At 18, Jajaira Gonzalez (l) defeated veteran champion Tiara Brown, for a place in the 2015 Olympic Trials finals against reigning USA National lightweight boxing champion Mikaela Mayer. Photo Credit: USA Boxing
Each of them has endured a loss.
Each of them has fought through that loss and will meet the winner of that contest in the ring on Saturday night for a chance to come away as a prospective Olympian poised to compete on the world stage for the opportunity for a final berth at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio.
Each battle for the right to fight in the finals was hard-fought and in some cases, fraught with history as veterans who have encountered each other before in the squared circle knew it was all down to what happens in four rounds of action.
Reigning Olympic flyweight bronze medalist, Marlen Esparza (r), was redeemed last night when she defeated Christina Cruz. Esparza will face Ginny Fuchs in a rematch in the Olympic Trials final. Photo credit: USA Boxing
For the reigning Olympic flyweight bronze medalist, Marlen Esparza, it meant redemption and being on a track for what seemed inevitable at the beginning of the week before she was stopped cold by Virginia Fuchs. In defeating, Christina Cruz, a fighter’s fighter who fought a brilliant outsider’s game with angles and heart, Esparza is now pumped up to rewrite the script with Fuchs and come away with what must feel like her rightful place.
In the lightweight division, the 18-year-old, punches-in-bunches phenom, Jajaira Gonzalez, who’d fought Mikaela Mayerto a 2-1 split decision in their battle, came away victorious over 2014 World Championship bronze medalist, and three-time USA Boxing National Champion, Tiara Brown. Gonzalez, a Junior and Youth World Champion, used aggression and pressure to counter Brown’s veteran technical ring savvy in carving out the 3-0 decision.
Tika Hemmingway (l) claimed victory over Raquel Miller in the middleweight division. Hemmingway will face reigning Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields in the Olympic Trials final. Photo credit: USA Boxing
For former champion Tika Hemingway, contesting for a berth in the finals against reigning Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields, there was an inevitability to her win over Raquel Miller, even though the battle was closely contested with a lot of back and forth in momentum and opportunities to be exploited. No matter who fights Hemingway, there are always costs. She is hard-hitting and physical in the ring–and while she’s lost once to Shields in the Olympic Trials, she’ll fight just as hard tonight for a chance to win.
Win or lose, the 24 women who have come to Memphis to fight for a place at the Olympics are each momentous in their drive, determination and skills as boxers. It is no easy feat to compete at the level of Olympians, harder still for women, and, in my estimation, hardest for female boxers who not only must seek out opportunities for support during their four-year odyssey for a place on the team, but must also endure the slights and prejudices of a wider public that rarely support women in the ring. That it has come down to the three contests tonight is miraculous, but let us not forget all of the days and nights of training and competing in rinky-dink rings with barely enough money for car fare. That USA Boxing has developed a cadre of elite fighters it supports for this go around is fantastic, but there needs to be more. More excitement, more opportunity and much, much more respect.
Watching many of these young women compete at the National Women’s Golden Gloves in July, my heart was overwhelmed by the bravery and humbleness they exhibited both in the ring and out. As a body sport, boxing teaches humility and to step inside the ropes is to exhibit physical and mental strength that is honed through thousands of hours of hard, hard work.
So whatever happens tonight, who ever winds up our Olympians, do applaud all of the women who have fought and dreamed. They deserve it.
Olympic Trials- Women’s Boxing Day 4 Challenger Results
Flyweight Christina Cruz (l) with the win over Giavonna Camacho in the challenger battle, has earned a rematch against Marlen Esparza on Friday. Both will battle for a spot in the finals against Virginia Fuchs.
With the first group of Finalists set – Virginia Fuchs (112 lbs.), Mikaela Mayer (132 lbs.), and Claressa Shields (165 lbs.) – the first challenger bracket bouts were held last night in the double-elimination Olympic Trials Tournament. The winners fight again tonight for the right to box in the finals on Saturday night.
The first of the three contenders for Friday night action is Christina Cruz(112 lbs.). Cruz is 32 years of age and will have her second shot at doing battle with 2012 Olympic Bronze medalist Marlen Esparza whose stunning loss to Ginny Fuchs has put in her the challenger bracket. Cruz lost to Esparza in the second round, but given how much she has amped up her game with her renewed focus, training and diet, she might well push through Esparza on Friday. Cruz handily defeated Giovanna Camacho for the second time to gain the right to keep on challenging for a berth in the finals.
Jajaira Gonzalez(132 lbs.), the 18-year-old who pushed hard in her battle against Mikaela Mayer in the second round only to fall in defeat, used pressure and aggression to defeat Rianna Rios 3-0. Gonzalez will face Tiara Brown, in what promises to be a terrific battle of wills between these two fighters, for the right to face Mayer in the finals.
Tika Hemingway (165 lbs.) narrowly defeated veteran Franchon Crews2-1. Both fighters had competed in the Olympic Trials in 2012. Hemingway used aggression to finally muscle through to take the contest though Crews was able to gain the momentum throughout the bout. Hemingway will take on Raquel Miller in the challenger contest for the right to fight Claressa Shields in the final.
Olympic Trials for Women’s Boxing Results
112 lbs/challengers bracket: Christina Cruz, New York, N.Y., dec. Giovanna Camacho, Colorado Springs, Colo., 3-0
Virginia Fuchs (l) with the huge upset win over Marlen Esparza to secure a spot in Saturday’s Olympic Trials Final. Esparza will have the chance to earn a challenger berth if she wins on Friday.
Talk about a big night! Flyweight boxer Virginia Fuchs, lightweight Mikaela Mayer, and middleweight Claressa Shieldseach clinched a berth in the upcoming Olympic Trials finals on Saturday night. All three have been undefeated in the tournament to date–earning them the right for a corner in the finals and two days off.
In the upset of the night, Virginia Fuchs defeated Olympic Bronze Medalist Marlen Esparza, 2-1 in a tough, tough battle. This was their fourth meeting at the championship level–with Fuchs victorious for the first time. As quoted by USA Boxing, Fuchs said, “I stopped her from getting in her rhythm. I got my space and I used my jab. My jab was the key. It feels amazing. It feels so good because this is what I’ve been working for. For the past four years, this is what I’ve been working on. This is what I came here to accomplish.”
Mikaela Mayer came up a 3-0 winner in her fifth meeting against number two seeded Tiara Brown. Each boxer had two victories against her opponent coming into the match. As quoted by USA Boxing, Mayer said, “She was coming toward me and that allowed me to use my boxing skills which is what I’m good at. That 1-2-3 was landing every time.”
Claressa Shields pulled out a flawless technical performance to defeat veteran boxer, Raquel Miller. Shields said, ““She was really patient and backed up a lot of the fight. She came forward some but I landed the cleaner, harder shots. She landed a few right hands but I kept going forward, and kept landing jabs. I landed a lot of jabs.”
In this double elimination tournament, there will be two sets of Challenger bouts to chose the other finalist for Saturday night. The first set will be Thursday, with the winner in each weight category facing Esparza, Brown and Miller on Friday.
Olympic Trials for Women’s Boxing Results
112 lbs/challengers bracket: Giovanna Camacho, Colorado Springs, Colo., dec. Amanda Pavone, Burlington, Mass., 2-0
112 lbs/challengers bracket: Christina Cruz, New York, N.Y., dec. Alex Love, Colorado Springs, Colo., 2-0
112 lbs/winners bracket: Virginia Fuchs, Kemah, Texas dec. Marlen Esparza, Houston, Texas, 2-1
132 lbs/challengers bracket: Rianna Rios, Colorado Springs, Colo., dec. Samantha Kinchen, Lexington, Ky., 2-0 tiebreaker
132 lbs/challengers bracket: Jajaira Gonzalez won on medical walkover over Amelia Moore, Millersville, Md., W/O
132 lbs/winners bracket: Mikaela Mayer, Los Angeles, Calif., dec. Tiara Brown, Fort Myers, Fla., 3-0
165 lbs/challengers bracket: Franchon Crews, Baltimore, Md., dec. Naomi Graham, Colorado Springs, Colo., 3-0
165 lbs/challengers bracket: Tika Hemingway, Brackenridge, Pa., dec. Cierra Taylor, Rochester, N.Y., 3-0
165 lbs/winners bracket: Claressa Shields, Flint, Mich., dec. Raquel Miller, San Diego, Calif., 3-0
Thursday’s Olympic Trials Bout Sheet
112 lbs/challengers bracket: Giovanna Camacho, Colorado Springs, Colo., vs. Christina Cruz, New York, N.Y.
132 lbs/challengers bracket: Rianna Rios, Colorado Springs, Colo., vs. Jajaira Gonzalez, Glendora, Calif.
165 lbs/challengers bracket: Franchon Crews, Baltimore, Md., vs. Tika Hemingway, Brackenridge, Pa.
Claressa Shields (r) takes the second round win over Tika Hemmingway in a tough, hard fought battle at the women’s boxing Olympic Trials in Memphis, TN on October 27, 2015.
Another exciting night of results with teammates and old foes Marlen Esparza and Christina Cruz battling for supremacy in the flyweight division in a close contest that still broke 3-0 to Esparza. Other winners included Alex Love who remained in the contest by DQ when opponent Jamie Mitchellcame in overweight.
Both Tiara Brown and Mikaela Mayer won as well. Brown fought a decisive 3-0 win over Rianna Rios, while Mayer fought hard against an onslaught from Jajaira Gonzalez to take the 2-1 split decision. Brown and Mayer will fight each other tonight in third round action. Leaving the contest in the lightweight division is veteran boxer Lisa Porter. She will be missed.
In the middleweight division Claressa Shields fought a tough, hard fight against Tika Hemingway with haymakers that writer Sarah Deming (@SarahDeming), who is live tweeting the event, described as coming “all the way from Flint” to take the unanimous win. Raquel Miller defeated Franchon Crews in a split decision, as this is the HH Diva’s first loss in the contest, she has a berth in the third round.
Olympic Trials for Women’s Boxing Results 112 lbs/challengers bracket: Giovanna Camacho, Colorado Springs, Colo., dec. Melanie Costa, Norton, Mass., 3-0
112 lbs/challengers bracket: Alex Love, Colorado Springs, Colo., won on disqualification over Jamie Mitchell, Las Vegas, Nev., DQ
112 lbs/winners bracket: Marlen Esparza, Houston, Texas dec. Christina Cruz, New York, N.Y., 3-0
112 lbs/winners bracket: Virginia Fuchs, Kemah, Texas dec. Amanda Pavone, Burlington, Mass., 3-0
132 lbs/challengers bracket: Samantha Kinchen, Lexington, Ky., dec. Stalacia Leggett, San Diego, Calif., 2-1
132 lbs/challengers bracket: Amelia Moore, Millersville, Md., dec. Lisa Porter, Van Nuys, Calif., 2-1
132 lbs/winners bracket: Mikaela Mayer, Los Angeles, Calif., dec. Jajaira Gonzalez, Glendora, Calif., 2-1
132 lbs/winners bracket: Tiara Brown, Fort Myers, Fla., dec. Rianna Rios, Colorado Springs, Colo., 3-0
165 lbs/challengers bracket: Naomi Graham, Colorado Springs, Colo., dec. Danyelle Wolf, San Diego, Calif., 2-1
165 lbs/challengers bracket: Cierra Taylor, Rochester, N.Y., dec. Iesha Kenney, Alexandria, Va., 3-0
165 lbs/winners bracket: Claressa Shields, Flint, Mich., dec. Tika Hemingway, Brackenridge, Pa., 3-0
165 lbs/winners bracket: Raquel Miller, San Diego, Calif., dec. Franchon Crews, Baltimore, Md., 2-1
Tiara Brown (l) handily defeated Amelia Moore 3-0 on the opening night of the USA Boxing 2016 Female Olympic Trials in Memphis, Tn.
The Olympic Trials for the 2016 USA Boxing female boxing team got underway on in all three of the Olympic weight classes: Flyweight (112), Lightweight (132) and Middleweight (165).
As expected 2012, Olympic Gold medalist, Claressa Shields easily defeated her first round opponent, Naomi Graham, 3-0. 2012 Bronze medalist, Marlen Esparza,also won 3-0 over Melanie Costa.
In the lightweight division, current USA lightweight champion Mikaela Mayer won a split decision, 2-1 over Stalacia Leggett, and the number two seeded fighter, the always tough Tiara Brown defeated Amelia Moore decisively by the score of 3-0.
Alex Love, a tough scrappy fighter from the US Army boxing team had a tough loss to an equally scrappy Virginia Fuchs who took the split decision 2-1.
Other winners included New York City’s hometown girl, Christina Cruz who won 3-0 (112 lbs.), and in the middleweight division, a particularly strong division with a slew of tough competitors, Tika Hemingway, Franchon Crews and Raquel Miller all came away decisive winners.
Tuesday’s bouts, however, will give the women who faltered last night an opportunity to continue in their quest for a berth!
The full list results for the opening round is as follows:
Olympic Trials for Women’s Boxing Opening Round Results
112 lbs: Marlen Esparza, Houston, Texas dec. Melanie Costa, Norton, Mass., 3-0
112 lbs: Christina Cruz, New York, N.Y., dec. Giovanna Camacho, Colorado Springs, Colo., 3-0
Alicia Ashley in the ring to win back her WBC Title on 10/29/2015
Alicia “Slick” Ashley remains one of the most compelling fighters in women’s boxing not only for her longevity in the sport (she fought in the first ever U.S. nationals as an amateur in the late 1990s), but in her ability to perform at the top of her game as a virtuoso of the art of boxing. And no wonder too, Ashley started her career as a dancer before embracing kickboxing and eventually the sweet science.
At 48, (yes that’s a story too), Ashley will be heading back into the ring on October 29th at Aviator Sports & Events Center in New York City (a complex located on the famed Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn) with a view towards reclaiming the WBC Female Super Bantamweight Titlebelt she lost, some would say controversally so, to Jackie Nava thirteen months ago in Mexico. Ashley will battle against Ireland’s Christina McMahon (7-0), a 40-year-old latercomer to the professional side of the sport who holds the current interim WBC Female Bantamweight Title. The co-main event is on a Brooklyn Brawl card promoted by Dimitry Salita.
Ashley’s career has tracked alongside the near-on tragic highs and lows of women’s boxing in the panoply of American sports television with its boom-bust cycle of support, promotion, paydays and opportunities for the talented working professionals who grace the boxing gyms of the U.S. across the country with their remarkable work ethic and love of a game that at best ignores them and at worst actively seeks to keep them off the air–and thereby out of the running for the opportunity to earn a living.
That tide of lows *may* be on a slight uptick given that CBS Sports (cable) aired the four-round Amanda Serrano v. Fatima Zarika fight on 5/29/2015 (the first such fight on the network since the late 1970s) and the very public statements by Shane Mosely castigating the boxing industry for keeping women’s boxing off the air. To prove that it wasn’t just all “mouth,” he went on to put the Maureen Shea v. Luna AvilaIBF World Female Super Bantamweight ten round title fight on his Pay Per View card on 8/29/2015 with the promise that there will be more to come–although there has been little to no discussion about it since.
For Ashley, long an advocate for equity in the sport, the potential uptick–which those of us in the game who truly advocate for women’s boxing watch as avidly as the Dow Jones–this may mean the opportunity for slightly higher pay days, but given that she is a champion four times over, she’s far from being known as Alicia “Money” Ashley, and can only earn a decent payday in places like Mexico (likely the equivalent of “Money” Mayweather‘s tips after a night out in Las Vegas). And by a slightly higher pay-day, I mean the chance to take a vacation or upgrade the equipment she uses as a boxing trainer at Gleason’s Gym where she works from early in the morning till late in the day, six days a week.
This is the life of a female boxing champion–our Bernard Hopkins, if you will, whose dancer-like poise, defensive genius and ring savvy thrills each and every time she steps into the ring.
Ahead of her championship title match, Ashley continues to labor at Gleason’s Gym where “camp” means adding in an extra couple of hours a day to spar and train in addition to working with her clients. This is not an unknown as other female boxing champions/trainers such as Heather Hardy, Shelito Vincent and Keisher “Fire” McLeod must do the same to earn enough money to compete. On the “bright side,” being a trainer means pretty much staying in condition, if not in boxing “game day” shape. Hmmm….
In between her busy schedule, Ashley took the time to respond to a Girlboxing Q & A. Here’s what she had to say:
1. You’ve got an upcoming WBC Female Superbantamweight fight on 10/29/2015 at Aviator Sports in Brooklyn, NY for the vacant title against Irish boxer Christina McMahon. Although at 41 years of age she’s only 7-0, she does have the interim WBC World Bantamweight title. What can you tell us about her and how this bout came together?
I actually don’t know that much about Christina other than her going into someone else’s back yard and winning the title. There isn’t that much video on her and I feel her record doesn’t fully speak to her experience. She, like I, joined the sport after fighting as a kickboxing champion and that in itself means she’s not new to the game. Every opponent is dangerous no matter their experience.
2. You lost the title a year ago to Jackie Nava, a fight some observers felt you may have won or at the very least fought to a draw (as one judge saw it)–with the loss coming because of how your style (you are called “Slick” for a reason) is one that the Mexican judges may not have felt showed enough to score rounds in your favor. Even with that loss, you had a TKO win over Grecia Nova two months later in Haiti–where you continued to fight in your cool “slick” manner. As you prepare to fight McMahon — what are you focusing on to ensure that the judges will see the fight your way if it goes the distance?
I can only ‘fight’ my fight. Yes, I am a slick boxer and although the desire is to never leave it in the hands of the judges, sometimes there is nothing you can do about it. I’m not known as a knockout artist but I think my style of boxing will definitely be appreciated more here in the US. It’s not just about being a hard puncher, it’s about being effective.
3. We’ve talked before about the state of women’s boxing, the frustration of finding promoters to put women’s bouts on cards, the frustration of seeing cards put together only to fall apart (as happened with this fight originally scheduled for September), the intense battle for pay equity (a losing one for certain right now), along with the continued absence of female bouts on television in America with very few exceptions. Given that Amanda Serrano appeared on CBS in late May, and Maureen Shea on Shane Mosely’s PPV card at the end of August, along with two female bouts on PBC cards on 9/11/ & 9/12 respectively, if not on television–in your view, is there any reason for optimism?
I should hope that there’s always reason for optimism, but its disappointing that in this day and age the amount of female fights broadcast can be counted on one hand. I’ve been in this business over 14yrs and am still shocked that I’m more well known in other countries. That they are more inclined to showcase female fighters than we are. This I feel is the main reason we continue to get astronomically low wages. In fact, 10 years ago when I fought for my first title I earned more than they are offering women now. How can we continue to accept way less than we are worth and then expect it to get better? This battle cannot just be fought by a few women.
4. I’ve been fortunate enough to have observed you take a wide range of male and female boxers to school sparring at Gleason’s Gym, not to mention having seen a few of your fights in person over the last few years. At 48, you are continuing not only to fight competitively, but seemingly to remain at the top of your game. Win, lose or draw on the 29th, are you of a mind to continue boxing competitively for the foreseeable future?
I continue to fight not only because I love the sport but because I do remain competitive. I can honestly say that I leave my fights and sparring without any serious damage. That is the main reason I have longevity in this sport, the ability to not get hit. Other than people being shocked at my age, which is not noticeable in or out of the ring, I’m not battle weary in any way.
5. You are an inspiration to female boxers and have developed into a phenomenal trainer and coach. Do you see yourself pushing on that front to start seeking out professional women to train and take into that aspect of the sport–or will you continue to focus on women new to the sport or pushing their way into the amateurs?
Thank you. I feel its important to pass on any knowledge that I have and am very honored at the women, amateurs or professionals, who seek me out and are accepting of it. The one thing that I’ve been working on is doing a female fight seminar. This is more about being able to break down fighting styles, picking up the nuances of a technique and being able to adjust accordingly. Quite a few females that I’ve sparred, especially in round robin, are surprised at how well I can adjust to the different styles and I believe experience with seeing the ‘bigger picture’ is an important tool to the trade. Anything that I can do to elevate women’s boxing, I will.
6. What do you tell your young female fighters who may want to enter the sport professionally? Or put another way, is there a future for them to seek out?
I’m hoping that with each new generation of female fighters that there is some kind of progress in the right direction. I try to be realistic with my fighters and they are not clueless. Most, if not all the female fighters, have a full time job and don’t expect to break the bank as a professional. What we are hoping is to at least be able to live comfortably and at this point very, very few women can attest to that.
7. You always talked about boxing as performance–if you do decide to wind down the competitive aspects of your career in the sport do you see other avenues for expressing art in the public realm?
It’s very hard for me to look past boxing right now. It was the same with dance. I had no other avenues mapped out before I was injured and its the same now. I’m currently teaching the sport so I essentially I already am in that new chapter.
8. I look upon you in awe sometimes as a professional fighter, body artist–because to tell you the truth that how it appears in your case–and talent when it comes to coaching and mentoring. What does it all feel like as you perform in those roles and as you look to embark on yet another performance on the 29th? In other words, what is that is motivating you to express yourself so strongly and with such power in the ring?
I’m in awe myself when people express such respect or inform me that I’m an inspiration to them. As you know, I always equate my boxing as a performance and its my duty to entertain and captivate the audience for 20 minutes. Attention span is so short nowadays that its a challenge in itself to keep people mesmerized and that is all the motivation I need.
Alicia Ashley versus Jackie Nava … you be the judge.