10
Sep
14

13 years …

13 years …

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The Twin Towers in July 1983, with New Yorkers taking in the sun on the beach created by the WTC landfill.                      Photo by Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times

Sometimes I just can’t breathe if I think about it for too long.

Not only is it the towers, but in remembering the landscape when it was possible to walk on the landfill beach at the edge of the Hudson where it felt more like an end of the world place than a city. A landscape inspired by Fellini, in a New York that still had roughened edges with none of the cleanliness of our current patina of Disneyesque public spaces.

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Still from Frederico Fellini’s 8-1/2

Yes. Life moves along. But for some of us the Twin Towers still informs out sense of who we are in a world that seems to have become that much meaner in the void of their absence.

As always, I choose peace.

 

04
Sep
14

Ahead of her 9/5/14 bout, Eileen “The Hawaiian Mongoose” Olszewski Exclusive Q & A

Ahead of her 9/5/14 bout at Brooklyn’s Masonic Temple, Eileen “The Hawaiian Mongoose” Olszewski Exclusive Q & A

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Flyweight Boxing champion Eileen “The Hawaiian Mongoose” Olszewski (9-5-2, 1-KO), 45 years of age, will be back in the ring on Friday, September 5, 2014.

She will be fighting an eight-round, Main Event bout at the famed Brooklyn Masonic Temple taking on Christina Fuentes, (3-6-4), 22 years of age, from Laredo, Texas.  Fuentes is well-known to New York City boxing fans having fought Heather “The Heat” Hardy in a tough contest back in February. Olszewski, though is no stranger to tough competitive fights and will be bringing her “A” game to Friday’s contest. (For ticket information call: 646-831-9233.)

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Eileen Olszewski came to boxing with a long pursued martial arts pedigree. After a highly successful amateur career, she turned pro in 2006, having “aged-out” of the amateurs. In a division with a lot of quality fighters, she continues to holdher  own with the best of them and is currently ranked number two in the United States and in the top ten world side by Box Rec. She is also part of a growing group of highly talented female boxers who remain active competitors well into there 40s.

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Eileen Olszweski’s boxing belts. In her native Hawaii, she is the most decorated boxer in the state.

In between her busy schedule preparing for her fight, Eileen took the time email Girlboxing with a series of Q & A responses. A special thanks to her for sharing her thoughts on her upcoming fight, boxing in general and the things that are important to her in the sport.  Here’s what she had to say.

1. Coming off your successful win over Jodie Esquibel (6-7-1, 2-KOs) for the Universal Boxing Federation female flyweight title back in January, you will be taking on Christina Fuentes whose (3-6-4) record belies a tough, hard-hitting, scrappy fighter who has consistently pushed herself against tough opponents on September 5th at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple. Tell us about the fight and what your game plan is as your ready for the bout?  

There are many tough and formidable boxers whose records don’t belie their talent. The numbers can never convey the dynamics and circumstances of each fight. You need to look at whom and where they have fought primarily. For Fuentes, I look at her as I do with every opponent I step in the ring with. I underestimate no one.

2. Given that Christina is 22 years old and you will be turning 46 in September, how are you going about preparing for the swarming energy of a fighter half your age who has given such fighters a Heather Hardy a very hard-fought contest that some would arguably say she fought at least to a draw, if not an out-and-out win.

This is nothing new to me. Since I began in the amateurs the girls were always pretty close to half my age with more experience. It’s always bugged me when a reporter who hadn’t done their research labeled me “the veteran” because they just looked at the ages and assumed I was the more experienced fighter. I am fortunate to have a great coach in Matthew my husband that knows how to train me physically and mentally despite my age.

eileen013. You are listed in the #2 spot on the Box Rec list of top ten female fighters in the Flyweight division in the US and #10 in the World. Assuming a win against Christina Fuentes, what is next for you?

I never look past the fight I have in front of me at the moment. I focus on each fight as they come. I let my coach and manager handle the fights for me.

4.  Before you turned pro you had a successful three-year career in the amateurs. How did you get started in boxing? What made you decide to turn professional?

I began competing in boxing after training with Matthew in his fighting style, which combines western boxing, kickboxing, traditional Karate, Judo and Jiu Jitsu. He described it as a hybrid, which combines all the fighting arts necessary to be a complete fighter.  This was before the name “MMA” was even coined. After a year, he registered me with USA Boxing to give my training an application, as it was the most organized branch of combat with regular competitions. I just love boxing so after I exceeded the age limit for amateur boxing I wanted to continue.  It took three years to get my first fight and that’s where David Selwyn my manager saw me and the three of us have been together ever since.

 

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Eileen Olszweski landing a left hook against Anastasia Toktaulova in Miami, Florida, in their 8-round GBU and WIBA Flyweight Title Flight on 12/17/2010. Photo courtesy of Eileen Olszweski.

5.  Having watched you fight when you won the UBF title, it amazes me to think that you are turning 46. On the subject of age, with a respectable pro record of 9-5-1 that stretches back to 2006 and an amateur career that began in 2000, what is it that motivates you to continue boxing? Are they still the same things that brought you into the ring in the first place? If not, what has changed?

What motivates me is that I honestly feel I’m still improving and getting better despite my age. If I could look back at myself at any point of my boxing career and say “I was better back then”, then I guess it’s time to step back and enjoy another chapter in my life.

6.  You boxed for many years before female boxing entered the world stage as an Olympic sport, what effect do you think that is having on the sport?

The Women in Olympic boxing is a great step in the progression of our sport. However, the corruption in that arena keeps the mainstream audience from embracing it, male or female.

As for the pro arena, as long as the grossly mismatched Title fights continue, our sport will never be respected.

7.  As you well know, the only way to watch female boxing in the United States is as a video stream, on certain local cable channels (very rarely live) and on YouTube. Meanwhile, fights are routinely broadcast from Argentina to Mexico and from Germany to Japan. What is it going to take to get the networks to “wake up” and start putting female fights back on television?

The American public has not been exposed much to the great competitive fights as other countries have.  Perhaps if there was a T.V. Show that showcased good female bouts like [Ana] Torres vs. [Jackie] Nava for example, the respect and interest would grow.

8.  While you’ll likely keep boxing for some time to come – when you do finally “hang-up” the gloves, will you stay in the boxing world in some capacity? In other words, what is next for you?

I like to keep my hopes and dreams close to my heart.  In my Hawaiian culture we don’t speak of it out loud.  I can say though, that my passion is always my path.

>>>Check out Eileen Olszewski’s March, 2014, interview on Hawaiian television

01
Sep
14

Susan Reno is taking on Jolene Blackshear on Sept. 4th, Exclusive Q and A.

Susan Reno is taking on Jolene Blackshear on Sept. 4th, Exclusive Q and A.

Susan Reno

With a 1-2-1 record, Susan Melucci Reno seems an unlikely challenger for fighter Jolene Blackshear (8-5, 3-KOs), whose strong punching power, record of quality opponents and titles would seem to be another one of those crazy mismatches.

What Susan Reno brings to the ring, however, is grit, determination and at 41 years of age, perennial youthfulness packed into her compact, dynamic, ever moving body.

Film goers who’ve had the opportunity to watch Jill Morley’s excellent personal documentary entitled, Fight Like A Girl, have also been given the treat to watch Susan in action when she was first starting out as an amateur boxer in the New York Daily News Golden Gloves. Winning the Gloves at thirty-four proved to be just the beginning and as Reno readies to fight Blackshear in what is sure to be an exciting 6-round punch-fest, she is excited not only to have gotten the call, but to meet what she knows will be a fantastic challenge.

Recently, Girlboxing had the chance to meet with Susan Reno and her husband and trainer, Michael Reno in Brooklyn.

Here’s some of what she had to say.

  1. How did you get into boxing?

I started with Muay Thai first … I thought I was too cool for school and my friend said “Do you want to learn how to kick box?” and I ‘m like “yeah.” So I got into that and then I realized, “hmm” I watched the fighters train, and I though didn’t want to fight, I figured, let me see if I can keep up with the fighting that they did – and I could more than keep up. After that I was in the ring … had about five Thai fights.

Mike and my brother then said, “Would you please switch to boxing. You don’t kick anybody you just punch; you win your fights just punching.” And [Mike] just went ahead and got me a boxing match and as soon I started training for it, ‘cause the rhythm is so different, I loved it and that was it, it was all boxing after that.

  1. You actually fought and won in the NY Daily News Golden Gloves.

I fought in the 2007 Golden Gloves. I got two fights, and I got to fight at [Madison Square] Garden and I got to call my dad and say, “hey, ah, I’m fighting at the Garden can you make it?” And I was so happy that I got to fight at the Garden. I love what they’re doing at Barclay’s Center, starting new traditions, but for me, a fight at Madison Square was fantastic.

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Susan Merlucci Reno in Fight Like A Girl, Photo Credit: Philip Habib

  1. While you were training for the Gloves, you were in Jill Morley’s film Fight Like A Girl. What was that experience like that for you?

It’s funny. I’m super grateful for the experience because unlike a lot of my fellow boxers, I have footage of everything. I have footage of all my fights, I have footage of all my training. So it’s a little painful to know someone’s following you around with a camera, but on the other hand, I can look back now and am grateful I can look back and see how far I’ve come from that point. It was a good experience.

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Susan Reno, in her pro debut, landing a straight right fighting Vanessa Greco. Photo Credit: Staten Island Advance/ Bill Lyons

  1. What made you decide to go pro? You came to boxing very late. You were thirty-four at the Golden Gloves and thirty-nine when you turned pro.

I am forty-one now and yeah, thirty-four was the cut-off at the Golden Glove. As for turning pro, I was still able to compete and I feel that I don’t have a lot of miles on me. I’m smarter and as I’m getting older – you learn so many cool things, so many new tricks, and as long as I’m learning and I’m moving and I can make that punch miss, I’m still boxing.

I had my first pro fight last January of 2013. I had three fights that year. I fought Vanessa Greco twice and Jackie Park once. The Jacqueline Park fight I learned to fight more than four rounds ’cause I found her. She was tall but I found her in the third round and  in the fourth round, I definitely found her.  And then the fight was over and I thought I’m not doing four rounds ever again if I can help it. (Note to readers, Susan Reno lost the fight on a split decision.)

My first fight was against Vanessa Greco. It was a feeling of accomplishment. I know she was an accomplished amateur and she has the pro experience, so I knew it was going to be a tough challenge, and I knew she was coming to fight. She’s fought some of my friends, but … I’m not afraid of a challenge … I have nothing to lose. So it’s all experience for me … and it’s not like I’m twenty years old … and I train fighters and more than training fighters, I have so many students, so the experience pays back to them, so whatever I can accumulate for myself, it’s just more that I can give back to my students.

  1. Promoter Bobby D is putting on the card you’ll be fighting on against Jolene Blackshear on September 4th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Diego.

They’re a very professional group. He puts women’s fights on every card or almost every card. I had my last pro fight on April 4, 2014 out there. Jolene and I were on the same card. We were in the same locker room. Very professional… I respect her a lot. Mike got the call.

Michael Reno: The matchmaker called and asked if Susan was available. We’re ready.

Susan Reno: She’s a two-time world champion. I’m really excited to fight. I know she’s really tough and she’s really strong and she’s really experienced.

We’re fighting six rounds. I’m getting my roadwork in. I’m getting my gym work in. I’m getting my sparring in. I’m eating right, resting … I feel good. It’s almost a little scary, but I feel good.

I know she’s got power. For a little tiny woman she’s got power from what I understand. Big right hand, big left hooks. So I know she’s got a lot of power. She puts her opponents on their butt. It’s a huge challenge, but I feel like we’re going to have a great time in there.

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  1. What tricks do you have up your sleeve?

Stay focused! And focus on being focused. Stay in that moment, you know, not worry about what she may or may not do and just see what’s happening, see what she’s doing, be in the moment. I think that’s probably the most important thing as far as being in the ring whether you’re sparring or fighting, training. When we get back to the student thing for me as a trainer teaching, it’s being in the moment, not worrying about what’s going to happen in the next round, what’s going on outside of the ring, being in the moment.

I love the training. There’s the physical and the mental training. I remember when I first started doing Muay Thai, my head instructor at the time said fighting is just like a chess match, and I was just a crazy ball of energy and I’m like “chess match, what are you talking about chess match?”

And now I’m like, all right, if I do this, then they’re probably going to do this and then I’ll do this, and I see the chess match now, that’s what really excites me, and as far as physical training, I love that I’m strong and I’m fast. I can be explosive, so I feel I keep my body better now then when I was in my twenties, which is one of the reasons I’m glad they extended the age for women’s amateur boxing, because I feel that a lot of women get into this so late and they realize “my gosh, I’m good at this, I can do this,” and then, the cut off age.

  1. A lot of women in the 20s and 30s didn’t know they could participate in explosive sports. As a trainer, what do you feel you are able to give these women when they come in to train?

I definitely feel that my experience in the ring and preparing to be in the ring, has made me a better person and a better trainer. It’s allowed me to be more patient, more calm, and I realize … some trainers like to yell, some trainers like to slap their students around, get them all riled up and crazy, and I feel that there are so many other things that can be crazy that trying to stay in the moment gives me a calmer point of view when I’m training people.

Someone will do something wrong, but I feel there isn’t really right or wrong, I tell them I have all day and we’ll take as long as it takes to get it right … there’s no consequence right now, no one’s trying to hit you right now … so as I’m talking to them, I feel like it’s given me a lot of patience.

I train women and men … oddly more men. I started in Muay Thai, so there’s a little bit of a martial arts focus, because of the way my Muay Thai trainer brought us up, there’s a respect and a calm and so you have to pay your dues, but most of the people I work with know you’ve got to pay your dues, and I admit I have smart ways … and If you think you’re going to get around this the easy way, I’ve got a trick or two up my sleeve.

  1. Were you always athletic as a kid?

It’s definitely something I came to … I played basketball oddly enough, all five feet of me … I did a season of cheerleading. I went to Art School at Pratt Institute and moved to Brooklyn. I’m an art school drop out unfortunately, and I was the art kid, I’d paint and draw. And wasn’t particularly athletic, that’s why team sports freaked me out, because people depended on you, but with boxing, it’s you … you have your team, your trainers and so on … but if I get hit it’s my fault.

  1. How does boxing play into you as an artist?

It’s absolutely art. Watching how punch combinations get put together and physics … now I’m actually looking at it now

My job is geometry and physics …

You know how to throw a jab, how to throw a cross how to roll under a punch … but it’s little things, like timing, your timing and being able to change-up the timing and bring it all back so that it makes sense. And I love the footwork.

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Susan Reno, Golden Gloves, 2007. Photo Credit: Fight Like A Girl

      10. What do you want to do with this, where are you in five years?

One thing I have learned is stop retiring because after the nationals. I fought Cheryl Houlihan who was the five-time world champion. I’d never been to a world championship, Mike had never been … we get there and we didn’t know what was going on, there were three rings, a cow bell, a bicycle, chaos … so I’m all geared up and I draw the champion first, it’s a computer draw, and I’d had five fights, six fights, something like that, and she’s the five-time champion, and I’m like, I don’t care, I have to fight her sooner or later, let’s go. We had a really good fight. She gave me two standing eights in the first round, but I gave her two standing eights in the third round … and yeah, she beat me, but by three points. After that fight I said, I’m thirty-four, I’m retiring now, but … well, I’m still fighting. As for five years from now? I don’t know. I’ll be in some aspect of boxing whether I’m fighting or just training people, I’ll definitely be in boxing. And, I earn my living in boxing. I train people. I’m at The Wat, a Muay Thai gym. I teach boxing, Muay Thai and conditioning, mostly as a personal trainer.

      11. You’re training young female athletes too. What changes are you seeing in the women’s boxing amateur scene?

They’re getting better! You see some of these kids at 16, they’re fantastic. They’ve got skills. You can see what’s coming for 2020 … They are definitely as good as the boys. The coaches are taking them seriously too.

12. Having been to the USA Boxing Nationals in 2007, what is it like to see these kids now?

It’s fantastic. You’re seeing them with the same skill levels as the boys. They’re slipping; they’re making things miss; setting things up. They’re explosive. It’s not just two people lobbing punches at each other. It’s exciting.

13. On the pro scene you’re getting a fantastic opportunity to fight Jolene. Where do you see women’s boxing going on the pro side?

I’m in a unique position where I’m comfortable taking chances, and coming into somebody’s home town, and I know that they’re the favorite, that they’re supposed to win, but I’m comfortable with going in there and giving it my absolute best, and guess what, I might upset some people that night. That’s the plan. Being older you’re more confident. What are you going to do, shoot me? I’ll take the bullet out and then I’ll beat you.

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Susan Reno with husband and trainer Michael Reno. Photo credit: Malissa Smith

14. And what about for female boxers in general?

I feel it’s a little tougher … I have a job. I’m a trainer. I’m doing this because I love it. I’m not trying to earn my purse. It’s definitely tough for some of these women. They’re trying to earn a living and compete with what the professional men get. It is absolutely frustrating. But it’s got to get better. The quality is going up. It’s got to get better.

Michael Reno: You need a network to take a chance. Then you need a fighter to take a chance and not take a big purse because the network isn’t going to want to pay. And finding a quality fighter to fight her.

 

14
Aug
14

Melissa McMorrow Seeking Redemption in Mexico: Exclusive Q and A

Melissa McMorrow Seeking Redemption in Mexico: Exclusive Q and A

Melissa McMorrow, "Bags and Belts", Photo Credit: Steven Solidarios

Melissa McMorrow, “Bags and Belts,” Photo Credit: Steven Solidarios

Melissa “Mighty” McMorrow (9-4-3, 1-KO) is look for redemption.

Having fought her heart out in a title fight she is certain she won against the more experienced Mariana “Le Barbie” Juarez (39-7-3, 16-KOs)  for the WBC International Female Super Flyweight championship, McMorrow is determined to find vindication.

She will be fighting 26-year-old Mexican fighter, Jessica Chavez (20-3-3, 4-KOs), in the hopes of doing just that, and in the process win the vacant WBC International Female Flyweight title. Even though she will be going back to Mexico to fight Chavez–having won a title before in someone’s backyard, when she defeated the always dangerous Susi Kentikian (33-2-0, 17-KOs) for the WBO Female Flyweight title, she is certain if she puts a little something more into her fighting she will emerge victorious on August 23, 2014.

Melissa was kind enough to take some time out of her schedule to share an exclusive Q and A with Girlboxing readers. Here’s what she had to say.

1.  As a boxer, you’ve been showing grit, determination and an explosive fighting style ever since you began your professional career in 2008. In preparing to fight Jessica Chavez—who at 26 is not only several years younger, but has an excellent pedigree of tough opponents—what are you doing to get into physical and mental fighting shape for your upcoming bout?

I am doing what I always do.  I am running, sparring, and training hard for the fight.  I have always done very strenuous cardio work and this time is no different.

Melissa McMorrow sparring with Jamie Mitchell, Photo Credit: Steven Solidarious

2. Training is everything in boxing! What you focusing on in your training to counter Chavez’s obvious talent and high level of skill in the ring both offensively and defensively?

I focus on my game and the techniques and tactics that work for me.  I don’t worry too much about my opponents.  Once I get into the fight, I will cater my fight to what Chavez brings, but in training, I work on making sure my best weapons are sharp.  Lately, I have been working on giving better angles so I can set up effective hard shots.

A tough Melissa McMorrow applying constant pressure to La Barbie Juarez as they battled for the WBC Female Superflyweight International title, February 22, 2014. McMorrow lost 94-96 on all three cards.

3. Your most recent fight was against the highly touted Mexican fighter Mariana “La Barbie” Juárez for the WBC International Female Super Flyweight title in Mexico. The scores were 94-96 on all three scorecards, but there is some consensus that you got a raw deal. What are your feelings about it and how is that affecting you as you prepare to fight Chavez on her home turf? [A link to the fight can be found below]

The decision for the Juarez fight was very frustrating, but it motivates me to train hard for this next fight.  I watched the fight over and over and still feel like I landed the cleaner more effective punches, had better defense and better ring generalship, and more effective aggression through the majority of the fight. I’m still mad about the decision so I am even more determined to leave no doubts in the upcoming fight.  This fight with Chavez means a lot to me because I see it as a chance at vindication for the last one.

4. After a career that saw you fighting two to four fights a year culimnating in your defeat of Susi Kentikian to win the WBO Flyweight title and your title defense against Yahaira Martinez by TKO in the 9th round, you ended up losing the belt because you didn’t defend it during the proscribed timeframe. What can you tell us about that situation, your new promotion team, and what you hope to achieve starting with the Chavez fight?

The belt situation was unfortunate.  I signed with a promoter in Germany who offered me a very good fight contract.  I was very excited to fight abroad especially because Europe has some top boxing talent.  I fought 2 fights under the promoter but fights after that never materialized.  I was offered many fights but when I presented them to the promoter as options, I was told that they had different plans for me. This lasted a year after which I decided to walk away from the contract because it was not in my interest. This cost me the belt because without fights, the time frame for defending the title was passed. Since then, I have been looking for new beginnings. I was hoping to make a strong statement with the fight with Juarez by winning her title. But now I have a new opportunity to do so by beating Chavez in a weight class that I am more comfortable [in].  

5. Across the divisions in the pro ranks of women’s boxing, fighters seem content to keep going well into their 40s. At 33, what do you see ahead of you with respect to your career as an active fighter?

I think that women differ from men in that they continue to be strong and maintain endurance longer in to their lifespan.  Regardless, I am not one to make definitive plans about my future.  I am open to what my life brings me…. that is how I even got into boxing in the first place.  When I started, I told myself that I would box until it no longer made me happy.  That hasn’t happened yet, but I think when it does it will be very clear to me that its time to move on.  At this point, there are still a lot of fights that I would love to take.

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Melissa McMorrow with Beautiful Brawlers Champions Iris Contreras, Graciela Ortega and Eli Salinas, Photo Credit: Blanca Guttierez

6. Aside from your efforts as a pro boxer, you’ve been lending your considerable talent to coaching and mentoring female amateurs fighters in Blanca Gutierrez’s Beautiful Brawlers program. What can you tell us about that and what you feel you can offer the girls?

I think the best thing I can offer the girls is a tangible example.  That is why I show up.  When I was an amateur, there were very few women in the sport.  It was hard to picture what a skilled female boxer was because I had never really seen one.  I try and make sure that the girls have a positive example that they can follow so that they learn when they are young that you need to put the work in.

7. Having been in the pros for over six years, what changes have you seen in the sport since you started in 2008? Do you feel the addition of women’s boxing to the Olympics in 2012, is having a positive impact on the sport?

I started fighting as a pro in 2008 but I did compete in the amateurs since 2005. The amateur scene is completely different now because there are a lot more fighters.  In addition, the program has been more formalized because of the path to the Olympics. In 2006 and 2007 it was confusing what the requirements were to even go to the National tournament.  The program lacked depth, so if you did not take the top spot at the Nationals there was nothing for you.  This caused people to quit or turn pro because they could not find fights otherwise.  There was a lot of turnover and, consequently, a lack of people really sticking with the games and really learning solid boxing skills.  This has all changed because of the Olympics. There is now a very good reason for girls to develop their boxing skills for a shot at the Olympics.  There are now a lot of young girls in the sport.  It is very exciting!

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Melissa McMorrow throwing a hard left to Susi Kentikian, in their WBO Female Flyweight title fight shown on German television. Photo Credit: Eroll Popova

8. One of the biggest frustrations for female boxers in the United States is the lack of media coverage of their fights. Just across the border from you in Mexico, women’s fights are routinely broadcast on Mexican television, sports channels and satellite outlets. What do you think has to happen to get the networks to “wake up” and start putting female fights back on television?

I think we need to find the right people at the networks to talk to.  When I tell people that I am a boxer, they are immediately excited about it. This issue is not that there is no market. The product just has not been brought to the market.  At this point, people are waiting for big promoters to sign female talent to showcase it. I think this would be very helpful, but creating contacts with TV outside of major promoters is also a viable option.

9. Whenever your name comes up in boxing circles, there’s a collective nod as if to say, “yep, she’s a real boxer.”  What do you hope to achieve in the sport – and where do you think it will take you once you do decide to hang up the gloves?

In order to compete in a sport like boxing, you have to love it. It is very difficult to train as I much as I do, and to look after your weight, etc. Sometimes I ask my self why it is so important to me. It sometimes seems really silly. But you can’t help what you love and sports of all kinds have always been that way to me.  Sports were always the thing I was best at and loved doing the most. I strive to be good at whatever I do and I hope that when I’m done boxing, a little piece of me will stay with the sport and people will remember who I was. I have no idea where it will take me when I hang up the gloves. Boxing has been a part of my life for the last 10 years so I don’t even remember my life without it, but I think I will always be a part of boxing in some way.

Melissa McMorrow’s battle against Mariana Juárez. You be the judge! (Fight starts about 12 minutes in – in Spanish)

03
Aug
14

Chevelle Hallback: A boxer for all time, exclusive Q and A

Chevelle Hallback: A boxer for all time, exclusive Q and A.

Chevelle Hallback

Chevelle “Fists of Steel” Hallback (29-8-2, 12-KOs) first stepped into the boxing ring in 1997 winning by TKO. In only her second fight she battled the great Lucia Rijker, and while she lost by TKO in the 5th round, Hallback has been taking on and winning fights against the best in the business ever since. Notable fights have included her bouts with female boxing greats Layla McCarter and Melissa Hernandez.

After two disappointing and some would say controversial losses in fairly close succession in 2011 to Cecilia Braekhus and Myriam Lamare, Hallback took some time to regroup and now is back with a vengeance.

This past June, Hallback came out swinging against Dominga Olivo (8-11-1), winning by TKO in the second round in front of her hometown crowd at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Florida.

in a split decision on

In their first outing on December 3, 2010, Chevelle Hallback defeated Victoria Cisneros by split decision. Credit: Jose Leon Castillo III

She’s now slated to take on Victoria “La Reina de Guerra” Cisneros (11-15-3, 4-KOs), a tough, hard-nosed fighter whose won-loss record belies her strength and savvy in the ring. It will also be a WBF Female Welterweight Championship fight for the vacant title, and in a nod to Hallback’s huge fan base in Tampa will be the main event, at the St. Pete Times Forum.

The two met before in Cisneros’ back yard at the Route 66 Casino in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In that fight, an eight-rounder, Hallback won by split decision by the scores 78-74, 77-75, 75-77. Both fighters are thrilled with the prospect of fighting for a title in their rematch.

Chevelle Hallback and Malissa Smith

Chevelle Hallback and “A History Of Women’s Boxing” author Malissa Smith at the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame, July 10, 2014, Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Having had the opportunity to finally meet up with Chevy at the recently held International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame event in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I was excited by the prospect of Chevy giving Girlboxing an exclusive interview about her upcoming fight.

Here’s what Chevy had to say:

Chevelle Hallback1. Boxing fans are getting excited at the prospect of seeing you in the ring again after your fabulous win on June 13. Tell us about your upcoming WBF, female welterweight battle with boxer Victoria Cisneros.

I am very excited about my upcoming fight with Victoria Cisneros. This is a rematch from when we fought about 3 years ago. I won that fight by split decision and she’s been asking for a rematch ever since so August the 22nd she gets her wish.

2. After your long lay-off and quick dispatch with a 2nd round TKO in your last bout, what is your game plan as you train for your title bout against Cisneros who brings a strong record (11-15-2) of achievement despite her won-loss record?

My game plan for August 22 is very simple, to be in the best shape of my life and be prepared to do whatever I need to to win the fight and the title.

3. You are a three-time world champion,  you are ranked in the top twelve pound-for-pound all-time female boxers in Ring magazine among other accolades, what more is there for you to achieve in the sport?

I want to make my mark in history by being the first female to fight and be televised on HBO.

4. You must be anxious to be coming back into the ring in your hometown for the second time in a year. What has that been like for you? 

It is truly a blessing to be coming back home to fight for my family, my friends and my fans once again. It is truly a blessing from above and I’m going to take full advantage of it by winning the world title.

5. I’ve heard you say for years that you want to fight on HBO.  What is it you have to do to get to that goal?

I just have to keep doing my part and that’s winning each and every fight from here on out that I put in front of me. I have to keep preparing, keep praying, believing, and having faith that if I do my part, I know God will do his part. Faith without works is dead. That means if I believe that it’s going to happen then I have to work towards it.  I have to believe it will happen even though I don’t see it.

Chevelle Hallback delivering a left hook to Cecilia Braekhus during their welterweight title fight on May 7, 2011 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

6. You had two tough losses against Myriam Lamare and Cecilia Braekhus in 2011. Lamare herself fought Braekhus earlier this year and lost in a rout, whereas your fight was hard fought and has been viewed as a controversial loss. As you enter back into championship contention, do you have particular fights in mind — perhaps a rematch against Braekhus?

Yes yes yes yes yes! I want a rematch with her so bad that it almost hurts. I’ve been asking and I’ve been pleading and I’ve been begging for a rematch against her. She has given other fighters second chances to fight her, why not me? I’ll wait as long as it takes, as long as she’s still fighting and as long as I’m still fighting. I got a very unfair shake and I just want the opportunity to erase that mistake.

7. Throughout your 10+ years career, you have fought tough, hard opponents — and the best of the best female fighters from around the world.  What is it that is inspiring you to enter into contention again?

To make history. To do something, that I was told a long time ago! I couldn’t do, accomplish, or it would never happen, and that is to fight on HBO.

Chevelle Hallback8. Female boxing continues to ride a wave of boom and bust, and in many cases, the only option for some female boxers has been to jump over to MMA in order to keep in front of fans and have an opportunity fight at all. Having been a part of women’s boxing for a long time, what is your view of this and the kinds of options available to young women as they enter the sport?

You have to do what’s best for you. But if you have a passion and a desire to do something then don’t give up on it and go to something different. Work hard and keep having faith that what you are trying to accomplish, you will succeed. Not only for yourself, but you will pave the way for the ones coming behind you or following in your footsteps.  Be a trendsetter.

9. You’ve been an inspiration to female boxers– and I know you’re known as fists of steel, but at my gym we call you “abs of steel.”  What inspires you and keeps you working so hard?  And importantly, having done so much for the sport, where do you go from here?

I AM a trendsetter. I want individuals to know, whether in boxing or whatever they’re setting out to do, that if you keep keeping on, keep the faith, work hard, believe in yourself, and don’t look back, you can accomplish anything, even when people say you can’t do it. If I can do it, hopefully it will give others inspiration to capture their goals and dreams as well.

***

Chevelle Hallback’s interview with Billy C at the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame inaugural induction on July 10, 2014, in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

***

Chevelle Hallback vs. Melissa Hernandez from 2/7/2008 (Part I)

 

01
Aug
14

“asking for it” and other conundrums … hmmm

“Asking for it” and other conundrums … hmmm

She Tried To Be Good

I may be a little late to the party … but the issues surrounding how we think about women as objects versus as living, breathing persons that are more than sexualized gender constructions is not something that just flares up with a headline. Nor should we consider a young woman attending college an object of derision because she doesn’t cotton to waking up after a party in her sorority having been date-raped by her chem lab partner. Oh- but that would belie that swinging “co-ed” meme that still seems to underlie our dismissal of college women whose plaintive pleas for action are met with a wink and the consternation of college administrators who might actually have to take some responsibility for the conduct of students on campus.

College GirlsThe horror show that was the “Santa Barbara” mass murder outrage a couple of months ago, in that instance, the targeting of women and a few men who happened to be in the way, renewed all sorts of conversations in the popular media and elsewhere about a wide range of topics spanning from gun control to treatment of the mentally ill to the divide between men and women.

And yep, in the mind of our shooter, his lack of attractiveness to women was not *his* fault, but theirs, thus in his twisted mindset, it became a killing offense. If the headlines published in the NY Daily News were to be believed, it all stemmed from the perception of a snarky comment from a friend stated off handedly at the age of ten — and that young woman has been in fear for her life ever since.

Whoa.

What is going on here?

As a mother of a fourteen-year-old, I’ve gotten to know the bit about “slut-shaming” and other lovelies inflicted on tweens and teens by boys *and* girls for offenses as deeply embarrassing as a perceived inopportune smile, but shooting???

Oh and the sexualization of tween and teen girls is another lovely that parents and their kids contend with daily as in the, “But Mom, those are the only shorts they sell,” argument. You know the ones– they’re basically nothing more than butt flashing snippets of “distressed” denim material, and the prideful “good” Moms and Dads (myself among them), create havoc in our homes peeling our daughters out of their shorts and back into “appropriate” clothing.

Still … what is that all about. It’s okay to wear short-shorts for running (same style for men and women), but not for walking? Why not wear short-shorts on a ridiculously hot day without the expectation of some idiot somewhere saying something so wildly offensive and disgusting that one’s own mind needs an ablative scraping just to remove the memory it.

Scratch the surface, however, and that clothing argument gets to the heart of that old canard … “she is just asking for it.”

You Asked For ItA million years ago in 1970, I used to walk home from  Julia Richmond High School on East 68th Street, through Manhattan’s famed Central Park to our apartment on the Upper West Side. My favorite route was up the East Side park drive, then around the running track at the Reservoir until I reached the West Side before the last part of my trek home.

On a lovely Spring afternoon somewhere along the northern edge of the Reservoir, a man grabbed me from behind by placing me in a choke hold that lifted me off the ground. He proceeded to wheel me around and carry me several yards, my body still suspended in the air as I struggled to breathe. He then threw me into the underbrush off the main path. After sexually assaulting me, he ran away and I somehow made it out of the park, disheveled and emotionally shattered, into my mother’s arms.

While I’m not here to “testify” per se, the interesting part was me shaking my head and saying over and over through convulsions of tears, “but Mom, I’m wearing a lumber shirt over loose wide-leg jeans…” a nod to my hippy-girl style complete with long, long hair.

And there we were … my mother and I in this moment, sharing my insistence that I wasn’t “asking for it.” Or, was just being alone with my thoughts enjoying a lovely day the “signal” — much as our young “Santa Barbara Killer” figured he was right to murder women because they were at fault for not liking him.

What I find astounding is the meme of “asking for it” is as current today as it was 44 years ago. And then as now we are still buying it hook, line and sinker.

It is also incredulous to me that people actually believe a woman walking home from school, the movies, work, the grocery store, a night out with friends or the myriad of other places that mark her point of departure … is actually asking for it.

I mean, let’s get real, assault against women whether sexual or otherwise, continues on and on as a 24/7 activity in every corner of the world — including our much vaulted enlightened society. Are we really saying all these women are asking for it too?

And with the exception of a few folks (men and women alike) who explore sexual pain and suffering, trust me, women aren’t waking up and saying, “Gee, I’m going for a walk in the park, come rape me,” or “I’m going to make spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, kill me if it isn’t al dente.”

I mean, pahleeze, women are continuously on the receiving end of hits, punches, slaps, broken bones, acid thrown in their faces, being set on fire, infanticide, kidnapping, sexual assault, rape and murder precisely because they are women — and if not in real life than as a daily diet of our popular culture.

Something truly has to give.

From the personal side, it is truly alarming to realize that yet another generation of young women in America does not feel safe at home, driving to work, at school, at work or just going for a stroll — not to mention women in uniform who live in fear not from the “enemy,” but from their fellow soldiers, sailors, and officers. (Yes, tell me please how a woman in uniform is “asking for it.”)

I could go on for a while, and wish I had a solution, other than to say, we all, men and women alike, have to shout-out enough and be done with it.

Suffice it to say, my biggest fear remains walking down the street after dark with a group of young men 14 – 23 moving towards me.

30
Jul
14

Martha Salazar, still fighting, still going strong: Exclusive Q and A

Heavyweight boxer Martha Salazar, still fighting, still going strong: Exclusive Q and A

Martha Salazar

Martha Salazar, Photo Credit: Steven Solidarios

As Sonya “The Scholar” Lamonakis (9-1-2, 1-KO) and Carlette Ewell (15-7-1, 9-KOs) get ready for their heavyweight IBO title bout this coming Saturday, August 2nd at the L.B. Scott Sports Auditorium in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Martha “The Shadow” Salazar (12-4, 3 KOs), long considered a “fighter’s fighter” is waiting in the wings with the hope that she can take on the winner.

Girlboxing had the opportunity to pose some questions to Martha Salazar, a former kick-boxer who took to the professional boxing ring in March of 2001. Now at 44, having had a few breaks in her career, Martha hopes to continue in the sport she loves, both as a fighter pushing to gain recognition and a shot at another title fight, and as a mentor and coach to the young amateur women of Beautiful Brawlers Boxing who are striving to become the next generation of female boxing champions.

Here’s what Martha Salazar had to say.

1. When female boxers in the heavyweight division are discussed, your name inevitably comes up. You are considered one of the most skilled in the sport and your title wins were strong showings–not to mention the very close losses. With a career that began in 2001, you’ve had a chance to see the sport change considerably — and gain legitimacy with its inclusion in the London 2012 Olympics. What are your aspirations for your career at this point?

There are three aspirations I have for my career.  One, to become the WBC and the IBO world champion. The second to be in the women’s boxing hall of fame as one of the best heavyweights in the world of boxing. Third, to keep sharing the knowledge of boxing as others have shown me.  I want to keep inspiring young people to reach their goals in the sport of boxing and in life.

Sonya Lamonakis and Martha Salazar (r), April 2013

Sonya Lamonakis and Martha Salazar (r), April 2013

2. Your last fight was a six-rounder against Sonya Lamanokis in April of 2013.  You put on a strong showing in a fight with three-minute rounds, an almost unheard of event these days. What is your take on the controversy surrounding that bout and would you consider a rematch with two-minute rounds?

All I have to say about the controversy [of that] fight is that I train 110% for all my fights. Once I get in the ring all I am worried about is to make sure I am punching more [than] my opponent. I am not worried about how long the rounds are while I’m fighting. If I lose it is because I didn’t train hard enough or my opponent was better than me.  My team and I have told Lamonakis and her camp that we would give her the rematch anytime and anyplace but always get the same answer, “No. I don’t want anything to do with Martha.”

3. One of the most intriguing aspects of female boxing is the rise of young female amateur fighters. You’ve been very involved in working with Beautiful Brawlers Boxing — Girlboxing readers would love to know more about the organization and your part in it.

Beautiful Brawlers was created to provide a stage for the young boxers to shine on.  Our program consists of sparring and support for all female boxers no matter what age or experience. We mentor, coach, train and provide a safe sparring environment for any boxer who walks through that door.  We accept everyone for who they are. We create an environment of empowerment and strength for the younger female boxers. Veterans and world champions such as Me, Eliza Olson, World Champ Melissa McMorrow and more teach technique and give guidance.  There are also plenty of sparring opportunities. Girls come from all over California to spar with the best. It’s so much fun. Boxing brings us all together.

Martha Salazar4. Having begun your career in martial sports as a kick boxer before debuting as a boxer in 2001 — you’ve been a professional for a long time, and while you are entering your mid-forties, current WBC boxer Alicia Ashley is still going strong at 46.  Do you feel you still have it in you to continue professional boxing and if so, what can we expect from you over the coming year or so?

At 44 years old I still feel that I have it in me and continue in the sport of boxing. Expect me to have to fights one for a world title and the rematch with Sonya Lamonakis. If she wants it.

5. When you started in the sport, women were still appearing on ESPN and Showtime and on PPV — and now the drought of media opportunities for female boxers in the United States seems almost permanent. Not so in Mexico, Argentina, South Korea and Germany to name a few countries. What do you think has to happen to bring the sport back into the boxing’s mainstream in the US?

We need promoters to put more women’s fights on their shows and for us women to keep pushing as a group the movement of women boxing.  PERIOD.

beautifulbrawlers

Martha Salazar, Eliza Olson and Beautiful Brawlers, July 2014

6. As the Olympic Games in Rio loom — giving American amateur boxers a second shot at repeating their medal winning performances, from your vantage point with Beautiful Brawlers, do you feel enough is being done to support these young athletes?  What, in your view, are the things that need to happen to help further publicize and get the public behind these amazing young women?

I believe through the Beautiful Brawlers we are constantly helping girls reach their goals.  We have a few National champions that trained and sparred with us before the Nationals and were successful when they competed.  We have one Olympian Beautiful Brawlers Champion – Queen Underwood,  when we asked her if she would participate on the show she  said she wanted to take part because it was  an all-female show.  I believe her being the main event on our last show brought our event to a whole new level.  She was a huge role model for these younger boxers.  She is an incredible athlete who gives back to others.  We as a group share knowledge and that philosophy: to give back so that the younger boxers get better and better, and now that is happening. We have a very good USA Boxing program for women and some train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. Females are now given opportunities that have never been given before. These baby steps lead into much bigger things. I do believe that Claressa Shields should have more endorsements and should be given more exposure because she won the Gold medal and she is a beautiful young lady who deserves the credit.  Shows like the Beautiful Brawlers give these champions a place to shine because we match the best against the best.

7. It’s obvious that in your career, you’ve chosen to “give back” to other young people by offering your sage counsel and efforts at coaching. What do you hope for the future for yourself as you continue to play a role in the sport you love

For me,  I want to fight and win a World Title. I want to legitimize the Heavy Weight Division by showing there are very skilled boxers in our division. I will always give back to the girls what boxing has given to me. Boxing has always been my passion and it will always be.

Many thanks to Martha Salazar for sharing her thoughts with us!

***

Video of Martha Salazar in her WBC heavyweight title bout versus Vonda Ward from February 10, 2007. Vonda Ward, at 6’6″ had a large height and reach advantage over the 5’9″ Salazar who held her own throwing a succession of excellent overhand rights, in a well fought 10-round battle. Ward won a split-decision, 93-97 x 2, 95-95. You be the judge!




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