Posts Tagged ‘Alicia Ashley

26
Nov
16

77 Front Street

77 Front Street

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Gleason’s Gym, 77 Front Street, Brooklyn, November 26, 2016, Photo Credit: Malissa Smith

I first entered Gleason’s Gym at 77 Front Street in January 1997. It was a late morning, during the week, and I’d been working up the courage to cross the divide into a “real” boxing gym for some time.

Entering the second floor boxing emporium was like stepping into history. It fit every image of a boxing gym I’d ever had. It was somewhat dark, even with the light streaming through the wall of south-facing windows. It was cavernous and peopled inside and outside of the three rings with mostly men, but at least one women punching a heavy bag—who I later learned was Jo, wife of gym owner Bruce Silverglade.

The gym also had a smell to it of old sweat and new sweat, and steam heat and wringing wet gym clothes, that was in strong counterpoint to the almost antiseptic feel of every other gym I’d ever been in—health clubs really, which had been where I’d started my first rudimentary foray into the sweet science.

Standing in Gleason’s for the first time, taking in it all, with Bruce touring me around, I felt a mixture of awe and more awe and a dose of anxiety, watching real boxers spar and train, and finally a sense of triumph for having placed myself among the acolytes of a sport that had been contested since Homer had written about it in the 7th century BC.

It was then I came across the quote from Virgil that so lovingly adorns the wall at Gleason’s:

Now, whoever has courage, and a strong collected spirit to his breast, let him come forward, lace on the gloves and put up his hands.

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What I realized on that morning, was that was going to be me. I was going to face my fear. Face a lifetime of not having understood that I could always have crossed the divide of a boxing gym to box—even though I was a girl, it just took doing it to make it happen.

Back when Gleason’s Gym first opened in 1937 in the South Bronx at 149th Street and Westchester Avenue, it was the largest gym in New York City—no mean feat given the popularly of the sport in a town that had been associated with boxing since it first crossed the Atlantic Ocean from England in the 1820s. There were many, many gyms packed into every corner of the City back then, but Gleason’s became synonymous with boxing in the 1940s and 1950s when such champions as Jake LaMotta, Phil Terranova, and Jimmy Carter, called the gym home. Visiting boxers such as Mohammad Ali continued to give Gleason’s even greater cachet when they came up to the Bronx to train ahead of important fights at boxing’s Mecca, Madison Square Garden. The occasional woman boxed there too—including Jackie Tonawanda who trained there shortly before the gym relocated to West 30th Street in 1974.

Gleason’s continued to maintain its legendary status at its new location for the next 11 years before getting the boot when the building they were in turned co-op and they moved out of Manhattan to 77 Front Street in Brooklyn in 1985. Back then, before DUMBO was even a name, the industrial area was a pretty scary place. Bruce said, at the time, anyone coming to the gym was told to “get off in Brooklyn Heights at Clark Street on the 2 or 3 train and walk down along Henry Street.” He told them to walk the long way around rather than risking the walk through Cadman Park from the High Street A and C station or the route from the F train at York and Jay Streets.

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Bruce Silverglade, owner, Gleason’s Gym, November 26, 2016, Photo Credit: Malissa Smith

The new home while out of the way had everything a great boxing gym needed: space and lots of it, a new owner in Bruce Silverglade who having become a full-time partner with Ira Becker brought the enthusiasm needed to keep the sport going at a time when it was waning in the imagination of the public. Bruce also brought the foresight to commit to having women in the gym and at his insistence built a locker room for women and well as men so that women always felt welcome in the gym.

img_5623As place, however, Gleason’s has always meant more, at least to me. It’s the place where I came into my own physically. I learned to overcome fear not of the ordinary kind, but the fear of my own power. Of being able to release my full physical being onto a boxing bag, and eventually in the ring against a person. It’s also where I learned the generosity of boxers. Of the myriad of tips and tricks my fellow boxers offered, and of hearing the ubiquitous “hi ya’ champ,” from one person or another every time I walked through the gym.

Morning, noon, or night, weekdays or weekends, there’s always someone to offer encouragement–even as they may be breaking one’s “chops” so to speak. And if I happen to get something right in the ring, I’ll hear someone sing out about it.

These days, Gleason’s sports six female boxing champions: Alicia Ashley, Heather Hardy, Ronica Jeffries, Sonya Lamonakis, Keisher “Fire” McLeod, and Melissa St. Vil.  And if there’s one thing the gym has brought is a feeling of comfort for women from 6 to 60, and beyond.

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Gleason’s Gym trainers Lennox Blackmoore and Hector Roca, November 26, 2016. Photo Credit: Malissa Smith

When I first stepped into Gleason’s I was 42. These days, at 62, having boxed at Gleason’s on and off for 20 years, I feel it’s my home. As home, however, it’s come to have many meanings: For one, it’s the place where I can feel truly ageless.

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It’s where I’ve penned my Girlboxing blog, and due to the true support and generosity of Bruce Silverglade, it’s where I wrote parts of my book, A History Of Women’s Boxing. More than anything, however, even more than boxing, Gleason’s Gym is where I came into my own as a writer.

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Today, November 26, 2016, marked the last full day of Gleason’s 31 year history at 77 Front Street.

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Come Monday, November 28th, the gym will begin its next incarnation around the corner at 130 Water Street. As Bruce put it, the gym in its fourth iteration is “starting a new chapter.”

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For those of us on the early Saturday morning crew who rattled around this morning, embracing each other and otherwise reminiscing, there was a feeling of camaraderie, awe, and for sure a twinge of sadness. Gleason’s is after all, our collective home, but as Heather Hardy said, “it’s exciting that we are all going over there. And this right here, it won’t be any different from today to Monday.”

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If place is location–then yeah, things will be different, but if place is a state of being then 77 Front Street, will live on for all of us that have called this iteration of Gleason’s Gym home. And sure the paint won’t be peeling in the new place, and it’ll be C-L-E-A-N clean, we all figure after a few weeks that special Gleason’s odor will start to permeate the space, and before we know it the paint will start to peel there too.

15
Nov
15

Thoughts on Rousey v Holm

Thoughts on Rousey v Holm

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The kick seen ’round the world: Women’s Boxing champion Holly Holm (l) took down Ronda Rousey in the second round of their UFC Women’s Bantamweight championship in the co-main event of UFC193. Photo credit: Paul Crock/AFP/Getty Images

By now, the kick seen ’round the world has played out across countless twitter posts, Instagram photos, newspaper headlines, YouTube replays, and conversations, casual and otherwise at gyms, across breakfast tables, on subway platforms, and in every other place one can think of where people stop to shoot the breeze.

Even my sixteen year old daughter and her pals were full of opinions this morning, to a person, cheering on Holly Holm for her stupendous and stunning win over Ronda Rousey, to capture the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship title in the co-main event of UFC193. A bit of schadenfreude aside, for what has been interpreted as arrogance on the part of Rousey towards the boxing world, male and female, Holm’s picture perfect performance, quick hands, and focus, have brought into sharp relief, Holm’s superior multi-dimensional skills, ring savvy, focus and insistence, that if boxing couldn’t bring her the attention, opportunity and exposure she needs, then switching to MMA would.

That Rousey has garnered the attention she has received since bursting on the scene at Strikeforce, and becoming the first female to crack Dana White’s all male Ultimate Fighting Championship bastion, has been nothing short of phenomenal. She has garnered well-deserved accolades and a cross-over recognition into the wider public consciousness of a female martial sports practitioner that hasn’t been seen since the hey day of Laila Ali’s forays into the boxing ring.  One could argue that what Rousey has achieved is all the more stunning since she did not bring the name recognition of a famous father into the Octogan with her. What she did bring was a bronze Olympic medal in Judo, talent, gumption, and the kind of golden-girl good looks that get recognized, but that shouldn’t take away from her do-or-die performances in the ring and what that has meant to popular culture and the perception of what fighting females are capable of–very much on equal footing with their male counterparts.

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Holly Holm (l) with a left strike to Ronda Roussey during their UFC Championship bout. Photo credit: Quinn Rooney/Getty Photos

UFC193 is also notable for having had two-main events–both of which were female bouts.  A very, very long way from the kind of offerings UFC had on tap for its fans a mere two years ago.

But it is to Holly Holm and the women she represents we must really speak to: the female boxers who work hard day in and day out for peanuts, but who ply their trade anyway for love of the sport and the sense of accomplishment that comes with climbing into the ring. Holm came into her battle with Rousey not only with a 9-0 MMA record (now 10-0), but a 33-2-3 (9-KOs) boxing career behind her with a string of championship wins, and a veritable alphabet soup of titles to include WBC, WBF, WBA, IBA, NABF, WIBA, and IFBA (and maybe a title or two, I haven’t found).  She’s also fought, arguably, some of the best in the business to include such fighters as Chevelle Hallback, Jane Crouch, Belinda Laracuente, Mary Jo Saunders, Myriam Lamare, Anne-Sophe Mathis (who KO’d Holm in 2011 only to lose to her six months later) and Diana Prazak.

What is galling is that none of those battles, ten-round championship bouts all, with arguably the pound-for-pound greats in the sport, ever made it to Showtime or HBO or ESPN or were ever really known outside the tiny world of female boxing — and in Holly’s case, the local New Mexico sports community and their fans.

In fact, none of these fights were more than tiny ripples nationally, although blessedly Sue Fox’s WBAN was there to sing their praises if for no one else than folks like me who actually care about the sport and the women who put so much of themselves into pursing a professional career. And goodness knows while to a person, each of those fighters would deserve consideration at the International Boxing Hall of Fame, with the exception of consideration by the fledgling International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame (full disclosure, I am on the board), they will be forgotten, never mind having never really been known.

Still, those fights were sellouts, with screaming, cheering fans who LOVED  those battles and coined them as the “fight of the night.”

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 6.08.54 PMMore galling was to see Ronda Rousey’s face on the cover of boxing’s venerable Ring Magazine. Okay, okay, yep, I “get” it, she’s a true million-dollar-baby, but come on … she is NOT a boxer, and if the point was to honor the notion of female athletes in the ring, why not Holly Holm with an extraordinary record of achievement in the sport. But then again, perhaps I answered my own question, when it comes to women in boxing, there is utter silence, and not even Christy Martin cracked that code during her sensational career.

In the run up to the fight, Alicia Ashley, a champion many times over, who at 48, beat Bernard Hopkins by a month to become the oldest boxing champion in the world, said the following:  “I feel it’s insulting to traditional female boxers that Ring Magazine chose for its historic cover a female that’s not a boxer. I think a montage of iconic female fighters to reflect the evolution of women in the sport would’ve celebrated women more than creating controversy. The fact that female MMA fighters are more accepted than female boxers is a testament that the more exposure given, the more common place it becomes. The fact that Holly Holm and other females of her caliber are crossing over into MMA with increasing regularity because they are more [likely] to be showcased, which translates into increased pay or sponsorship can only be attributed to the lack of support women are getting from promoters. The sport of women’s boxing will not advance if promoters insist on using one female to reinvigorate it. It certainly didn’t happen with Christy Martin or Laila Ali and it won’t with Ronda Rousey if she is the only female shown twice a year.”

Perhaps the Holly Holm win, coupled with the achievements of female boxers in USA Boxing’s elite program coming into the second Olympic cycle, will bring promoters and sports television producers to their senses about the opportunities for the great female boxing battles to come. And perhaps too,  Oscar De La Hoya, who promised to put women on his fight cards at last year’s historic WBC women’s boxing conference will finally come through–though I tend to doubt it since his idea of promoting female boxing was to sponsor Ronda Rousey.  Hmmm.

Oh and did I mention that Claressa Shields, will have the opportunity to compete for the chance to win a second gold medal for the USA in Rio in 2016–another greatest story, largely untold (and no Wheaties box, surprised?).

Meanwhile, women’s boxing does have an extraordinary champion to cheer for in Holly Holm, and in what can only be described as a true female boxer’s style, she felt only gratitude at having been given that chance to prove her metal.

All I can say is this: Female boxers … this 60-something girl boxer salutes you!

Holly Holm’s tearful, humble acknowledgement of her win:

02
Nov
15

Melissa St. Vil – Ready to Rumble

Melissa St. Vil – Ready to Rumble

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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.

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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 Girlboxing readers 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.

Here’s what she had to say:

05
Sep
15

We only have each other … women’s boxing

We only have each other … women’s boxing

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Six Women’s Boxing Champions at Gleason’s Gym: (l to r) Melissa St. Vil, Fire McLeod, Heather Hardy, Ronica Jeffries, Susie Ramadan, Alicia Ashley. Photo credit: Hosking Promotions

Women’s boxing has garnered a fair amount of press in the United States of late from the split-draw IBF Female Super Bantamweight title fight between Maureen “The Real Million Dollar Baby” Shea (24-2-1) and Luna “La Cobrita” Avila (12-2-1) on Shane Mosely’s Pay Per View extravaganza, to the announcement that Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm (33-2-3) will fight UFC’s reigning WMMA champion Ronda Rousey in November on the UFC193 card in Melbourne, Australia.

Action will also be heating up in September with a series of bouts featuring East Coast professional female boxers including the return of Alicia “Slick” Ashley (22-10-1) in a WBC Female Superbantamweight title fight on September 15th, Shelito Vincent (14-0) in an 8-rounder at Foxwoods Casino on September 12th (with the top of the card broadcast on NBC), Ronica Jeffrey (13-1) in a 6-rounder on September 11th, and Amanda Serrano in a 6-rounder on September 10th.

Added to that mix will be Australian boxer “Shotgun” Shannon O’Connell (11-3)  making her North American boxing debut in Toronto against Canadian fighter Sandy “Lil Tyson” Tsagouris. The two will battle in an 8-rounder on the undercard of a PBC/Spike TV card headed by the Adonis Stevenson v. Tommy Karpency WBC World light heavyweight title fight.

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(l to r) Susie Ramadan, Alicia Ashley, Shannon O’Connell, Photo Credit: Hosking Promotions

Ahead of her fight, Shannon O’Connell along with two-time world champion Susie Q. Ramadan (23-3) have embarked on a tour of the U.S. with their trainers, promoter Lynden Hosking of Hosking Promotions and U.S. advisor, Eddie Montalvo. The tour has led the two fighters to New York City, and the world-famous Gleason’s Gym where both women had the opportunity to meet with the likes of Keisher “Fire” McLeod, Ronica Jeffries, Melissa St. Vil, Alicia Ashley, and Heather Hardy–a veritable who’s who of women’s boxing champions.

Girlboxing had a chance to meet and talk with O’Connell, Ramadan, promoter Hosking and Heather Hardy who sparred Ramadan for three tough hard-fought rounds.  While the interviews were brief, the sentiment expressed was one of optimism for the sport over all and most importantly of the need for connection and support among the fighters as they battle for recognition and opportunities to practice their art.

Here’s what everyone had to say:

10
May
15

Three Minute Rounds for Female Boxing In New York State

Three-minute rounds for female boxing in New York State

Susan Reno

 

When Susan Reno (1-3-2) and Paola “La Loba” Ortiz (0-5-1) step into the ring at Brooklyn’s storied Masonic Temple on May 15th, they’ll be doing something no other female fighters in a sanctioned New York State bout have done before, they’ll be contesting their battle using the three-minutes per round they’re trained to fight, not the two-minute versions they’ve been consigned to.

A smattering of states quietly sanctioned three-minute rounds over the years. In California, current IBO heavyweight champion Sonya Lamonakis fought six hard three-minute rounds in 2013 against the current WBC champion Martha Salazar. While a surprise to Lamonakis, who’d expected the bout to be fought at two-minutes per round, in a recent conversation as she readies for her championship battle against Gwendolyn O’Neil in St. Maartin on May 30th, she said, “Well I’m all for it. I did it already for six rounds in California. I think it may even make the women more elite.”

Of all the states, however, Nevada has led the way in sanctioning three-minute round female bouts. Most notably, beginning in 2007, the Boxing Commission worked with pound-for-pound women’s boxing great Layla McCarter  to not only sanction longer rounds, but twelve round championship bouts. In the late 1970s, there were also more than a few boxing matches that were contested at three minutes per round, and even a couple of fifteen round championship bouts, but otherwise, women’s boxing has long been relegated to near on amateur status when it comes to professional fighting: two-minutes per round with a maximum of ten rounds for a championship fight.

The issue of three-minute rounds has been a crucible for women’s boxing, and lies at the heart of legitimizing the hard work and effort that goes into professional boxing contests between female fighters including such matters as television time and the pay checks female boxers receive, which are paltry compared to their male counterparts. The “joke” is that women are told they receive less pay because they only fight two-minute rounds! It is also part of a continuing argument on issues of female stamina and even whether the monthly menstrual cycle affects the ability of women to fight longer. The latter was part of the argument used by the World Boxing Council (WBC) sanctioning body, which in supporting championship belts for women, has also waded into the fray by stating they would only sanction two-minute round, ten round bouts for women.

Alicia “Slick” Ashley, a former WBC champion has been outspoken on the three-minute round issues. In her experience, she’s, “felt the pressure to perform quicker because of the two-minute time limit which of course is better suited for volume punchers but as a boxer I’ve learned to adjust and started my fights off faster.”

She also argues that, “MMA had the foresight to have women on an even footing immediately is something that powers behind boxing never had,” and goes on to say, “How can you say women cannot box three-minute rounds when MMA proves that women can fight five-minute rounds? Hopefully MMA will help open the eyes of the boxing world. We as female fighters can only keep pushing for change or at least the option of fighting for three minutes.”

When asked about New York State’s decision to sanction three-minute rounds, she said, “I’m very happy that NYS had the option of women fighting three-minute rounds if both parties agree. The fact that the Commission understands that women can and will fight longer if given the opportunity is a step in the right direction to competition and hopefully pay equality.”

Boxing trainers also agree that holding women to two-minute rounds is arbitrary at best. Veteran Lennox Blackmoore who has been training female champions since the late 1990s including Jill “the Zion Lion” Mathews the first woman to win a New York Daily News Golden Gloves contest in 1996 said, “I think that’s great. When a woman trains, she trains three minutes a round like anybody else. I don’t see why she shouldn’t fight that way. There are a lot of good women boxers, and it’ll show people what they can do. Jill Mathews fought ten rounds for a championship belt, but it could have three-minute rounds too, she had the experience and the endurance to do that because she trained that way.”

Grant Seligson, a trainer at Gleason’s Gym who works with an array of female fighters from White Collar boxers on through competitive fighters agrees. “Women’s endurance is not only as good as a man’s, but is often better. Besides it’s women competing against women of the same weight, so why shouldn’t it be three minutes a round.”

Given the momentum of women’s MMA with its five-minute rounds–the same for male and female fighters–, and the obvious appeal  female boxers continue to have with audiences even given the virtual media blackout in the United States, the fact that the NYS Boxing Commission has opened things up is something to be applauded.

To learn more about how this all came about, boxer Susan Reno agreed to take time from her busy training schedule to detail her experiences with Girlboxing readers. We all owe a lot to the New York State Boxing Commission’s, Melvina Lathan and David Berlin, along with Susan Reno, Paola Ortiz and Uprising Promotions for what will be an historic event on May 15th.

Paola “La Loba” Ortiz (l) and Susan Reno (r) will fight the first sanctioned 3-minute per round female bout in New York State on May 15, 2015 at Brooklyn Masonic Temple. Credit: Susan Reno

 

  1. In the world of women’s boxing, 3-minute rounds have been the “Holy Grail”? How in the world did you convince the NYS Boxing Commission to sanction 3-minute rounds for your upcoming six-rounder with Paola Ortiz?

There was very little convincing! It just took time. I feel New York has seen female boxers demonstrate time and time again, that we belong in the ring and know what we are doing.  In 2013 Vanessa Greco and I fought a fast-paced, six round draw. After witnessing our action packed bout, NYSAC Chairperson, Melvina Lathan and long-time NY Promoter Bob Duffy both agreed that it was time for women to fight three-minute rounds. Not only are we capable, but we are entertaining and the longer rounds could help avoid draws.

The opportunity did not present itself until this year (I had only fought in California in 2014). In a conversation with NYSAC Executive Director, David Berlin, he wondered out loud “why don’t women fight three-minute rounds?” I jumped on that thought and said, “I’ll do it!”  He too, recognized women have the skill, stamina and focus to fight the same amount of time as the men. His response was “let’s make history!”

I was unaware that there had not been a female boxing match consisting of three-minute rounds in New York. I knew that both Melissa Hernandez and Belinda Laracuente had both fought Layla McCarter in Vegas and their bouts were three-minute rounds. I definitely wanted to seize the opportunity and follow in their footsteps.

My team, Ronson Frank/Uprising Promotions and Paola Ortiz’s camp all agreed to the three-minute rounds and the Commission approved and as the saying goes, “the rest is history.”

  1. WBC has come out to say they would not sanction 3-minute round female boxing championships citing what many have considered to be specious “science.”  What do you feel the response should be from female fighters?

I respect the WBC’s decision to not sanction three-minute rounds. They run a business and every business has to protect itself. I love your phrase “specious science” Malissa! There is no shortage of it on the internet! I can understand a company’s struggle with “inconclusive” or “cloudy” data. Maybe when the question regarding three-minute rounds came up, the answers where not ones they were ready for. From a business standpoint the question is to invest (sanction 3 minute rounds) or not invest? While I respect their decision, I don’t have to agree with it. I feel female fighter’s response should be to invest in our ourselves. Take the best possible care of ourselves physically and mentally and get in the ring and prove them wrong!

  1. Every woman I know who boxes (myself included) trains and spars for three-minute rounds, but when it comes to fights, has had to adjust to two-minute rounds competitively.  How does that affect your fight plan?

I feel the adjustment from training three-minute rounds to fighting two-minute rounds applies unnecessary pressure to “get the job done.” I know many women who can pace out and box the two-minute rounds. World Champion Alicia Ashley does it beautifully and consistently. But many times, the two minutes can create more of a battle than a boxing match. While this can be exciting and fan friendly, it can be difficult to set traps for your opponent and catch them before the bell rings. I imagine the short rounds can make judging difficult as well.

  1. With a three-minute round fight, what adjustments to your fighting style do you feel you will make–or, is this the “natural” way to fight, since it’s the way you train, and the adjustments have come in the two-minute round battles?

I have proven time and time again that I can fight. Now it’s time to box and I feel I will be more comfortable knowing I have more than 120 seconds at a time to hunt, trap and catch my prey.

  1. Now that NY State has sanctified a three-minute fight, what do you think the future will hold?

I feel this fight will open the door to all of the talented and dedicated female fighters in New York as well as those (such as my opponent Paola Ortiz) who are hungry to prove our worth in the business of boxing. Boxing is a business. I understand that. One excuse women are given in regard to our fight purse, is that we fight shorter rounds. Some promoters say that since we fight less time, that equals less pay.  So I say, let’s fight the same amount of time and take away that rationale. I recognize that what I can do in boxing right now, can benefit women in the future. It is my hope that in the near future, professional female boxers can get on TV, gain recognition and get paid for their work same as professional male boxers. I believe fighting three-minute rounds will help level the playing field and create equal business opportunities.

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!

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.




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