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Boxer-turned-MMA fighter's message to female boxers: 'Take up martial arts'

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Angelo Reyes

Ana Julaton isn't a full-time boxer anymore. But it's not because she lost her love for the sweet science.

Julaton, who competes in MMA for ONE Championship, grew tired of the lack of opportunities in women's boxing and saw women headlining major MMA events going back to Strikeforce with Gina Carano and Cris Cyborg. Although there seems to be a shift happening in boxing now -- at least that's the company line -- Julaton will believe it when she sees it.

"When it finally happens, I think everyone will know," Julaton told MMA Fighting. "Until then, it's nonexistent."

Julaton, 35, made her MMA debut in 2014. After a decorated amateur boxing career, the San Francisco native of Filipino descent turned pro in 2007. Julaton, a former pupil of Freddie Roach and Roger Mayweather, is still allowed to take boxing fights with her ONE contract and competed in the ring as recently as this past March.

It's a hard habit to kick since she's been doing it for so long. But when Julaton sees Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm headlining a UFC card that drew more than 56,000 fans in Melbourne, Australia last month, she can't help but shake her head at boxing. The co-main event of UFC 193 also featured two women in Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Valerie Letourneau.

In her mind, this is something boxing could have done long ago. But women weren't even allowed to box in the Olympics until 2012.

"It's just giving them the stage," said Julaton, who meets Irina Mazepa at ONE: Spirit of Champions on Friday in Manila, Philippines. "That's really all it took. You also have to give credit to a lot of the females who actually go into the cage and put on a performance -- whether it's a devastating knockout or you have some awesome wrestling.

"It all started with Strikeforce and having Gina Carano fight and fighting against Cris Cyborg and just having promoters actually spending and investing money on these women and promoting them. Having these media tours. It's a big deal."

Julaton, a former WBO female super bantamweight champion, said she has had discussions with boxing's power brokers and the response is politically correct. It just hasn't manifested itself in practice.

"When you're having a conversation with a Bob Arum, or a Bruce Trampler or even like an Oscar [De La Hoya], there are like these invisible things that are happening right in front of your face," Julaton said. "Even though publicly and on record they're saying all the correct things."

On Saturday night, an up-and-coming female boxer named Heather Hardy fought at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The bout came on after the main event between Daniel Jacobs and Peter Quillin, which aired on Showtime. The contest pitting Hardy and Noemi Bosques was not broadcast and basically ignored behind the boxing analysts talking on the premium cable channel.

Julaton cannot understand how that can happen when the same boxers from yesteryear continue to get recycled and put on big cards.

"You have these old f*ckers on primetime TV fighting," Julaton said. "I was like, 'Dude isn't this guy like 50? Why is he fighting?' It's like, we want some fresh blood. But whatever."

Ring Magazine put Rousey on the cover before the loss to Holm and it drew a ton of criticism in the boxing community. Julaton said it was good and bad. Rousey has never boxed, but at least it was a woman. If anything, Rousey has proven there is major interest in seeing women compete in combat sports.

De La Hoya has said his Golden Boy Promotions will begin doing a better job putting women's boxers in the spotlight. Julaton is taking a wait-and-see approach. She's heard it all before.

"I don't know if that's gonna be enough to have Oscar actually legitimizing female boxing, putting them onto his cards and having them televised," Julaton said. "I don't know. Until then, all the female boxers should take up martial arts if they want to continue on being a professional fighter."