By Ken Hissner: On Christmas night, I was having dinner at my cousins when my niece Macaul Mellor who is a Colorado State graduate working and coaching at Cabrini University in Radnor, Pennsylvania, mentioned someone named Frieda Gibbs, who attended there being a boxer. She said the school dedicated a statue for her.
We found later it was on September 28th at Reflection Pond next to the Thomas P. Nerney Pavilion. The statue is the first erected in the name of a female in Pennsylvania. The Bronze statue was created by sculptor Jennifer Frudakis-Petry of Doylestown, PA. “Cabrini is home to me,” said Gibbs.
We went to www.boxrec.com, and there was the name Frieda “Cheetah” Gibbs. Then we googled her name for more information that said that Gibbs net worth was $18 million. She was a sports icon and a Muay Thai kickboxing legend.
It added that Gibbs was a former professional martial artist, kickboxer, and boxer who competed from 1975 to 2005. During her kickboxing career, she held ISKA, WKA, and WKF World Titles. Before her kickboxing career, she was an All-American in basketball and track at Cabrini University.
Gibbs made history when she became the first African-American female Kickboxing ISKA World champion. She earned the name “The Most Dangerous Woman in the World” after an upset in 1994 in her fight against World Champion Valerie Wiet-Henin of France in the “Battle of the Masters” in a Pay Per View Event in San Jose, California.
She went on to become one of the most dominant champions of all time and remains a significant historical figure in light and super lightweight kickboxing divisions. She had moved to Northern Hollywood, California, and competed from 1991 to 1997, with a 16-0 record with 15 knockouts, and held three world titles. She also had a draw in an exhibition against a male opponent.
Gibbs wrote the “Frieda Gibbs Story” about her life in 2016. She was born in Chester, Pennsylvania. She was given the nickname “The Cheetah” at school due to her performance in track. Chester High School named their track team “Chester’s Cheetah’s” after Gibbs. She was credited to turning a winless program there in basketball into a Division Champion and District Champion earning All-State and All American honors.
After high school, Gibbs attended Temple University in Philadelphia, where she was the recipient of two athletic scholarships in basketball and track. She lost her scholarship after one season due to academics. She then attended Cabrini University on a basketball scholarship, and majored in marketing. She was invited to the United State Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to try out for the women’s United States women’s national basketball team but was cut during the second tryouts.
Gibbs was selected Kodak All American for three consecutive years for basketball at Cabrini University. She went on to play professional basketball in Germany, for Team Etzella in Luxembourg, averaging almost 30 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists a season, leading them to their first European Cup.
In January of 1997, Gibbs started boxing professionally, compiling a 4-0 record that year. Five months later, due to unfortunate scheduling, Gibbs fought for the vacant IFBA Light Welterweight World Title against Leah Mellinger, 5-3-1 (2 losses to future world champions) during a time she was filming the movie “Knockout.” The intense film schedule combined with the cross country flight from Los Angeles to Atlantic City, New Jersey, was less than ideal, and Gibbs suffered her first loss. Six months later, she defeated Canada’s Olivia “The Predator” Gerula, 3-2-1.
In January of 1999, Gibbs handed Las Vegas hometown favorite and future world champion Hannah Fox, 9-0, her first and only career loss over ESPN2. She followed this with a pair of wins over Michelle Vidales, 2-0, and Suzanne Howard, 6-2.
In November of 2001 in Austin, Texas, Gibbs fought a highly anticipated match against WIBA and Global Boxing Union World champion Sumya Anani, 18-1, who had previously defeated former world champion Christy Martin.
The match with Anani ended in a majority draw. Instead of a rematch, Anani, in a title defense, went on to defeat former world champion Janet Couch, 16-3. Then moved up to defeat IBA World Welterweight champion Lisa Holewyne, 18-7-1.
Then Anani finally agreed to a rematch, but it wasn’t until April 2003. Gibbs couldn’t answer the bell after the second round due to a possible fracture to her right hand, losing to Anani, 21-1-1. “I came in ready to win this fight, but Sumay is a strong fighter, and I was not prepared to fight her with only my left hand.” Following the fight, she announced her retirement from boxing. This ended her boxing career at 9-2-1 with 4 stoppages.
Gibbs has also worked as an actress and a sports model for Sebastian International Sports Department. She has been featured in Black Achievers, Black Belt, Delco Times, Inside Karate, Jet, Los Angeles Sentinel, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Sports Illustrated for Women, and Upscale Magazine. In 2000, Gibbs played the villain Tanya “Terminator” Tessario in the film “Knockout.”
In 1996, she had a cameo in an episode of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
Gibbs fight gear is displayed at the Sports Legend of Delaware County Museum in Pennsylvania, dedicated to preserving the history and memory of Delaware County Sports Legends. She is an author, celebrity trainer, philanthropist, motivational speaker, and radio host.
In 2016-2017 she was honored and participated in the Orange County Black Heritage Black History Parade and was nominated to attend the United States of Women summit hosted at the White House.
In 2016 Gibbs was named one of the Top Ten Greatest African American Athletes of All-Time for Kickboxing.