Virani and Kasandra prepare for a tough title fight
Preparations for a fight start months before the big night. Now an experienced campaigner, Virani MacVicar is used to the schedule.
However, this camp is a little special. This is not only Virani’s third world title fight, but her first title defence in her hometown against a fighter she used to train with – Kasandra Sobieski.
Having sparred with Kasandra before, Virani a clear respect for her skills. She knows that anyone that can defeat Kayleigh Parsons is going to be a talented fighter. Another person with respect for the challenger’s skills is Sandra Blohm. She very much wants this first title defence to go as swimmingly as possible, and she works with Virani to sharpen the skills she needs to defeat Kasandra.
Sandra: “Kasandra Sobieski may not be your mandatory challenger, but she’s not some girl that’s going to take a dive. She’s tall and she boxes well. That gives her some clear advantages over you.”
Virani: “Let’s not talk her up too much.”
Sandra: “I’m not here to call you champ and tell you how great you are.”
Virani: “Maybe after I win?”
Sandra: “Don’t get your hopes up. Now, I’ve brought in Namid Henderson to spar. She just gave Emma a hell of a fight, so we know she’s legit. She’s also tall like Kasandra, so you’ll get used to fighting someone that will have a distinct reach advantage.”
Virani and Namid get in the ring. Under Sandra’s direction, Virani puts pressure on the Native American fighter, who fights from a tall stance, keeping her away from Virani’s incoming punches.
Adjusting, Virani uses a probing jab to keep Namid positioned where Virani wants her – all the while using her right hand as a threat that could follow up behind.
Sandra: “Good! Not every punch needs to land, but we want Kasandra to feel like she’s consistently under threat. That she can’t throw a jab without fear of retribution. Also, we want her along the ropes and in the corners where she has less space to move.”
Namid feels the pressure of being in the ring with a powerful puncher, and she doesn’t really like it. She works an active jab, trying to get Virani to back away from her and give her some space. Although she gets tagged often at the start, Virani adapts, keeping a looser upper body, making her more difficult to hit and keeping her in range to fire back.
Sandra: “Good! The longer she’s in range to punch, the more chances of her making a mistake. Now, she’s got to watch out for your responding with your left. You have to watch for her right hand too! Don’t get lulled into a sense of security!”
The third tactic that Sandra drills Virani on is the use of overhands.
While that has always been a punch in Virani’s arsenal, with Kasandra being tall, the overhand can be used to strike at a distance, and from unexpected angles.
Though often these more wild punches miss the target, when they do connect, they do so with real authority.
Namid thinks: This is a hard way to make a living.
Sandra: “Good. We keep her scared of what you can throw and we don’t let her key on your left hook. We’re going to be a multi-dimensional puncher in there!”
Kasandra Sobieski prepares for her first title fight with her coach and Virani’s former coach, Thomas Nagy in her corner.
Thomas: “The key to beating Virani is to not let her get her power game get started. You’ve been hit by her before, so you know how that is.”
Kasandra: “It’s unpleasant.”
Thomas: “That was just sparring. She can hit like absolute thunder. The good news is – you have a great chin and you have a reach advantage. That’s what we want to work on – keeping the fight on the outside and not letting her get into her range where she can be effective.”
Kasandra: “Make it my fight.”
Thomas: “She’s the champion, so you can’t just jab your way to victory, but we want to make her desperate.”
Sparring with Kasandra in preparation is the lovely Mechelle Gauthier, who plays the role of Virani. Kasandra fights tall, using her jab to disrupt when she comes into range. Mechelle finds the experience difficult, a quick jab making her take evasive action to avoid getting a red glove in the face.
Thomas: “When Virani steps in, it’s your job to make her pay. Time when she comes in, and be first. You have reach, so you can be reactive. But be quick.”
Mechelle: “I don’t mind if she’s slow.”
Kasandra: “You’ll enjoy my leather.”
Kasandra shows a good understanding of distance, baiting Mechelle in and then punishing her when she tries to close the distance. As promised, Kasandra gives Mechelle a good dose of red Adidas leather.
Thomas: “Last think you’ll need is to keep a fluid defence. You’re going to get in close with Virani, and you can’t allow yourself to be consistently placed on the back foot. Keeping the movement up will allow you to counterattack.”
Kasandra: “I’ll be more open to getting hit.”
Thomas: “That’s why you have to be near perfect. It’s a high standard, but we have to hit it.”
Getting hit is what Kasandra does at first, as Mechelle is able to make headway against the Polish fighter’s defence.
Kasandra adapts, gaining a sense of Mechelle’s timing, and uses some subtle and slick moves to stay in the pocket without getting clipped by ‘The Pretty Warrior.’
Thomas: “Good work in camp. This was the hard part. The easy part is the fight.”
Kasandra: “Easy for you to say.”
The Weigh in
The day before the fight, there’s a moment that some fighters dread for various reasons – the weigh-in. Both fighters have to make the Featherweight limit of 126 pounds. Although both are seasoned campaigners at Featherweight, it’s not a fun experience to cut to that weight for this event.
This is also a public weigh-in, and as its a title fight in the champion’s hometown, there is a very strong media and crowd presence.
Up first is the challenger, Kasandra, who is also fighting in her current hometown. There’s a little crowd support naturally and a lot more as she emerges with a stunning red and black bikini.
Announcer: “Kasandra Sobieski weighs in at 126 pounds! The challenger makes weight!”
Kasandra gives the crowd and the assembled photographers a heart sign, happy to have had this part completed.
The champion gets the honour of emerging last. The Canadian plays to the crowd, wearing a delightful gold bikini, no doubt to indicate her status as champion.
Virani steps up to the scale, and the weight is set.
Announcer: “The WBU Champion Virani MacVicar also makes weight! 125.5 pounds for the champion!”
Virani soaks in the applause from the crowd, cheekily cupping her ear to get the crowd to applaud more.
With the fight officially confirmed, there’s one last moment to share before the two fighters will meet in the ring tomorrow. For the photographers and the crowd, the two combatants come face to face for a staredown. Virani wears her title on her bicep as she flexes, while Kasandra places her hands on her hips, clearly not impressed.
No fighter tries for any verbal intimidation, but the intensity in the staredown promises violence in tommorow’s title fight.
Announcer: “There you have it, Virani MacVicar vs. Kasandra Sobieski tomorrow at the sold out Coca-Cola Coliseum. Watch live on Star Sports 2, starting at 9pm!”
It’s been a while since Virani faced a boxer who has a clear height advantage over her and Namid makes for an interesting sparring partner. Her only weakness is that unlike Kasandra, she’s more shy in the ring.
The practice is still good. Gotta be selective to avoid getting tagged too often on the way in.
We can’t say that Kass doesn’t follow up when she makes a promise. I’ll be curious to read Mechelle’s review of her leather 😆 Those sessions prepare the Pole for a classic battle. The tall boxer looking to keep control of the ring against a puncher. All about timing.
This time, Virani has quite the companion to make the weigh-in a strong marketing event. Better refill on water and food quickly, ladies. Making weight is always draining.
Virani has faced taller boxers, but Kasandra is clearly a level above those that she has faced before. Namid is a good copy of Kasandra, but isn’t quite a perfect match.
Kass does give Mechelle a bit of a tough time, but Mechelle, as ever is not there to complain. She has to control space against the puncher in Virani.
That weigh in scene was fun to make, for sure :D. Get that water back in ASAP.
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