19
Jan
15

Martin Luther King, Jr., Day – January 19, 2015

Martin Luther King, Jr., Day – January 19, 2015

Martin Luther King Jr.

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” 

- Martin Luther King, Jr.,  A Testament Of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches 

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last work was to support the sanitation workers on strike in Memphis, Tennessee. The following is an excerpt from a documentary on their story and excerps from King’s speeches in support of their efforts.

 

12
Jan
15

Day by day by day … je suis humaine

Day by day by day … je suis humaine

Summer 2014, Harrison, Maine. Photo: Malissa Smith

I’ve been attempting to work through the recent terrorist attack at Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newsweekly—and thereby attempt, in some small way to write about it.

For the French, the three days of carnage beginning with the horrific murder of 12 staff members, including four renowned cartoonists at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, by Said and Cherif Kouachi, has been an agonizing period of anxiety and pain. In all, 17 people were horribly murdered including a young policewoman, a jogger and four shoppers in a Kosher supermarket who were all apparently gunned down by another in the Kouachi brother’s “terrorist cell,” Amedy Coulibaly.

For those of us in New York who lived through the experience of the World Trade Center terror attack on September 11, 2001, there is an acute understanding of the almost out-of-body dissociation one can feel living through the moment-by-moment experiences of that sort of horror. We are, after all, merely ordinary, perhaps showing courage in our daily lives, and perhaps not, but certainly not prepared for the kind of terror that a Kalashnikov wielding “crazy” brings.

New York City street sceneIf I am being disingenuous at all, it is in the sense that we people who live in cities do come to understand that there are those intangibles: Cars that suddenly veer off and cause havoc and death in a restaurant storefront, or the running gun play of teens that may careen in through a window, putting a small child in harms way. Not to mention, the daily violence in families that spill out into “social services” pretty much unnoticed except for the truly horrific ones that end up on the covers of the tabloids. Still, those truly terrifying experiences do not seem to equate with the other kind of sudden violence in the cocoon of our western democracies—and go against our sense of decency, right and wrong, and collectively at least, if not individually, our sense that such things as cartoons that satirize religion and politics, are just this side of “okay” in the scheme of things, even if they tend to be on the edge or even over the line of distasteful. What they are not, are killing offenses by self-proclaimed executioners in the name of one ideological or religious belief or another.

What I keep asking myself is this. Are our beliefs really that tenuous? Are they that uncertain, that a cartoon, really, a cartoon can be so offensive as to warrant the murder of 12 people?

I write that having figured that if what I believe is strong and certain, I, me, the individual, can well afford to be magnanimous in accepting that others may not agree or share my point of view. Thus I would never consider that the words of another would so shake me to the core of my being that I would jump at the chance to “right” the perceived “wrong” by choosing to kill as many nonbelievers as I could as I made my way to whatever Valhalla I figured I was entitled to for my “acts.”

The giant, “ugh” aside—at any given moment on our beautiful earth, just such things occur day by day by day in both religious and sectarian struggles all the in the name of a greater something or other. Or, to bring down to the ground, even to the level of a power struggle between two partners where one feels the right to bash the other senseless in the name of being “right.”

Paris march, January 11, 2015, Credit: Time MagazineAnd while it was heartening to know that 3.7 million persons marched in Paris yesterday in solidarity to reaffirm the principles of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (Liberty, Freedom and Fraternity), I am fearful of the backlash to terrorism that can just as easily sweep through to give us yet more examples of the ugliness of revenge on the ordinary, the “us” that is not quite us that devolves into further violence and extremism.

It is the misadventure of well-intentioned reactions that scares me just as much as the acts of terrorism themselves. And having lived through the daily miasma of misery inflicted on ordinary citizens caught in the cross fire of acts for and against terrorism, I remain fearful—and perhaps the tiniest bit cynical about what the future will bring.

My best self, however, knows that just such ideals as freedom and peace and love live on anyway.

After all, in the midst of acts of terror the world over, two-alarm fires, police slowdowns, and the kind of cold that almost demands that one turn over after the alarm goes off to burrow that much deeper under the covers, by 10:30 AM this past Saturday morning, Gleason’s Gym was full of men and women in varying stages of their workouts. A quick glance showed the Give A Kid A Dream youngsters shadowboxing alongside boxing professionals in front of the mirror, amateur fighters putting in rounds ahead of the Golden Gloves, and fighters sparring in all of Gleason’s four boxing rings.

For me, sweaty from five great rounds sparring with my trainer Lennox Blackmoore, the scary fever dreams of terror were suitably buried in one recess of my mind or another. And while I have shed tears for the victims, and will likely go to Synagogue this Friday in solidarity with the French victims at the kosher supermarket in Paris, I will try hard to push forward with a smile, with little thought given to the crazies with Kalashnikovs. They are, despite their seeming out-sized appearances, a really, really tiny portion of the world, which is mostly occupied by persons going about their day in the struggles that define us.

Leastways, that is what I hope for, even if the blue meanies hit me square in the nose sometimes with darker thoughts. Oh well. Je suis humaine.

 

01
Jan
15

A Thousand Strikes

A Thousand Strikes

women-boxing

 

Having been nursing a miserable cold over the last week that has left me a sniffling, sneezing, foggy-headed wreck, I’d almost lost sight of the looming New Year. Sure, I’ve been aware of it—and have even felt myself in an interregnum of sorts eschewing anything particularly new, or when it comes to writing, even engaging in anything more rigorous than pithy “all my best wishes of the season” notes on holiday cards.

Now that the first day of 2015 has arrived, I can certainly say that I have been busy for a good portion of it taking care of chores (laundry, cleaning up the kitchen, and attending to social media), making New Year’s Hoppin’ John (the vegetarian version—an anathema, I’m sure, to the memory of my mother-in-law, and anyone with southern roots for that matter, who’d have surely had a fair amount of fat back added to it), continuing to nurse my cold (finally, seemingly, on the mend, though I’m still pretty foggy), and even catching a bit of a bowl game with my husband.

With all of that done, along with a few naps, it’s time to tackle the real part of my day—which is to ponder the boldness that a new year can bring to one’s life, along with the grand gestures that can punctuate one’s entry into them.

A Thousand Bokken Strikes on Rockaway Beach 01012015Whether it’s a thousand word blog post, a thousand strikes with a Japanese wooden bokken on Rockaway Beach, a thousand folded paper cranes to commemorate peace, a thousand jabs to start off a trip back to the boxing gym, or a thousand crisp cramp rolls on a tap dancing board, embracing the things one loves, by doing it to the count of one thousand is a brilliant way to begin or reaffirm one’s commitment to it.

Let’s face it, our lives get away from us and with rare exception most of us are at least tripled up with commitments at any given moment—not to mention our feelings of disappointment, angst, grief, anger and guilt at our inability to put the time in to the things that we consider are at the heart of what’s important to us.

Given the year I’ve just had, which was nothing short of miraculous when I consider that I published a book on the sport of women’s boxing, not to mention having reengaged in my own boxing pretty much every week all year—oh, and taken up tap dancing too—there were still the bits that I hadn’t done, such as blog regularly, work consistently on my next book and ensure that my family is taken care of in the way they should be.

With the New Year though, I have the opportunity to sort through those things that have meaning and the things that can be jettisoned, and having distilled it down—my thousand “somethings” are the thousand words of this post which constitute my way of saying writing’s the thing.

Blog posts about women’s boxing and whatever else catches my fancy, poems, essays, diatribes, and yep, “the book” are the purview of my reaffirmation to wordsmithing. And not just writing, but also finding the fun in writing and dare I say it, the joy of writing because, yes, it is a joy. A tremendous I-can-say-anything-I-want, action of plucking goodness knows what out of my thought processes and having it translated onto the page through fingers that dance and clickety-clack over the keys of my laptop.

Yes, JOY damn it! Writing can be joy—not a chore, not working to a deadline, not what the editor says or wants—but writing for the sake of it, because one can, because words can bring out ideas one never knew one had, because words have a magic and are, in my estimation as potent as anything an alchemist can conjure up. And importantly, because this year I am sixty, and if I can’t embrace the go-where-my-mind-wants-to-take-me journey that writing can be now—then when?

And, at least for me—and perhaps for all of us—that is the point, isn’t it? If not now, then when, whatever one’s passion, be it pottery, politics, winning a world championship belt (the way Sonya “The Scholar” Lamonakis did this past year) or being the best-damned cramp roller in the world.

All of these things amount to wonderful journeys—akin in some ways to the great pilgrimages. One sets out on a journey from point A to point B and through that process one can experience each point along the arc of A to B as transformative. Perform a jab a thousand times, and one begins to feel what it is like to really throw a jab. One will also have the chance to notice that jab number 10 will be different than jab number 860—tiredness aside, one will have a fluidity of action, an ease, a sense of accomplishment and the momentum to carry on forward to one’s goal.

For each one thousand “somethings,” one can journey on to the next one thousand or to whatever constituent sets one decides upon, but one will have already made one’s start, one’s leap into the thing that gives energy and joy and a myriad of other emotions and feelings that commitment can bring.

One can also find how those things tie in together. For me while writing is the thing, boxing and tap dancing are the physical embodiments of letting words unfold on the keyboard. By learning to maneuver in the ring with my trainer, Lennox Blackmoore, or by learning new tap dance sequences and steps from Michaela Marino-Lerman, I’m enacting ways to trust my instincts and my ability to do so with fluidity—all of a piece when I think about it, because for me writing is an exercise in being bold, brave and fearless without which, the writing process ends up being a lot like cheating at solitaire.

If I can offer anything, it is to say that if one possibly can, do attempt to embrace the things that have meaning, and then do it a thousand times!

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

-Eileen_Olszewskiwonderwoman

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.

BB.MM

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)




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