If the event was billed as boxing's most celebrated showcase that Israel has known, hometown girl Hagar Finer did not fail to meet expectations. Before a nationally televised audience and thousands of cheering spectators at Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv, Finer retained her WIBF bantamweight crown by handily defeating Latvian challenger Agnese Boza with a fifth-round knockout last night.
Both fighters began the match hesitantly, but the bout gained momentum in the second round. Finer lifted her arms in the air triumphantly at the bell, and justifiably so. She landed a number of crosses that kept Boza, who was at a distinct disadvantage against the taller Finer, on the defensive.
The Israeli solidified her control of the bout in the third round. Boza, who replaced Finer's original opponent, American Stephanie Dobbs, was victimized by the champion's devastating right hand. As time expired in the fifth round, Finer sent Boza to the canvas with a powerful right blow. Although Boza got back on her feet, the referee declared the bout over, as he ruled that the Latvian could not sustain the continue pummeling. Finer erupted in joyous celebration, embracing her trainer and manager Ra'anan Tal.
Finer credited the crowd with providing a home-field advantage that simply overwhelmed the Latvian challenger. "I hope the Israeli people will get to know her even more," Tal said of Finer. "We want to defend the title here in Israel because the refereeing abroad is hostile against us.
"We need to support boxing. In Israel we have sports besides soccer, and Hagar's achievements should not be for naught. We need the Israeli people to pump money into the sport."
The evening had all the trappings of a major fight. Before the bout, Finer was greeted with a rousing ovation from an audience that included some of Israel's most recognizable faces from the entertainment and sports world.
Her victory may prove to be a breakthrough moment for women's boxing in Israel. Though the sport remains in its infancy in Israel, boxing organizers can take comfort in the fact that they have found a charismatic, marketable ambassador in Hagar Finer.
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