Cooper Comes Back to the World Stage at Home in Las Vegas
An unfamiliar journey began the night of March 31, 2011 in San Jose, Costa Rica. An international stage was set for the second world championship of undefeated boxer Melinda Cooper. Amassing a record of 21-0 and stepping up to the 122-pound weight division, Melinda traveled across continents to challenge Ada Velez of Puerto Rico for the vacant title. What many thought would be a clear outcome was not meant to be. Losing a controversial split decision, Melinda’s grasp on the world title had slipped away after coming so close. Her fate was decided by three judges. In the moment of an announcement her undefeated record was gone. Also gone, was her opportunity at the world title.
Fast forward to eight months later and the setting is now in Las Vegas, the city of lights where twenty-six year old Melinda was born, raised, educated, and most importantly, where she met James Pena, her longtime boxing trainer and mentor. The formidable duo met when Melinda was just 11 years old. In a crowd of boys at the Nevada Partners community center stood Melinda, yet she stood out particularly for her skills.
“I knew she would be a champion,” James said. Together, they reigned on the national amateur scene for years. Melinda, a national champion many times over turned professional at the age of 17 – the youngest female boxer to ever join the professional ranks in the state of Nevada. Nine years into her pro career, Melinda remained undefeated, that was, until she faced Velez earlier in the year.
Now chartering unfamiliar territory, Melinda and James not only navigate through the depths of suffering a loss, but within the team, to find the inspiration to reface the same challenge once again. This Sunday, Melinda gets another opportunity to claim her second world title, she and Velez will rematch in Las Vegas on Sampson Boxing’s fight card at the Texas Station Hotel and Casino. An establishment co-owned by the prominent Fertitta family, who also own the Ultimate Fighting Championship organization, Melinda is truly happy to be back on familiar ground – her home, the fight capital of the world.Continued on the next page