Boxer Melissa St. Vill by the “wall” at Brooklyn’s world famous Gleason’s Gym. Photo credit: Malissa Smith
Melissa St. Vil is a boxer with plans.
Her first plan is to win the UBF World Female Super Featherweight title on November 12th at Martin’s Valley Mansion in Cockeysville, MD. With her 6-1-3 record, she’ll be fighting the more experienced Jennifer Salinas(17-3-0, 4-KOs), in her backyard, but that doesn’t seem to worry St. Vil. With just seven fights to her credit, she defeated Sarah Kuhn to win the International Women’s Boxing Federation(IWBF) World Welterweight title in August of 2013. And while St. Vil has only had two fights since them (in 2014), she feels confident that she has what it takes to win.
The Royal Six boxers, Ronica Jeffrey (l) and Melissa St. Vil at the recent Breast Cancer event at Gleason’s Gym. Photo Credit: Malissa Smith
As a member of The Royal Six, a group of New York based female boxing champions (Alicia Ashley, Ronica Jeffrey, Sonya Lamonakis, Keisher “Fire” Mcleod, and Alicia Napoleon), she is actively engaged in promoting the sport, raising money for charity and helping to put together an all female boxing card in the spring.
Winning world championships and promoting female boxing arent’s her only plans. She also wants to give back. To make a place of safety and sanctuary for girls and women to overcome violence and to find a place for themselves in the world. With her infectious laugh, it is hard to imagine that St. Vil would have ever known pain or violence–but she did. As with many of us the world over, it’s the fighting back to take possession of one’s own life that is the biggest challenge.
Melissa was kind enough to take time from her training with Leon “Cat” Taylor and Juan Guzman to speak with Girlboxingreaders about her upcoming fight. We didn’t touch upon the dark stuff at all–just talked about boxing, moving on in life and her passion for the sport.
Triumphant Flyweight Virginia Fuchs (l) and Middleweight Claressa Shields have won their respective finals at the 2015 Olympic Trials in Memphis, TN. They have earned the right to compete at the Continental Olympic Qualifier in 2016 as USA Boxing Olympians. Photo Credit: USA Boxing
Flyweight contender Virginia Fuchs had her night of relentless technical execution and determination that led to the 2-1 unseating of the 2012 bronze medalist Marlen Esparza.
Reigning Olympic gold medalist in the middleweight division Claressa Shields had her 3-0 night, fending off her challenger, Tika Hemingway, who’d loudly proclaimed that she’d take it from her. Shields had other plans and after outboxing Hemingway with an impressive performance, became the United States only two-time female boxing Olympian.
Lighweight Jajaira Gonzales (l) lives to fight another day against Mikaela Mayer. The box-off is set for 4:00 PM on Sunday, November 1 at the Cook Convention Center South Hall in Memphis, TN. Photo Credit: USA Boxing
And lightweight upstart, 18-year-old Jajaira Gonzales, pushed the envelope in her win over Mikaela Mayer to make it one a piece. Today’s box-off will decide which of these two warriors will represent the United States in the Olympic qualifiers next year. Both fighters bring a lot to the contest. Mayer has strong technical abilities and with her longer reach can box tall, whereas Gonzalez brings aggression, pressure and fast hands that seem relentless. For all her youth, Gonzales has won impressive international titles readily matching Mayer’s competitive fire.
Stand ready to applaud them all!
Olympic Trials for Women’s Boxing Results 112 lbs: Virginia Fuchs, Kemah, Texas, dec Marlen Esparza, Houston, Texas, 2-1
132 lbs: Jajaira Gonzalez, Glendora, Calif., dec Mikaela Mayer*, Los Angeles, Calif., 3-0
165 lbs: Claressa Shields, Flint, Mich., dec Tika Hemingway, Brackenridge, Pa., 3-0
*This is Mikaela Mayer’s first loss. Championship box-off between Jajaira Gonzalez and Mikaela Mayer will take place at 4:00 PM on Sunday, November 1 at the Cook Convention Center South Hall.
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
There’s a school of thought that considers the use of the word “girl” to describe a female over the age of nine as somehow degrading to her womanhood. The thinking goes that ascribing “girlness” consigns women to a perpetual child-like state of existence—and certainly, as someone old enough to have had a job in 1971, I do remember being one of the “girls” in the back (not to mention having experienced one of the oldest clichés about working in an office: being chased around a desk … literally.)
What I also remember, however, is being a girl, and feeling my own power as I ran like the wind, or punched a pinkie ball in the schoolyard over the head of the kid on second base. In those days it was just a classmate named Frances and me among the girls, who could actually do that. This was circa 1963-1966, when my own girlness meant wearing white knock-off Keds sneakers, beige jeans and a stripped T-shirt.
I could wander through my range on the Lower East Side (in the pre-East Village days) that took me roughly from 14th Street as far east as the East River Park, through Tompkin’s Square Park down to 4th Street and Avenue B and up over to Second Avenue and 12th Street. Sure, there were streets I wouldn’t walk down and creeps I would avoid, but mostly I felt invincible. I was, in one sense, a sort of Artemis in training with none of the knowledge that being “fleet of foot” and self-assured in my girlness was in the greatest of Greco-Roman traditions that reached back further than Homer, or that as a girl in Sparta I could have wrestled or boxed in competitions with the boys.
In thinking about girlness now, I feel an almost evangelical sense of connection. And as I unpack the feeling, what I come up with a sense of self that is stripped away from the trappings of gender as an expression of sexuality that seems to always add so much bloody noise to the conversation about women; or in other words, the thing about the breasts. Yep, the twin charms—the two lovelies that get strapped in and down or puffed and up or whatever configuration is necessary to meet whatever that perfect standard happens to be in whatever orbit those twins charms are circulating in.
Ever try buying a bra for 12 year old? It is a frightening experience. Please explain to my why a size 30AA needs to be hot pink, lacy and pushup! Unless the occupant of that contraption is anorexic or REALLY tiny, the only possible person it could fit is a girl, yes, a girl, aged between 10 and 13. So … what’s up with that??
Watching women and girls fight over the last few days at the Women’s National Golden Gloves in Florida, I have marveled at how much of that “girl” spirit is imbued in the strength, prowess and lightness of foot in the athletes ranging in age from 11 to 49 who have competed so far. There is also no sense that the athletes are fighting like “girls” in the pejorative sense.
Iman James, amateur boxer, Brooklyn, NY
The best of these athletes are fighting with the technical skills and ring savvy that marks them as boxers demonstrating complete fluidity of movement, improvisational talent and perfect execution. And when some of these athletes go on to compete in upcoming Olympic qualifiers in their weight classes they will reach back to the spirit of Artemis in whose name games were held through out the Greek world.
If the “skirts” controversy proceeding the 2012 Games has died down–for those who may not remember, AIBA, the governing international boxing organization had pushed for female boxers to wear skirts instead of shorts in the ring because some people couldn’t figure out if they were boys or girls–the continuing effort to sexualize female athletes, however, remains a constant in athletics, including boxing.
More insidious is how much we inculcate such notions. One fighter I know readying for her novice championship bout last night remarked that she couldn’t wear her makeup. “I’m borrowing Jenn’s headgear,” she said, “I promised her I wouldn’t wear it if I had makeup on.”
“Even when you fight?” I asked.
“I always wear makeup,” she said.
Somewhere in the 1970s I remember eschewing makeup and its trappings as a feminist statement of sorts—though I was far from a bra-burner, and in fact, did little by way of movement work. Fast-forwarding another twenty years I was less rigid about it, and did indeed have a pedicure before coming down to Florida for the tournament and have been wearing a hint shadow on my eyelids with faint eyeliner color for years.
Still the notion that an athlete would feel the necessity to wear face makeup during a fight—when goodness knows one sweats on one’s sweat—struck me as a “drink the Kool-Aid” kind of moment wherein one so inculcates a construct as to go beyond all sense.
There is no question that as social beings we are very much defined by the cultures we find ourselves in. Still, there are “languages” of culture that transcend our tribal/national/religious forms into a more global form. Sport and athletics are certainly transcendent cultural pathways with agreed upon rules and formats. Some specify for gender differences and some do not—and most, though far from all (think Olympic Beach Volleyball)—do not overtly sexualize gender.
It is also, in my view, one of the places where that sense of girlness asserts itself along with the street dancing moves of female dancers on this year’s So You Think You Can Dance that capture the boundless sense of possibility perfectly.
If the Canyon of Heros tickertape Parade for the triumphant 2015 USA Women’s Soccer Team is any indication, our spirit of Artemis is alive and well, we just haven’t named it, why not just try for owning the word girl.
Melissa McMorrow Seeking Redemption in Mexico: Exclusive Q and A
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.
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!
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)
Heavyweight boxer Martha Salazar, still fighting, still going strong: Exclusive Q and A
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.
Girlboxinghad 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 Boxingwho 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
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.
4. 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.
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!
Alicia “Slick” Ashley, “Q and A” ahead of her 5/21/2014 Bout!
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 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, 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?
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!
K.O. Mequinonoag Reis: Exclusive Q & A Ahead Of Her May 3, 2014 Fight!
Kali Reis(5-2-0), known in the ring as K.O. Mequinonoag Reis, will be fighting Marva Dash (0-2) on May 3, 2014 at the Irish Cultural Center in Canton, Massechussetts. Promoted by Big Six Boxing Entertainment, the bout will be on mixed card of boxing and MMA bouts–and the only female fight on the card. Reis defeated Dash by unanimous decision in a previous four-rounder.
In the words of her manager Mary Del Pino, “Kali Reis is one of the first Native American professional female boxers to come out of New England. Her rich heritage includes Cherokee, Nipmunk and Wampanoag blood.”
Kali also had a challenging upbringing in the tougher areas of Providence, Rhode Island, but it didn’t keep her down, and she used her athletic abilities and keen intellect to push through adversity. She started boxing at a young age, learning the rudiments of the game on a heavy bag with her coach, the Native American boxer, Domingo Tall Dog. In her late teens, she trained with Peter Manfredo Sr. and eventually with Dr. Roland Estrada at Big Six Boxing Academy. Reis is currently back in training with Manfredo.
Last fall, Reis shocked the boxing world with her high credible showing against seasoned boxer, Tori Nelson, in a ten-round WIBA Welterweight Title fight in Cockeysville, Maryland on November 7, 2013. While Reis lost the fight, she gained respect for her obvious boxing talent, especially since she’d been out of commission following a serious motorcycle accident in 2012. It was also her first 10-rounder.
When she isn’t fighting, Reis works as a trainer at theStriking Beauties Boxing Gym for Women in North Attleboro, MA, teaching adults and children how to box.
Ahead of her fight on May 3rd, Girlboxing had a chance to catch up with her:
1. You’ve got a 6-round fight coming up on May 3, 2014 against Marva Dash — what can we expect to see on fight night?
You can expect to see a totally different fighter on my end, from the lay time we fought in 2012. I’ve made some serious adjustments to my training camp and the results have proved to be successful thus far. I am very happy with the way I am feeling and looking in the ring.
2. What do you want to tell your fans about your upcoming bout and what motivates you to fight?
I want to tell all my fans IM BACK!! 🙂 I hope you all missed me!!! Dust off your purple and lime green attire lol!! I’ve been away from boxing for a while and I haven’t fought in New England for far too long. I came back in November and it’s my time now. I’ve been training harder than ever and I’m ready to show my fans what I can do in there
3. The 10-round WIBA welterweight title fight last November against Tori Nelson was quite a bold fight for you — especially since it was your first bout after your serious motorcycle accident. What did it take to walk into the ring that night?
It took EVERYTHING!! I had been back in training since last July and was scheduled for a come back fight locally in Rhode Island in October. We got the call about the Nelson Title fight about a week after she defeated Alex Lopes for the vacant title in early September and I jumped right on it! It was perfect timing because of the scheduled “tune-up” fight in Oct, but that fight fell thru. So I was going into a 10-round world title fight from over a year lay off. Physically I was in great shape and did what I had to do, mentally I wasn’t all there. Personally I was going thru a few changes and there were a lot of new things for me going into this fight. I had Peter Manfredo back on my corner with Dr. Roland Estrada and I hadn’t had Pete in my corner in years. I had never fought 10 rounds or a main event or in Maryland lol. Not to mention the “ring rust” I didn’t have a chance to shake off prior to this fight. The only mistake I made with that fight is not letting my hands go. I picked it up In the fourth round and every round following but it was a little too late. I want the rematch most definitely.
4. You surprised a lot of fans and boxing aficionados with your ring skills that night — and now you’re ranked number ten at welterweight. Where do you see your career going from here? Are you working towards another title shot?
I see nothing but positive moves being made toward that number 1 spot. Especially after the recent positive changes I’ve made. I seem to have finally found my rhythm and I’m focused on doing what ever is necessary to secure my place as a top contender in the female welterweight division. I also have other plans to make some noise in Native Country. I want to (and will) start an all Native cross country boxing tournament. It’s just thoughts and conversation right now but I am determined to make it happen. I do what we as a Nation of people have been doing for centuries, I FIGHT!! Another title shot is in the works right now and hopefully everything goes thru smoothly.
5. You’ve been around boxing for over ten years first as an amateur and now as a pro — what motivates you to keep in the boxing game?
My love for the sport. I’m definitely not in it for the money lol. I’m not too bad at it either. I look at boxing as an art and I haven’t mastered that art yet; or in better terms I haven’t achieved what I want to achieve from boxing yet. Boxing is one of those skills were you will never know it all and there’s always something new to learn or an area to improve in.
6. As a proud Native American woman with a rich heritage that includes Cherokee, Nipmunk and Wampanoag ancestry — and one of the few in boxing today — you are a role model for other young women. How has your experience in boxing helped you — and what can your experiences offer by way of guidance to younger women and girls?
Boxing has definitely helped me to channel and control certain emotions. It has also given me patience in general because I am also a boxing coach and fitness/boxing instructor for all ages and teaching takes a lot of patience. Boxing is a very demanding sport and it teaches you commitment, discipline and offers a feeling of success as you learn more and more. I always teach my girls/students to be humble to the sport and don’t cheat on yourself by taking the easy way out. Boxing isn’t a team sport so if YOU don’t do something it’s YOUR fault, there’s no one else to blame.
7. With the Olympics in 2012 — and Claressa Shields’ success at bringing home the gold, there was a lot of hope that the sport of women’s boxing would find its way back to the mainstream. Your fight on May 3rd is actually on a mixed card with boxing and MMA — a format that has been used in California as well when Ana Julaton fought on a mixed card. From your perspective, do you think there is reason for optimism? Certainly the coverage is more positive … the question is why aren’t female boxing matches making it to the mainstream in the U. S.?
When Claressa Shields brought home that gold I thought for sure women’s boxing would get the push it’s been wiring for but it fizzled out quick and no one made any significant noise about it! I think mixing the MMA with boxing is a smart idea from a promoters standpoint to get more fans on board and back to being classic boxing fans as well as cater to the fight fans who aren’t into the brutality that MMA offers. I think the reason female fights aren’t making it to the mainstream is because the fights that happened to be showcased are the wrong fights. They’re unskilled sloppy “pull your hair” slap fest that no one cares to watch. We need the caliber of fighters like the era of Lucia Rijker, Laila Ali, Christy Martin when fight fans wanted those females on main big name cards.
A few tickets are still available for what is anticipated to be a sold-out show. Tickets are $40, $75 Ringside, available through Kali at 401-368-4294.
First time documentary filmmakers Juliet Lammers & Lorraine Price have crafted an engaging film about two of Canada’s great national amateur boxing champions, Mary Spencer and Ariane Fortin, both of whom vied for a spot to represent Canada in the 2012 London Games in the 75 kg weight class.
From the opening frame of Last Woman Standing, the cheers of women’s boxing fans can be heard overlaying the film’s energetic score along with the images of the two feature fighters as they go about their hard training regimens.
The importance of the decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in agreement with the International Boxing Association (AIBA) to limit female boxing to three weight classes in their debut games in 2012 (as distinct from the original request for five weigth classes), provides the tension in the film as the ramification of the decision begins to weigh on both women. (The three Olympic weight classes for women remain, Featherweight (51kg-112 lbs.), Lightweight (60kg-132 lbs), and Middleweight (75kg-165 lbs.).
Prior to the decision, Spencer and Fortin, boxed in different weight classes. They were also the closest of friends who cheered each other on to national and international titles. With the decision by the IOC, however, it meant that the only way for either of them to compete in the Olympics was to jump up in weight class to 75kg — and as Mary Spencer said, “We never could have imagined that it would come down to us fighting for one spot.”
Structured around the events that propelled both women into successive collisions in the ring, the film covers their experiences inside and outside the squared circle as they both fought hard to represent Canada in 2012. What the films depicts is their great courage, fortitude and a will to succeed at all odds — that unfortunately, put so much emphasis on winning a spot, that in Mary’s own estimation it left her thinking that gaining the coveted spot meant her fight had already been won leading to disappointment when she actually fought in her Olympic debut.
Given that women’s boxing in the 2016 Rio Gamesis still limited to three weight classes, the tremendous pressure that the female fighters undergo for just 36 coveted spots is almost too much to bear. The film also brings home the importance of the Olympics as the one great competition that truly legitimizes the sport for the public as well as the athletes themselves.
Juliet Lammers & Lorraine Price have crafted an elegant, sensitive portrayal of the struggles the two friends underwent in the run up to 2012 — as well as the continuing problems that plague female practitioners of the sport.
Last Woman Standing had its premier in the United States at the Hot Springs Documentary film festival and was a featured entry at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Montana in mid-February. The film, an absolute must see, is now available for rental or purchase on multiple platforms including iTunes, Amazon.com instant video, and others. The film continues to screen at various times in Canada. The film’s distributer, Film Buff, is also arranging showings in New York City and Los Angeles.
What the documentary does best, is remind us just how fabulous women’s boxing truly is–and of the immense pride and dedication female boxers bring every time they put on the gloves.
For further information, please refer the Last Woman Standing Facebook page at the link:
Having gotten back into my boxing groove starting at the end of December when my surgeon gave me the all clear to whale away, my body has begun to find its power again. It’s not all the time or even some of the time, but an occasional thing when I’ll come upon something that I can lift with ease even though I know it’s really heavy, or when I’m about to finish up my light run from my house to the gym and realize that I could keep going for quite a ways.
That sense of comfort with my body or the sense that it has power is not something I’ve had very often in my life. Growing up in NYC in the 1960s meant very little by way of sports–as in punch ball, stoop ball and King, a kind of hand ball where each person had one concrete square in the sidewalk as their “box.”
At summer camp I swam and otherwise did what I could *not* to have to play softball in the heat of the afternoon in a field swarming with no-see-ums. As for basketball, I was hopeless when it came to anything but drippling the ball. The only running I ever did in those days were “chase” games and aside from tap dancing lessons at the age of 12 (for three months at Charlie Lowe’s School where I learned to use my “personality”), I didn’t do much of anything until my mid-thirties when I began to run.
The jogging craze that began in the 1970s seemed to pass me by. Sure I tried it, but huffing and puffing for a block or two along the East River of Manhattan on the Upper East Side near where I used to live (and admittedly sucking back a cigarette or two), even along side a boyfriend, just wasn’t for me. Aerobics in cute white Reeboks was also “not my thing,” and if I exercised at all it was disco dancing at places like The Salty Dog, where I could happily gyrate for hours at a time.
Flashing forward to the late 1980s, my body still woefully unexercised, I decided to take up running in a bid to quit smoking. My first runs, attempts to run around Central Park were pathetic. I barely made it down two blocks, never mind to the park, while my chest heaved in pain and spasmed from coughing fits. Knowing that I needed to rid my lungs of years of inhaling junk into them, however, gave me the motivation to persevere. The remarkable thing was that by the end of the first week of daily runs, I was able to run ten blocks and by the end of a month I began to eschew distance for time having ran for thirty full minutes. By the second month my runs were taking me the full circuit around Central Park including the famed 110th Street Hill–a run that took me an hour door-to-door to cover the seven miles. Throughout that Spring I pounded my way through the Park, testing myself with brief sprints, and feeling for the first time in my life, the power of the body. The experience was humbling, if a little frightening, because I had spent so many years in denial of my physical sphere. But there I was, running as long as an hour and a half, my legs and arms toned, and feeling for very brief moments as if I was invincible.
Life interceded and I quit running after a while, but when I found my way to boxing a decade later, the sense of myself as a physical being began to kick back in. Even now, as I begin to live out the last of my 50s, I find the body’s capacity to renew itself to be truly remarkable.
Sometimes speaking to power has to do with embracing those parts of oneself that extend out in a giant roar of confidence and well-being. My younger self would never have believed that I was capable of saying that–which tells me that whether it’s through the pounding of feet along a path in the park or the extension of a jab in a boxing ring, the magic of finding an alignment of all the parts of one’s being is always within the realm of the possible. All one has to do is take the first step to try.