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)

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!

25
Jun
14

Here’s to the ladies who punch …

Here’s to the ladies who punch …

A History Of Women's Boxing

Today’s my big day.

The culmination of over two years of work on my new book, A History Of Women’s Boxing.

I get to strut my stuff in the ring at Gleason’s Gym and speak to an audience of assembled friends about the courage, bravery and pure gumption that women have shown for the past three hundred years each time they’ve donned the gloves. Oh yes, and smile a lot, sign books and jump around with glee!

It’ll be a moment to savor — though I admit to a plethora of doubts:  Did I get everything right? Did I forget someone? Did I make the point about pushing social and legal boundaries enough? Will the reader understand just how brave it was for a young and plucky Barbara Buttrick to insist that she had the right to box in 1949?

The historian’s lament plagues me a bit too. There’s never enough time or materials or opportunities to interview — except perhaps if the historian is Robert Caro, be still my historian’s heart.

The writing process is also a marathon battle — reminiscent of the endless rounds of the bare knuckle boxing era.  If we consider that there are “championship rounds in boxing” — of which Layla McCarter knows a thing or two having insisted on the right to fight 12 three-minute rounds more than once —  plowing through a writing project that is voluminous in the best sense nonetheless gets very, very tough as it heads towards the final chapters.  In my case I overwrote by about two hundred pages, which necessitated a mad scramble to cut, cut, cut. Talk about taking shots — those words were my children, and in my “humble” opinion, the points made were as important as any in the final cut of book, but like any gut shot, one sucks it up and moves on because that’s what happens.

If the writing was at times an arduous task, the overriding sensation, however, was one of deep, deep respect for the women who ply their trade as boxers — such that the project became a true labor of love.  Just the act of climbing through the ropes is, in my estimation, a resounding statement of defiance against the strictures that continue to be imposed on women as they go about their work-a-day worlds — nevermind what that meant in the 1970s when women took to the courts to gain the right box.

It still boggles the mind that women’s amateur fighting was virtually illegal in the United States until 1993 when a young 16-year-old girl named Dallas Malloy sued for the right to compete, not to mention Dee Hamaguchi who opened up the right for women to fight in New York’s Golden Gloves in 1995.

I mean what was that? Amateur boxing was illegal which meant women had no safe means of learning to compete other than to turn pro? Hmmm.

I’ll add that the quickest way to become a feminist is to take on a history of women’s anything project.  Talk about a wake up call! Wow!

Gussie Freeman

As I wrote the book, I admit to having favorites, women like Belle Martell who not only was the first licensed referee in the state of California, but who was also a promoter for amateur fights, took the tickets and then jumped in the ring in a ball gown to announce the bouts–the first women to do so. Belle also tried really hard to promote women in the ring in the early 1950s with the idea that they’d save a sport that was dying on the vine due to television. Gussie Freeman was another one. Talk about a character, she boxed briefly in the 1890s, but made such an impression people still remembered her 50 years later.

Dixie Dugan

When I was a kid, our history textbooks consisted of stories of kings and queens, generals and presidents, with very little about the men and women whose lives collectively swayed the shape of society as the centuries passed.

As a microcosm of society, the history of boxing provides an interesting perspective on social interactions between people, the power of popular culture and issues of race, class and the exploitation of labor. Throwing women into that mix provides a more nuanced understanding of those same issues. For one, women’s spectatorship became an important ingredient in developing boxing as a sport from the 1790s on!

The image of a woman in boxing gloves also became a potent symbol of the changing place of women in western society at points in history, most notably in the period between 1880s and the end of World War II when the place of women was upended in a clear line.

That we still question the place of women in the ring today is just as telling. Yes, there were and are those who object to boxing period no matter who contests the fight, but the notion that female boxing is an anathema still seems to finds its place in the conversation about the sport, which goes to the heart of the argument about the “place” of women in society. Ugh …  still?

Regardless, women push through it all anyway and climb through the ropes knowing their muscles have been honed into perfect boxing shape to leave it all in the ring having given their very best.

All I can say is that I am very, very proud to have contributed in some way to sing their praises.  And yep, here’s to the ladies who punch!

Links to purchase the book:

Barnes and Noble.com 

Amazon.com

26
May
14

Elisa “The Bomb” Collaro: Q & A ahead of her 7/25/2014 Pro Debut

Elisa “The Bomb” Collaro: Q & A ahead of her 7/25/2014 Pro Debut

Elisa "The Bomb" Collaro

Elisa “The Bomb” Collaro

Elisa “The Bomb” Collaro has a dream. She’s determined to make it as a pro-boxer in the United States after having had a successful career as a kickboxer in Italy. At 23, Elisa, originally from Milan, Italy, is on the verge of realizing her goal with her first professional fight in the offing on July 25, 2014 at the Amazura Concert Hall in Jamaica, Queens.

Girlboxing had the chance to catch up with Elisa recently, here’s what she had to say:

Elisa "The Bomb" Collaro

Elisa “The Bomb” Collaro

1.  You started boxing as a 14-year-old in Italy and haven’t looked back–not only boxing, but competing in kickboxing, K-1, French Savate fighting and Thai Boxing. What drives your passion for martial sports?

I was always a little tomboy when I was young. I always argued with other girls even without a reason … you know, a little bully. So one day one of my friends who was practicing boxing asked me to try a class and from that day I never left the gym. 

2. In 2008, still a teenager, you began competing in kickboxing, Thai Boxing and Savate ending up with a 15-2 record. What do you attribute to your success?

Well, of course I attribute my success to my Italian trainer. He saw potential in me; he thought I had skills to be someone and he always believed in me even at the beginning. I will always be grateful to him because he created the person I am today and I thank him for helping me get to where I am here today.

3. Why did you choose to leave your career as a martial artist in Italy to pursue boxing at Gleason’s Gym in New York City? Have you found there are more opportunities here?  

To be honest, I always hated boxing (that’s why I was a kickboxer). But it happened that I came to New York in January 2012 for a 10-day vacation. I had heard about Gleason’s Gym and felt compelled to train there. As soon as I opened that door my eyes were shining, I smelled the air of champions, I felt in paradise. Then I met Don Saxby and I worked with him a couple of days. With him I began to understand that boxing was something that I always had in my blood; and I changed my mind about boxing! As I left NY I was already planning on coming back. 

Even if you are not American, you know that the United Stated of America is a boxing paradise, and the place where real boxing was born. So when I landed in Italy I was planning to scrape up some money to come back here. Eight months later I left Italy to learn “real” boxing and to be a professional boxer.

photo6

Elisa “The Bomb” Collaro training with Don Saxby at Gleason’s Gym

4. In particular, as a female martial artist do you feel there are more options for you here in the United States versus Italy? Given that women’s boxing in Europe enjoys popularity and support in places such as Germany and Norway, why did you chose to come to New York?

Oh yes, definitely. I come from a country where people classify soccer as sport. If you don’t play soccer, they don’t follow you. Soccer and nothing else. That’s why I decided to leave. And thinking about boxing the only place was America; there’s no comparison between the American style and the European one. No way, it is two different worlds. So at the end of the day the choice wasn’t difficult.

America = New York = Gleason’s Gym.

5. You’ve trained with Don Saxby and even trained with Buddy McGirt. What has the training been like for you — and who are you working with now as you prepare for your pro debut?  

Working with Buddy has been awesome. Come on, he was the world’s top-ranked 147-pound boxer, one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world; how isn’t that amazing? I felt blessed. He’s also a great person. I love him. He makes me laugh every second =)

Unfortunately he is not around right now so Don and I chose Alicia Ashley as my second trainer. Who else can be better than her? She helps me out with the sparring and i couldn’t have better.

Elisa Collaro training with Buddy McGirt at Gleason's Gym

Elisa Collaro training with Buddy McGirt at Gleason’s Gym

6. You are slated for your first professional fight on July 25, 2014. How excited are you?

How excited I am? I’m ready to explode, lol! I have been waiting for this moment for all my life. I have worked so hard to have one chance and now that is real, I still can’t believe it. I feel like I’m dreaming and I don’t want to wake up. Now is MY time and I can’t make any mistake!! Now or never!

7. What inspires you most as your ready to begin your professional career?

My happiness!! All I want is being happy with success. I want to represent possibility; the possibility that if you work hard for your dream, you can realize it. I believe that I can create whatever I want to create. That’s my motivation. I want to be what I dreamt to be.

8. As you introduce yourself to Girlboxing readers — what would you like them to know about you?  

I want to be known for the tough girl that doesn’t sleep on her dreams. That everything I have is because of my hard work and faith! No one gave me ANYTHING. Be known as ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE IF YOU REALLY WANT IT.

9.  What do you wish for the future?

Of course I wish to be World Champion but the most important thing like i said before, I wish to be successful in everything i do. I wish an HAPPY and healthy life for my future.

19
May
14

Alicia “Slick” Ashley “Q and A” ahead of her 5/21/2014 Bout!

Alicia “Slick” Ashley, “Q and A” ahead of her 5/21/2014 Bout!

Alicia "Slick" Ashley fighting on May 21, 2014

Alicia “Slick”Ashley (20-9-1) is a four-time world champion and current reigning WBC Female Super Bantamweight Title holder.  At 46 years of age she’s also a phenomenon in the ring who consistently out-points and out-maneuvers  her opponents, some of whom are more than half her age.  She’ll be facing Nohime Dennisson (5-3-2) in a six-round non-title fight on Uprising Promotions’ Future Stars fight card, Wednesday, May 21st, 2014 at the Five Star Banquet Hall in Long Island City, Queens.  A last-minute addition to the card includes a super featherweight bout between Amanda “The Real Deal” Serrano (20-1-1) versus Belinda “Brown Sugar” Laracuente (26-28-3) in what is certain to be an exciting bout.

Ahead of her fight, Alicia kindly agreed to a Q&A session with Girlboxing. Here’s what she had to say:

1.  At 46, you are the WBC female super bantamweight title holder and still going very, very strong! Tell us about your upcoming fight on Thursday, May 21st at the Five Star Banquet in Long Island City, NY.

I am fighting Nohime Dennisson, a woman 12 years my junior. This for me is a chance to get back into the ring and stay busy. That in no way means that this is an easy fight. Nohime has an unconventional style that sometimes confuses her opponents. I’m planning on utilizing my experience to maintain control in the ring.

Alicia "Slick" Ashley, Tijuana, Mexico, October 2013

Alicia “Slick” Ashley handily defeated Zenny Sotomayor in Tijuana, Mexico, October 2013

 2.  In your last outing, you defended your WBC title against Zenny Sotomayor in Tijuana winning by TKO in the 5th round. Given that she was so much younger, what was your key to staying on top?

At this junction due to my age my opponents tend to be a decade or two younger than I am. With that in mind, my experience in the ring is the key. The phrase ‘youth is wasted on the young’ always comes to mind whenever I step into the ring. Other than my opponents being more energetic, I believe that I’m more well-rounded in my boxing ability. They might be more energetic but it doesn’t mean they have more stamina or are as smart.

3. Having turned pro in 1999, and having fought such superstar female boxers as Bonnie Canino (who is about to be inducted into the first class of the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame), Laura Serrano, Layla McCarter and Argentina’s Marcela Elena Acuna with whom you have a 2-1 record–in Argentina, what would you say are the changes you’ve experienced in the sport.

For me, the caliber of boxers have gotten better only in the sense that more women are taking advantage of the amateurs to hone their skills. Currently boxers turning pro have more amateur fights than I have amateur and pro fights combined! Its great seeing the influx of females in the gym and the fact that coaches take them seriously, which was a big problem when I started boxing.

Alicia "Slick" Ashley moves out of range against Elena Reid, Photo Credit: Mary Ann Owen

Alicia “Slick” Ashley moves out of range against Elena Reid, March 23, 2005. Photo Credit: Mary Ann Owen

4.  Your known as “Slick” in the ring — and watching you fight is truly a clinic in the art of defensive boxing. What have been the keys to your longevity in the sport?

Exactly that, my defense. I’ve spent years honing my defense with over 238 rounds boxed and never knocked down. Earlier in my career my legs was my focal point but now its body movement and efficiency. 

5.  Your career has spanned a generation of female fighting and more, and yet the promise of female boxing as a staple of ESPN, Showtime and HBO has fallen off the map–even as it has gained in popularity and visibility in places like Mexico, Argentina and Germany.  In your view what accounts for this disparity and what has to happen to elevate the sport in the US.

It is simple. Promoters have to realize that there is money to be made and add women to the card. All the other countries that feature women on their television cards reap the benefits. The fights are generally highly competitive match-ups and tend to be fight of the night. I’ve traveled the world to fight and those fights are usually the main event. Why is it that the USA, supposedly the most progressive country in the world, is so far behind other countries in supporting their female boxers? 

Alicia "Slick" Ashley

6. As a case in point, even though you first won your WBC super bantamweight title in the United States when you defeated Christina Ruiz by unanimous decision in 2011, your last three title defenses have been in Mexico, Panama and Mexico respectively.  What would you say are the biggest challenges to putting on a title defense in the United States?

The challenges will always be the people that put on the shows. If they don’t get behind the women boxers with money and coverage then there will be less defenses here. Not only am I the main event in those countries but I’m paid way better than if I fought in the US. So other than for my fans, why would I fight here? If I was male and a 4-time world champion I wouldn’t have to need a day job to survive. This continued disparity is holding the women back and its definitely time to change. 

7. Aside from your work as a professional boxer, you are one of the premier trainers at Gleason’s Gym teaching men and women the art of the sweet science.  If you do ever retire from the ring, will your life still revolve around the sport?

I definitely will continue to work in some capacity in boxing. I enjoy imparting my knowledge on the next generation of boxers be it competitors or individuals who just want to get the most enjoyment out of a workout.

8. What would you say are the biggest changes in the sport for women that you’ve seen — and do you have hope that more opportunities will open up? In other words, do you have any last inspiring words for young women who may have caught the boxing bug?  

I believe the biggest change was made on the amateur level. There are so many more opportunities for women to compete than when I first stepped into the sport. In fact, I am proud to say that I won the very first US Women’s National featherweight championship and now they finally include women in the Olympics. I always want women who express an interest in pursuing the sport to be aware that it can be the most exhilarating feeling to win but the defeats can also be gut wrenching. This sport is not just physical but mental and it builds or breaks individuals. This is a sport you cannot do halfheartedly. Make sure you enjoy it!  

 




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