Fredia Gibbs

Mixed Martial Arts

MMA and Martial Arts Champion

In 1964, Cassius Clay famously declared, “I shook up the world.”

This was after beating Sonny Liston for the world heavyweight boxing championship (and a few weeks before changing his name to Muhammed Ali).

Three decades later, Delaware County’s Fredia Gibbs echoed those same words when she captured the world super-lightweight kickboxing title in 1994. Gibbs’ upset of French superstar Valerie Wiet-Henin was seen by millions on pay per view and with the victory, Gibbs became the first African-American female to win a world kickboxing championship. Nicknamed “The Cheetah,” Gibbs had ascended to become “The Most Dangerous Woman in the World.”

Many people in the county feel that Fredia Gibbs is arguably the greatest all-around female athlete in Delaware County history.

Before winning the World Championship Kickboxing title, Gibbs was credited with completely turning around a winless Chester High School girls’ basketball program, leading the 1981 Clippers to the Delaware Valley title, district championship, and state semi-finalist, as a senior, for which she earned All-Delco, All-State, and All- American honors.

In track, Gibbs won an individual gold medal and helped lead Chester to the 1981 state team championship. After graduation, she received a scholarship to play basketball at Temple University. After a year, she transferred to Cabrini University, where she played basketball for three seasons and was selected to the Division III All-American team.

At Cabrini, her 2,395 career points, 680 career assists, and 318 career steals smashed every women’s basketball record. Cabrini is now the site of a sixfoot bronze statue of Gibbs dedicated on September 28,2022. Award winning Jennifer Frudakis-Perry sculpted the sixfoot bronze statue.

“Fredia deserves the honor,” said Frudakis-Petry, “and I am honored to be the one to do it. It will be the first statue of a female athlete in the state of Pennsylvania. It’s long overdue. What’s better than a woman sculpting a statue of a world-class woman athlete?”

“I am in awe of being the first female athlete in the state of Pennsylvania to have a statue,” stated Gibbs. “Having a woman do the sculpture makes it even more special. It’s about the she.” Gibbs went on to say, “Cabrini is home to me., The togetherness that I experienced there and the tools that the school provided helped me to achieve greatness in my career. Cabrini is the best place this statue could be.”

After her collegiate career, Gibbs played pro basketball in the European Women’s Professional League for team Etzella, based in Luxembourg, where she led her team in scoring and rebounding while leading Etzella to their first European Cup.

In 1997, she accepted her next challenge and competed in women’s professional boxing where she became a top contender with several ESPN televised bouts. After achieving a 9-2 record, Fredia, also known as “Lady Jack Johnson,” was forced to retire due to an injury. The former threetime world champion in Tae Kwon Do has also received the American martial Arts Alliance’s highest honor, The AMAA Who’s Who Legends Award, honored along with actor Chuck Norris, star of TV’s Walker: Texas Ranger. She was nominated for this award by another martial arts legend, actor Bob Wall, star of Enter the Dragon with Bruce Lee. Gibbs has also worked as an actress and a model.

In retirement, Fredia was the subject of a biographical documentary titled The Most Dangerous Woman, which is scheduled to be released this fall.

“The Most Dangerous Woman in the World” started out as a bullied young schoolgirl. “I was tormented by bullies,” Gibbs once recalled. “They would taunt me and chase me home from school.

“It was my uncle who introduced me to karate to help me defend myself. These early karate lessons taught me the important concepts of self-confidence and self-esteem as well as the skills to protect myself.”

Fredia is widely considered to be among the top ten greatest African American female athletes of all time, alongside such legends as Serena Williams, FloJo and Wilma Rudolph.

In 2019, Fredia was inducted into the Cabrini University Athletic Hall of Fame; recognized by Cabrini officials as the school’s greatest athlete, male or female, of all time. That same year, she was also inducted into the Pennsylvania State Athletic Hall of Fame, Delaware County Chapter. Tonight she joins the other great contributors to the world of sports in the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.

By Rich Pagano

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