Although boxing is often called the “Sweet Science,” it’s a macho sport not normally associated with pretty women. Sure there’s those sexy card girls who prance around the ring between rounds, but they make a quick exit before the bell rings. Then again, if you’re an athletic young lady with talent, courage and have a savvy promoter, a bright future is definitely obtainable.
A case in point is 23 year old Kenia Enriquez, who earned a championship belt for the second time in her career back on May 27th in Ciudad Obregon, Mexico. The Tijuana native was too fast and aggressive for opponent Maria “La Polvorita” Salinas, doubling her over with a vicious left hook to the body at 1:57 of the third round. Salinas wanted “no mas” and when the referee halted the battle, Enriquez raced to embrace her handlers with tears of joy.
“This was a very tough camp and I worked the hardest I ever have in training for this fight,” explained Kenia. “Once I won, I felt the culmination of that and got emotional when I saw my team in the corner.”
Boxing has never been a bed of roses for Kenia Enriquez, but focus and determination have kept her on the right track. The oldest daughter of four siblings, she first hit the gym at age 13 and would have 74 fights as an amateur, losing only six times. Still trained by her father Gustavo Enriquez, the tall and slender Kenia has now boxed professionally for five years, racking up a record of 19-1 with nine knockouts. She immediately became the darling of locals after a long string of opening victories at Tijuana’s Las Pulgas night club. The bad news was that Enriquez had become so popular, it became difficult to find opponents willing battle her in the border city. That’s when longtime promoter, restaurateur and entrepreneur Bobby DePhilippis began to take a lead role, finding new venues and opportunities for Kenia that expanded her fan base.
DePhilippis, 67, has been promoting boxing shows in San Diego and other cities since 1981. Under the banner “Bobby D. Presents”, his events at the landmark El Cortez Hotel were so successful that ESPN aired several telecasts there. As a result, DePhilippis became well connected and has rubbed elbows with the likes of Bob Arum and Don King. A short list of champions he has managed include Jesus “Hawaiian Punch” Salud, James “The Heat” Kinchen, and Tony “Bazooka” DeLuca. Furthermore, Bobby was instrumental in guiding the careers of Orlin and Terry Norris, Lupe Aquino and Paul Vaden.
Outside the ring, DePhilippis has owned several renowned steak houses and currently operates six locations of the famed Filippi’s Pizza Grotto chain, a lucrative family enterprise. Additionally, DePhilippis founded Seacoast Commerce Bank with several partners in 2004, and still acts as its director. But there’s something about the fight game that gets in your blood, and this man remains addicted to the sport.
“I’ve tried to get out of boxing for years, but it keeps sucking me back in,” Bobby admits, sounding a bit like Michael Corleone and his business ties in “Godfather III.”
DePhilippis continues to actively stage shows, holding events about once a month at the Grand Hotel in Tijuana in partnership Memo Mayen and Promociones Mayen. The pair have a working agreement with TV Azteca and occasionally join hands with Zanfer Promotions. As a tribute to his prominence in the game, DePhilippis will become a West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame inductee this coming October. Busy as he is, Bobby has always been genuinely excited about Kenia Enriquez, booking her on cards in San Diego, Mexicali and the The Forum in Inglewood as she gradually moved up in the world rankings.
Enriquez won her first crown in late 2014 by unanimous decision over Ana Arrazola for the vacant WBO flyweight title. She didn’t keep it long however, losing by a split verdict three months later against Melissa McMorrow in her first title defense. That bout would be the only blemish on Kenia’s pro record, and with it she gained some valuable knowledge.
“It was a tough (physical) fight against a tough opponent,” revealed Enriquez, ” and I learned that I should compete in my natural weight class at 108 pounds.”
Returning to the ring as a light flyweight, Kenia has since rolled off five straight wins with two knockouts, dominating rivals like former champion Katia Gutierrez and highly ranked Amaris Quintana. The championship bout against Salinas was especially gratifying because it was sanctioned by the World Boxing Council, widely recognized as the top ruling body in the sport.
“I knew from the beginning that Kenia had the talent to become a world champion,” noted DePhilippis after the battle in Obregon. “This was her peak performance and she deserved to win the title. Now it’s all about keeping it.”
Beaming with renewed confidence and a prestigious belt, Enriquez is starting to dream about what opportunities might lie ahead.
“Now I envision myself performing on bigger stages like Las Vegas, the Staples Center or Madison Square Garden,” says Kenia with a pretty smile.
And with heavy-hitters like Bobby DePhilippis by her side, anything is possible.