the boxing commission recognized that fight.
Bonnie Canino: It was a very bad night for me. I had the world title and the promoter there (in Louisiana) called me for a whole year asking me to defend my title against her (Gogarty).
Boxing Insider: I read that you didn’t get paid.
Bonnie Canino: I didn’t get paid. I lost my title. I feel that when you are a world champion, your title has to be taken away from you and she never took the title away from me because it was from her town, her promotion, and her judges. They are not going to see anything my way. Very very very bad. The whole thing was a black eye for boxing. Did Barbara know anything about it? Not really. She was just going where the sanctioning body is going for the money. Now, you (the promoter) have to have money in the bank to make sure everyone gets paid, so that way you don’t get ripped off like that. I did a civil lawsuit. I won. I had to go back every seven years to try to collect my money. He (The promoter) had his money in with his wife, so I was never able to get my money.
Boxing Insider: So even though you won the civil lawsuit, you still didn’t get paid.
Bonnie Canino: I never got paid. It was $9,000 and I still could use the money. Of course, I lost that. I lost my title. I even got my nose broken in that fight. It was like three strikes. It was a bad night.
Boxing Insider: The next fight though, you won the International Female Boxers Association (IFBA) featherweight title. That was a lot better for you because you won and probably got paid.
Bonnie Canino: Yes.
Boxing Insider: Was that an inaugural title because I believe that sanctioning body started in 1997?
Bonnie Canino: Yes.
Boxing Insider: So you won the inaugural featherweight title for two women’s boxing sanctioning bodies.
Bonnie Canino: Yeah.
Boxing Insider: Then, when you fought Chevelle Hallback here (in Florida in 1998), I believe that was the last time a WIBF featherweight title fight was held in the United States from what I saw on BoxRec. After that, it was in Europe, but mostly in Germany. Chevelle obviously was tough and strong.
Bonnie Canino: Yeah, it was a pretty tough fight. She was a lot bigger than me in size. Within the first 30 seconds, I got a headbutt and it cut my eyebrow and I had blood going into my eye.
Boxing Insider: Was it intentional?
Bonnie Canino: Well, she leads in a lot with her head. If you watch a lot of her fights, she headbutts all the girls. It was a big fight. We sold out the auditorium. I wasn’t going to quit, but the doctor looked at me and said don’t worry Bonnie. I’ll suture you up afterwards. He gave me a little pad. The blood kept seeping in my eye. (Writer’s Note: The fight was stopped in the seventh round. Hallback won by TKO.) She is a pretty strong girl. She reminded me of Lucia Rijker. I fought Lucia Rijker in kickboxing in 1989 for a world championship.
Boxing Insider: How did you do?
Bonnie Canino: I lost to her. I beat her in the first round. In the second round, she came out storming. After the second round, I told my corner that I can’t win this fight. So they said what do you want us to do? Throw in the towel? I said no. I’m going to fight, so I fought all the way up to the end of the fight. In fact, by the fifth round, she was getting so tired because she never went past the first round (before). She was 18-0 with 18 knockouts. I completed the fight with her. She got tired, but she was 127 pounds and I was 118 pounds. I took the fight because I was cocky. I was 9-0. I fought big girls before.
Boxing Insider: Was that for a title?
Bonnie Canino: That was for a title. I weighed in with weights in my pants.
Boxing Insider: Oh, so you could make the weight. Wow.
Bonnie Canino: Yeah. I learned a good lesson. The lesson I learned was either get on the boat or get off the boat. I was like, I’m on the boat. I’m going to become champion.
Boxing Insider: You took opportunities. You fought Chevelle Hallback again. Her (original) opponent didn’t come.
Bonnie Canino: Yeah, that was in 2004. I shouldn’t have been in there. (Writer’s Note: Canino stopped fighting in 1999 and did not fight again until this fight in 2004 which was Canino’s final fight.) Boxing is a drug. It took me 15 years just to say I’m not practicing anymore. I’m not going to get hit in the head anymore. I’m done. I’m not going back in the ring ever again. It took me that long to get off the drug. I shouldn’t have even been in that ring because I had just finished working with Kathy Rivers in Guyana. (Writer’s Note: Rivers fought in Guyana and lost by unanimous decision against Gwendolyn O’Neil.) I was in South America and then I took Yvonne Reis over to Oregon. (Writer’s Note: Reis fought in Lincoln City, Oregon on June 3, 2004. Canino went to another event in Lincoln City the day after on June 4 which was where she fought Hallback in a rematch.) The opponent (for Hallback) backed out and I said I can do it. I’m in shape. I wanted to do something for women’s boxing and I knew that television was there. I was exhausted by the first or second round. (Writer’s Note: Hallback won by TKO in the fourth round.)
Boxing Insider: You came back after a 5 year hiatus. You were really retired.
Bonnie Canino: I really shouldn’t have been in there. Especially after being overseas and I was on airplane after airplane.
Boxing Insider: How many kickboxing world titles did you win?
Bonnie Canino: Two. In WAKO and in KICK. I also won an American Continental title with ISKA (International Sport Karate Association).
Boxing Insider: After you won the IFBA title, I don’t see on your record that you defended the title. What happened with that?
Bonnie Canino: Back then, just to get a promoter to put a woman on a card was really hard. I could get a promoter to promote me on small cards, like 6 round fights or 8 round fights, but they wouldn’t do a world title fight (for 10 rounds) because they didn’t want to pay for the sanctioning fee. I was left with that turmoil of not being able to get a promoter. I was happy just to fight.
Boxing Insider: You were fighting. You were active. You had a belt you couldn’t defend.
Bonnie Canino: That’s when I decided to retire in 2000. I’ve been waiting since 1979. How long do I need to wait? I didn’t want to go through that time period of keep fighting, keep fighting, keep fighting for what?
Boxing Insider: 4 round fights.
Bonnie Canino: Yeah. It takes a lot when you are a professional fighter to stay in top condition. You have to sacrifice a lot and I did. I gave myself a time limit. I think I did it back in 1996. I was going to give myself until 2000. Back then, people were saying I’m getting too old. I retired (in 2000) when I was 37 or 38 (years old).
Boxing Insider: You fought Alicia Ashley in 1999 before she became a world champion. Do you recall that fight? (Writer’s Note: Ashley won by unanimous decision in an eight-round bout. The judges’ scores were close, but all in favor of Ashley. The scores were 77-76, 77-75, and 77-75.)
Bonnie Canino: Yes. We both kind of nullified ourselves. We both are southpaws. She was backing away. I was used to the girls coming forward. I never really thought I lost the fight. I didn’t feel like I lost to her. She was a great fighter. It could have been a draw. She was the younger boxer and I was the veteran boxer.
Boxing Insider: Regarding the judging in women’s boxing, in Mexico they are robbing the girls in this WBC flyweight tournament. I don’t know if you saw these fights on YouTube. They have the Mexicans all winning and then the girls like Melissa McMorrow and then a girl from Japan gets robbed. We know there are robberies, but do you think it is harder for a judge to determine who the winner is of a 2 minute round because it is shorter in time as opposed to a 3 minute round?
Bonnie Canino: No, I don’t think so. I think 2 minutes is ample time to be able to decide who the winner is. I had watched how many punches I threw in 2 minutes, the punch stats. I noticed that in boxing at a 2 minute pace, the boxers should throw at least 60 punches per round. Not (necessarily) connecting, but throwing, and that would be a busy round. That is why they give that punch stat so you can see how active or how fast-paced the fight is.
Boxing Insider: Since that is the division you fought in, I’ll talk about the featherweight division. There is a good world champion in Jelena Mrdjenovich. She’s the WBC/WBA champ. She fights legitimate contenders all the time. Then, you have IBF champ Jennifer Han. She was in your Golden Gloves tournament and I believe she won.
Bonnie Canino: Yeah.
Boxing Insider: Han fights people that are just below world-class level or not world-class at all in her title defenses. Elina Tissen who is the WIBF/GBU champion hasn’t fought a legitimate contender in 5 years. It seems to me that they are world champions not because of their ability, but because of the opportunity that they had to get a title shot and then the sanctioning bodies let them fight nobodies to defend it because they want to keep that show going, that promotion going, with that champion and that crowd to come in. Han has support from her city of El Paso, Texas. The IBF knows they have this champion that people like. People will buy tickets as long as Han remains the champion, so they give her soft title defenses, but also because the promoter may not have the money to pay for anybody good to go there because it is not televised. Obviously, television is necessary for women’s boxing to really flourish in my opinion. They are really only the world champs because they got the opportunity. What do you feel about that? (Writer’s Note: Cindy Serrano is scheduled to fight Calixta Silgado for the vacant WBO featherweight title. Silgado already had two title shots and lost both of them to Han and Cindy’s sister Amanda who previously held the WBO featherweight title before vacating it. Silgado is currently rated No. 43 in the world at featherweight by BoxRec.)
Bonnie Canino: Every fight is hard, so whenever Han goes out there, she is not fighting the best, but it’s still a hard fight for her. It’s everywhere. The same thing with myself. I had some easy fights and tough fights. You just have to look past that and keep going and keep growing.
Boxing Insider: The reason why I say this is because there are a lot of contenders that don’t get title shots and they are better than the champions like Elina Tissen. She is rated No. 25. She won so many biased decisions that she should really be rated about No. 40 in the world, not 25. She is going to defend her title against a girl with a losing record who she already defeated before.
Bonnie Canino: I was never very proud of fights such as (when I fought) April Griffith. (Writer’s Note: Canino knocked out Griffith in the first round. It was Griffith’s pro debut.) They were embarrassing to me. They were wins.
Boxing Insider: But they weren’t title defenses.
Bonnie Canino: No, they were just fights.
Boxing Insider: It’s different when they are the world champions.
Bonnie Canino: But that’s what’s wrong with fighting. You don’t see the best people.
Boxing Insider: Because they want to protect their interests and also because of the lack of television, they don’t have the money to pay for good opponents.
Bonnie Canino: What happened to the men’s boxing is happening to the women’s boxing, but not all the time. Every now and then, you get some really great fights. It’s a money thing and how many people are going to buy that pay-per-view for the fights. The UFC is eventually going to go that way.
Boxing Insider: Do you think, yeah?
Bonnie Canino: Eventually.
Boxing Insider: The UFC dominates mixed martial arts so much. Bellator is their closest competition. The UFC has all the top talent. Bellator has maybe one person in the top ten and the UFC has at least nine people in the top ten for every division. With boxing, there is not one sanctioning body that has all or the vast majority of the talent, although the WBC probably has the most talent in women’s boxing. That’s another thing. Look at all these minor belts they have.
Bonnie Canino: Everybody has belts. When I go to the (Golden Gloves) tournament, everybody wants belts. Everybody’s a champion. Belts are immaterial. What’s material to me is who have you fought, how many rounds have you fought, how many fights have you fought. The belts to me, they don’t really mean much to be honest. It’s the people who I fought and me going out there competing and fighting.
Boxing Insider: I remember my Taekwondo instructor said a belt is only good to hold up your pants.
Bonnie Canino: Right. It’s not the black belt that you wear on your waist. It’s the black belt in your heart and knowing that you can go out there and you can do it. That’s what a true black belt is.
Boxing Insider: Because the major sanctioning bodies got involved in women’s boxing, they have most of the top talent right now. The Women’s International Boxing Federation (WIBF) doesn’t have the quality or quantity of talent that they had in the past.
Bonnie Canino: That’s because it wasn’t marketed right. I think with belts, you have to set your standards right away. With Barbara, she just couldn’t do it all by herself. It was people that were giving her bad advice.
Boxing Insider: Her minor belts are not even recognized by BoxRec and no one wants to fight for them because they are not registered on BoxRec.
Bonnie Canino: The people that used to help her were old and they died. The guy over there in Germany, Jurgen (Lutz), he had Regina Halmich and it (the WIBF belt) was a belt to have. Barbara gave her the first opportunity, but it’s like everybody is jumping on the bandwagon. You had the WIBA (Women’s International Boxing Association) and you had the IFBA before the men’s sanctioning bodies even thought about it. Back in the 1990s, those were the belts to have. Now all the girls want to have the guy’s belts because they want to be a part of that.
Boxing Insider: The prestige is with the belts from the major sanctioning bodies. The WBC female belt, that’s the one that everyone wants. The WBC has their major world belt and they have so many minor belts. I researched this. In women’s boxing, the WBC has triple the amount of belts and champions of the next highest sanctioning body.
Bonnie Canino: Yeah, money. Yvonne (Reis) won the belt. (Writer’s Note: Yvonne Reis won the vacant and inaugural WBC female middleweight title in 2006.) We went to Kenya, Africa. She fought in front of a sold out crowd. It was the second biggest fight in Africa. It was spectacular. It was great. She even got Fighter of the Month for the WBC. She had six months to defend the belt. She had to find a promoter. If not, she would lose the belt. (Writer’s Note: Reis did not defend the belt within six months.)
Boxing Insider: Here it is on BoxRec. Win by split decision. She had a lot of title shots. She didn’t win all of them.
Bonnie Canino: She got shafted a lot by poor judging. I’ve never seen anybody get ripped off so bad like she got ripped off. I threw temper fits the last two times.
Boxing Insider: The Internet is good for seeing fights. If you see it, then you know if someone got robbed or not. Also, the news on the Internet is informative because there are so many boxing writers. For example, if I go to a show and I see a bad decision, I write about it. What were your other major fights in kickboxing besides fighting Lucia Rijker?
Bonnie Canino: I fought Kathy Long at Caesars Palace in a 12 round fight in 1990. It was my first world championship fight.
Boxing Insider: You got robbed, right?
Bonnie Canino: Yeah, I got robbed (by the judges). They held up her hand (as the winner). At the time, we had commentators and they were outspoken and said it was a robbery. Losing that fight was terrible. It was devastating. I fought six world title kickboxing fights in one year. I was lucky. I defended it in April and in June and then I had a fight scheduled in October 1993. The day I was supposed to go flying (to the fight), I was out having dinner with my parents. I took them to the gym where I dropped them off. It was late at night and they were getting into their car. Fighters before a fight, they shouldn’t get riled up. The week before a fight, you want them to stay calm. Two guys approached my mom’s car. They were about to rob them or shoot them. I saw what was happening. I got out of my car.
Boxing Insider: Where did this happen?
Bonnie Canino: It was at US-1 Fitness. I roared (in anger) and the two guys ran across the street. I let all my energy go. I let that roar out. When it was time to fight in the ring against Lisa Howarth, I went out there instead like a sparring match. They were so used to me being like a tiger. They took the title away from me. She didn’t really take the title away from me. I have the film (of the fight). They gave it to her.
Boxing Insider: Your trainer was Bert Rodriguez, right?
Bonnie Canino: Yes.
Boxing Insider: And he was at US-1 Fitness which is a different gym now. He married Kathy Rivers, right? (Writer’s Note: Kathy Rivers was a light heavyweight and heavyweight contender from the late 1990s to 2014 when she had her last fight. She had four world title shots and lost all four of them.)
Bonnie Canino: Yeah, he ended up marrying Kathy Rivers.
Boxing Insider: I met both of them, by the way. I was in an acting class in Hollywood, Florida and they came in to take the class too. That was a year before the 9/11 attacks. I read that he inadvertently trained one of the suspected terrorists. Regarding the Golden Gloves (for women), I was at the one this year. The other one I went to was several years ago. I recall that a lot of the boxers who were in the finals several years ago were from different states in the nation whereas the one this year had most of the finalists from New York. I was thinking is it because there is a decline of interest in the other states and New York has a lot of interest or is it because New York is so much better than the other states?
Bonnie Canino: New York has a very strong federation in their Golden Gloves. If you win the New York Golden Gloves, then they will send you to the Nationals. They will pay for the airplane and hotel.
Boxing Insider: You wrote the book titled The Body which is sold on Amazon. I felt even before reading it that this book would be good for men and women. (Writer’s Note: The book is an illustrated guide to basic boxing fundamentals. Hand wrapping and workout routines are also included.)
Bonnie Canino: It is. Basically, it’s for everybody. I am a woman and I don’t have the power and the strength of a man, so I have to use my technique and my strategy more than just using brute strength like some of the guys do.
Boxing Insider: The WBC said that they wanted to limit women’s boxing to 10 rounds, 2 minute rounds, because they are worried about dehydration and concussion issues, all these pseudoscientific studies. What do you feel about that?
Bonnie Canino: That’s bullcrap. They’re wrong. It should be equal. That’s why I like MMA. It has that recognition. It doesn’t matter in MMA if you’re a woman or a man. You’re going to fight 5 rounds, 5 minutes (per round). If they want a real world champion, then the fights should be 12 rounds, 3 minutes (per round) for a woman boxer and you’ll weed out some of the world championship fighters.
Photo for this article is from the front cover of The Body by Bonnie “The Cobra” Canino. ISBN 9781481104142
Corrections to article: There was an error on Canino’s record on BoxRec.com which led me to believe that she never made a title defense of her IFBA featherweight title. However, Canino did make two title defenses of the IFBA belt. After Canino won the title against Beverly Szymanski by unanimous decision, Canino’s next fight was against Cora Webber. BoxRec incorrectly shows the result of that fight as being a six-round fight that Canino won by split decision. Fight Fax which is boxing’s official records keeper shows the result of that fight as being a win by unanimous decision for Canino in a ten-round fight. Fight Fax also shows the fight as being for the IFBA title. Therefore, this was Canino’s first defense of the IFBA title. After this fight, Canino fought in a WIBF featherweight title fight and lost to Chevelle Hallback by TKO in the seventh round. Canino next fought Nora Daigle with the IFBA featherweight title at stake. This was Canino’s second defense of the IFBA title. I thought that Canino did not have the IFBA belt at the time because she fought for the WIBF title. Usually, a sanctioning body will strip a world champion of her title if she fights for the title of another sanctioning body. Apparently, this did not happen based on other research that I have done. Therefore, Canino’s fight against Daigle was her second successful IFBA title defense. After this fight, Canino did not have any more title defenses according to BoxRec and Fight Fax records. There is also a minor error in another fight of Canino. BoxRec shows the result of her fight against Gina Davis as being a win by TKO in the first round. Fight Fax shows the result as being a win by KO in the first round. I will inform BoxRec of the errors and send them Canino’s official Fight Fax record so that the corrections can be made on her BoxRec record.