Posts Tagged ‘boxing trainers

10
Jan
17

Stamina

stamina

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I’ve been hitting Gleason’s Gym three days a week since the beginning of September.  The usual schedule has been to get to the gym before seven—two mornings a week, putting in around 16 rounds plus 100 sit-ups before the rush to get to the office. On Saturday mornings, I put in a longish workout to net out about 20 rounds of work plus sit-ups (150 this past Saturday), including sparring with my trainer, Lennox Blackmoore.  I also take time to stretch and get in a fair amount of schmoozing.

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Len and I having been sparring for a couple of years with some regularity, but bits of minor health issues on both sides have pushed us off the mark for the last couple of months.  We’ll certainly pick it up again, but the return to more consistent pad work, plus extra rounds on the heavy bag have given me new insights into the sweet science.

14212050_10208382068522073_5102702498388978962_nThe regular training is also a barometer on all the other aspects of health—mental and otherwise, and given that my weight’s been creeping up over the last six months (seeing the doctor on that one given that I eat and exercise about the same), it’s been interesting to measure its effect on the illusive construct of stamina.

What Len will say is stamina is a matter of mind—and there’s nothing like a hard workout at 7:00 AM to test the theory because, let’s face it, some mornings have just been awful, or have had bits of awful that flower as a chrysalis into “oh what a beautiful morning,” great.

This morning’s boxing was a case in point.  Having gotten up at 5:30—after a less than great sleep—I managed to find my way through my morning “ablutions.”  By 6:30 I was bundled against the 19 degree temperature, slowly making my way through Cadman Plaza to walk to Gleason’s, but not before stopping a minute to take a picture of the buildings and the small park set against the pre-dawn sky.

By the time I walked through the door of the gym, I was resolved to push through the tiredness I felt—but there was nothing doing, when it came to my first couple of rounds shadowing boxing.  In fact, we are talking, an “Oy, are you kidding me?” kind of creakiness as my knees crackled, my neck stiffened and barely turning from side to side, and with my supposed stamina nowhere to be found.  By the time round one with Len started, I could barely crank my arms to limply hit the pads—especially the right which earned me a cranky “wake-up, wake-up, straighten out your arm and turn your hip.”

I just nodded, wishing that I could find some pithy retort, other than to give it another go.

“Push it, push it, see.”

This from throwing the right with too much elbow sticking out from the inside.

“And turn your hip!”

“Yep, got it,” I replied, not really having got it, but figuring if I kept hitting it that way it would eventually find it’s mark.

Catching a glimpse of the clock between rounds, I did an inner groan at seeing it was only 7:35, but gamely turned to keep going at it.

By round three, it did start to make sense; it also brought me to an epiphany about stamina.  I was so busy trying to work through the task of throwing a straight right from the inside that I was starting to forget that I was tired and achy and less than enthused.  The previous workout I’d had, had been my best in weeks. I’d been peppy as I shadow-boxed for four rounds, and even peppier when Len and I went a full six rounds on the pads in the ring. Having it to ourselves meant that we really worked the corners and when it was done, I went on to the small water bag for four rounds, the doubled-ended bag for four rounds, and finished with four rounds on the speed bag before 150 sit-ups and a lot of stretching.

15107443_10208943471316792_3935173821081775570_nThe determinate in that case had been a decent night’s sleep—but for the workout at hand, something else was kicking in. Not exactly an extra gear so much as finding the space to just be. In other words, I was getting out of my own way and in doing so; tiredness, creaky bones and all of the other obstacles that had seemed fairly insurmountable began to peel away.

By the end of the fourth round I was ready to keep going—but having caught another glimpse at the clock I realized I didn’t have too much time left before I had to get going for work. Still, I remained in that moment, so to speak, as I practiced the straight right on the double-ended bag, and posed problems to myself from different angles and in different combinations from different sides.

And yes, my stamina was there. I could have kept going for many more rounds despite less than ideal sleep, and all of the other impediments that had felt like lead weights around my ankles.

I’ll be getting to the gym again tomorrow morning. With some luck, I’ll be able to pull the focus trick that’ll lead me to feeling bouncy and fit as I gyrate around the ring. And maybe if that happens enough times it’ll be more of a habit of mind than thinking that it’s only a manifestation of my physical condition—time will tell.

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.

01
Sep
14

Susan Reno is taking on Jolene Blackshear on Sept. 4th, Exclusive Q and A.

Susan Reno is taking on Jolene Blackshear on Sept. 4th, Exclusive Q and A.

Susan Reno

With a 1-2-1 record, Susan Melucci Reno seems an unlikely challenger for fighter Jolene Blackshear (8-5, 3-KOs), whose strong punching power, record of quality opponents and titles would seem to be another one of those crazy mismatches.

What Susan Reno brings to the ring, however, is grit, determination and at 41 years of age, perennial youthfulness packed into her compact, dynamic, ever moving body.

Film goers who’ve had the opportunity to watch Jill Morley’s excellent personal documentary entitled, Fight Like A Girl, have also been given the treat to watch Susan in action when she was first starting out as an amateur boxer in the New York Daily News Golden Gloves. Winning the Gloves at thirty-four proved to be just the beginning and as Reno readies to fight Blackshear in what is sure to be an exciting 6-round punch-fest, she is excited not only to have gotten the call, but to meet what she knows will be a fantastic challenge.

Recently, Girlboxing had the chance to meet with Susan Reno and her husband and trainer, Michael Reno in Brooklyn.

Here’s some of what she had to say.

  1. How did you get into boxing?

I started with Muay Thai first … I thought I was too cool for school and my friend said “Do you want to learn how to kick box?” and I ‘m like “yeah.” So I got into that and then I realized, “hmm” I watched the fighters train, and I though didn’t want to fight, I figured, let me see if I can keep up with the fighting that they did – and I could more than keep up. After that I was in the ring … had about five Thai fights.

Mike and my brother then said, “Would you please switch to boxing. You don’t kick anybody you just punch; you win your fights just punching.” And [Mike] just went ahead and got me a boxing match and as soon I started training for it, ‘cause the rhythm is so different, I loved it and that was it, it was all boxing after that.

  1. You actually fought and won in the NY Daily News Golden Gloves.

I fought in the 2007 Golden Gloves. I got two fights, and I got to fight at [Madison Square] Garden and I got to call my dad and say, “hey, ah, I’m fighting at the Garden can you make it?” And I was so happy that I got to fight at the Garden. I love what they’re doing at Barclay’s Center, starting new traditions, but for me, a fight at Madison Square was fantastic.

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Susan Merlucci Reno in Fight Like A Girl, Photo Credit: Philip Habib

  1. While you were training for the Gloves, you were in Jill Morley’s film Fight Like A Girl. What was that experience like that for you?

It’s funny. I’m super grateful for the experience because unlike a lot of my fellow boxers, I have footage of everything. I have footage of all my fights, I have footage of all my training. So it’s a little painful to know someone’s following you around with a camera, but on the other hand, I can look back now and am grateful I can look back and see how far I’ve come from that point. It was a good experience.

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Susan Reno, in her pro debut, landing a straight right fighting Vanessa Greco. Photo Credit: Staten Island Advance/ Bill Lyons

  1. What made you decide to go pro? You came to boxing very late. You were thirty-four at the Golden Gloves and thirty-nine when you turned pro.

I am forty-one now and yeah, thirty-four was the cut-off at the Golden Glove. As for turning pro, I was still able to compete and I feel that I don’t have a lot of miles on me. I’m smarter and as I’m getting older – you learn so many cool things, so many new tricks, and as long as I’m learning and I’m moving and I can make that punch miss, I’m still boxing.

I had my first pro fight last January of 2013. I had three fights that year. I fought Vanessa Greco twice and Jackie Park once. The Jacqueline Park fight I learned to fight more than four rounds ’cause I found her. She was tall but I found her in the third round and  in the fourth round, I definitely found her.  And then the fight was over and I thought I’m not doing four rounds ever again if I can help it. (Note to readers, Susan Reno lost the fight on a split decision.)

My first fight was against Vanessa Greco. It was a feeling of accomplishment. I know she was an accomplished amateur and she has the pro experience, so I knew it was going to be a tough challenge, and I knew she was coming to fight. She’s fought some of my friends, but … I’m not afraid of a challenge … I have nothing to lose. So it’s all experience for me … and it’s not like I’m twenty years old … and I train fighters and more than training fighters, I have so many students, so the experience pays back to them, so whatever I can accumulate for myself, it’s just more that I can give back to my students.

  1. Promoter Bobby D is putting on the card you’ll be fighting on against Jolene Blackshear on September 4th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Diego.

They’re a very professional group. He puts women’s fights on every card or almost every card. I had my last pro fight on April 4, 2014 out there. Jolene and I were on the same card. We were in the same locker room. Very professional… I respect her a lot. Mike got the call.

Michael Reno: The matchmaker called and asked if Susan was available. We’re ready.

Susan Reno: She’s a two-time world champion. I’m really excited to fight. I know she’s really tough and she’s really strong and she’s really experienced.

We’re fighting six rounds. I’m getting my roadwork in. I’m getting my gym work in. I’m getting my sparring in. I’m eating right, resting … I feel good. It’s almost a little scary, but I feel good.

I know she’s got power. For a little tiny woman she’s got power from what I understand. Big right hand, big left hooks. So I know she’s got a lot of power. She puts her opponents on their butt. It’s a huge challenge, but I feel like we’re going to have a great time in there.

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  1. What tricks do you have up your sleeve?

Stay focused! And focus on being focused. Stay in that moment, you know, not worry about what she may or may not do and just see what’s happening, see what she’s doing, be in the moment. I think that’s probably the most important thing as far as being in the ring whether you’re sparring or fighting, training. When we get back to the student thing for me as a trainer teaching, it’s being in the moment, not worrying about what’s going to happen in the next round, what’s going on outside of the ring, being in the moment.

I love the training. There’s the physical and the mental training. I remember when I first started doing Muay Thai, my head instructor at the time said fighting is just like a chess match, and I was just a crazy ball of energy and I’m like “chess match, what are you talking about chess match?”

And now I’m like, all right, if I do this, then they’re probably going to do this and then I’ll do this, and I see the chess match now, that’s what really excites me, and as far as physical training, I love that I’m strong and I’m fast. I can be explosive, so I feel I keep my body better now then when I was in my twenties, which is one of the reasons I’m glad they extended the age for women’s amateur boxing, because I feel that a lot of women get into this so late and they realize “my gosh, I’m good at this, I can do this,” and then, the cut off age.

  1. A lot of women in the 20s and 30s didn’t know they could participate in explosive sports. As a trainer, what do you feel you are able to give these women when they come in to train?

I definitely feel that my experience in the ring and preparing to be in the ring, has made me a better person and a better trainer. It’s allowed me to be more patient, more calm, and I realize … some trainers like to yell, some trainers like to slap their students around, get them all riled up and crazy, and I feel that there are so many other things that can be crazy that trying to stay in the moment gives me a calmer point of view when I’m training people.

Someone will do something wrong, but I feel there isn’t really right or wrong, I tell them I have all day and we’ll take as long as it takes to get it right … there’s no consequence right now, no one’s trying to hit you right now … so as I’m talking to them, I feel like it’s given me a lot of patience.

I train women and men … oddly more men. I started in Muay Thai, so there’s a little bit of a martial arts focus, because of the way my Muay Thai trainer brought us up, there’s a respect and a calm and so you have to pay your dues, but most of the people I work with know you’ve got to pay your dues, and I admit I have smart ways … and If you think you’re going to get around this the easy way, I’ve got a trick or two up my sleeve.

  1. Were you always athletic as a kid?

It’s definitely something I came to … I played basketball oddly enough, all five feet of me … I did a season of cheerleading. I went to Art School at Pratt Institute and moved to Brooklyn. I’m an art school drop out unfortunately, and I was the art kid, I’d paint and draw. And wasn’t particularly athletic, that’s why team sports freaked me out, because people depended on you, but with boxing, it’s you … you have your team, your trainers and so on … but if I get hit it’s my fault.

  1. How does boxing play into you as an artist?

It’s absolutely art. Watching how punch combinations get put together and physics … now I’m actually looking at it now

My job is geometry and physics …

You know how to throw a jab, how to throw a cross how to roll under a punch … but it’s little things, like timing, your timing and being able to change-up the timing and bring it all back so that it makes sense. And I love the footwork.

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Susan Reno, Golden Gloves, 2007. Photo Credit: Fight Like A Girl

      10. What do you want to do with this, where are you in five years?

One thing I have learned is stop retiring because after the nationals. I fought Cheryl Houlihan who was the five-time world champion. I’d never been to a world championship, Mike had never been … we get there and we didn’t know what was going on, there were three rings, a cow bell, a bicycle, chaos … so I’m all geared up and I draw the champion first, it’s a computer draw, and I’d had five fights, six fights, something like that, and she’s the five-time champion, and I’m like, I don’t care, I have to fight her sooner or later, let’s go. We had a really good fight. She gave me two standing eights in the first round, but I gave her two standing eights in the third round … and yeah, she beat me, but by three points. After that fight I said, I’m thirty-four, I’m retiring now, but … well, I’m still fighting. As for five years from now? I don’t know. I’ll be in some aspect of boxing whether I’m fighting or just training people, I’ll definitely be in boxing. And, I earn my living in boxing. I train people. I’m at The Wat, a Muay Thai gym. I teach boxing, Muay Thai and conditioning, mostly as a personal trainer.

      11. You’re training young female athletes too. What changes are you seeing in the women’s boxing amateur scene?

They’re getting better! You see some of these kids at 16, they’re fantastic. They’ve got skills. You can see what’s coming for 2020 … They are definitely as good as the boys. The coaches are taking them seriously too.

12. Having been to the USA Boxing Nationals in 2007, what is it like to see these kids now?

It’s fantastic. You’re seeing them with the same skill levels as the boys. They’re slipping; they’re making things miss; setting things up. They’re explosive. It’s not just two people lobbing punches at each other. It’s exciting.

13. On the pro scene you’re getting a fantastic opportunity to fight Jolene. Where do you see women’s boxing going on the pro side?

I’m in a unique position where I’m comfortable taking chances, and coming into somebody’s home town, and I know that they’re the favorite, that they’re supposed to win, but I’m comfortable with going in there and giving it my absolute best, and guess what, I might upset some people that night. That’s the plan. Being older you’re more confident. What are you going to do, shoot me? I’ll take the bullet out and then I’ll beat you.

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Susan Reno with husband and trainer Michael Reno. Photo credit: Malissa Smith

14. And what about for female boxers in general?

I feel it’s a little tougher … I have a job. I’m a trainer. I’m doing this because I love it. I’m not trying to earn my purse. It’s definitely tough for some of these women. They’re trying to earn a living and compete with what the professional men get. It is absolutely frustrating. But it’s got to get better. The quality is going up. It’s got to get better.

Michael Reno: You need a network to take a chance. Then you need a fighter to take a chance and not take a big purse because the network isn’t going to want to pay. And finding a quality fighter to fight her.

 

14
Aug
14

Melissa McMorrow Seeking Redemption in Mexico: Exclusive Q and A

Melissa McMorrow Seeking Redemption in Mexico: Exclusive Q and A

Melissa McMorrow, "Bags and Belts", Photo Credit: Steven Solidarios

Melissa McMorrow, “Bags and Belts,” Photo Credit: Steven Solidarios

Melissa “Mighty” McMorrow (9-4-3, 1-KO) is look for redemption.

Having fought her heart out in a title fight she is certain she won against the more experienced Mariana “Le Barbie” Juarez (39-7-3, 16-KOs)  for the WBC International Female Super Flyweight championship, McMorrow is determined to find vindication.

She will be fighting 26-year-old Mexican fighter, Jessica Chavez (20-3-3, 4-KOs), in the hopes of doing just that, and in the process win the vacant WBC International Female Flyweight title. Even though she will be going back to Mexico to fight Chavez–having won a title before in someone’s backyard, when she defeated the always dangerous Susi Kentikian (33-2-0, 17-KOs) for the WBO Female Flyweight title, she is certain if she puts a little something more into her fighting she will emerge victorious on August 23, 2014.

Melissa was kind enough to take some time out of her schedule to share an exclusive Q and A with Girlboxing readers. Here’s what she had to say.

1.  As a boxer, you’ve been showing grit, determination and an explosive fighting style ever since you began your professional career in 2008. In preparing to fight Jessica Chavez—who at 26 is not only several years younger, but has an excellent pedigree of tough opponents—what are you doing to get into physical and mental fighting shape for your upcoming bout?

I am doing what I always do.  I am running, sparring, and training hard for the fight.  I have always done very strenuous cardio work and this time is no different.

Melissa McMorrow sparring with Jamie Mitchell, Photo Credit: Steven Solidarious

2. Training is everything in boxing! What you focusing on in your training to counter Chavez’s obvious talent and high level of skill in the ring both offensively and defensively?

I focus on my game and the techniques and tactics that work for me.  I don’t worry too much about my opponents.  Once I get into the fight, I will cater my fight to what Chavez brings, but in training, I work on making sure my best weapons are sharp.  Lately, I have been working on giving better angles so I can set up effective hard shots.

A tough Melissa McMorrow applying constant pressure to La Barbie Juarez as they battled for the WBC Female Superflyweight International title, February 22, 2014. McMorrow lost 94-96 on all three cards.

3. Your most recent fight was against the highly touted Mexican fighter Mariana “La Barbie” Juárez for the WBC International Female Super Flyweight title in Mexico. The scores were 94-96 on all three scorecards, but there is some consensus that you got a raw deal. What are your feelings about it and how is that affecting you as you prepare to fight Chavez on her home turf? [A link to the fight can be found below]

The decision for the Juarez fight was very frustrating, but it motivates me to train hard for this next fight.  I watched the fight over and over and still feel like I landed the cleaner more effective punches, had better defense and better ring generalship, and more effective aggression through the majority of the fight. I’m still mad about the decision so I am even more determined to leave no doubts in the upcoming fight.  This fight with Chavez means a lot to me because I see it as a chance at vindication for the last one.

4. After a career that saw you fighting two to four fights a year culimnating in your defeat of Susi Kentikian to win the WBO Flyweight title and your title defense against Yahaira Martinez by TKO in the 9th round, you ended up losing the belt because you didn’t defend it during the proscribed timeframe. What can you tell us about that situation, your new promotion team, and what you hope to achieve starting with the Chavez fight?

The belt situation was unfortunate.  I signed with a promoter in Germany who offered me a very good fight contract.  I was very excited to fight abroad especially because Europe has some top boxing talent.  I fought 2 fights under the promoter but fights after that never materialized.  I was offered many fights but when I presented them to the promoter as options, I was told that they had different plans for me. This lasted a year after which I decided to walk away from the contract because it was not in my interest. This cost me the belt because without fights, the time frame for defending the title was passed. Since then, I have been looking for new beginnings. I was hoping to make a strong statement with the fight with Juarez by winning her title. But now I have a new opportunity to do so by beating Chavez in a weight class that I am more comfortable [in].  

5. Across the divisions in the pro ranks of women’s boxing, fighters seem content to keep going well into their 40s. At 33, what do you see ahead of you with respect to your career as an active fighter?

I think that women differ from men in that they continue to be strong and maintain endurance longer in to their lifespan.  Regardless, I am not one to make definitive plans about my future.  I am open to what my life brings me…. that is how I even got into boxing in the first place.  When I started, I told myself that I would box until it no longer made me happy.  That hasn’t happened yet, but I think when it does it will be very clear to me that its time to move on.  At this point, there are still a lot of fights that I would love to take.

BB.MM

Melissa McMorrow with Beautiful Brawlers Champions Iris Contreras, Graciela Ortega and Eli Salinas, Photo Credit: Blanca Guttierez

6. Aside from your efforts as a pro boxer, you’ve been lending your considerable talent to coaching and mentoring female amateurs fighters in Blanca Gutierrez’s Beautiful Brawlers program. What can you tell us about that and what you feel you can offer the girls?

I think the best thing I can offer the girls is a tangible example.  That is why I show up.  When I was an amateur, there were very few women in the sport.  It was hard to picture what a skilled female boxer was because I had never really seen one.  I try and make sure that the girls have a positive example that they can follow so that they learn when they are young that you need to put the work in.

7. Having been in the pros for over six years, what changes have you seen in the sport since you started in 2008? Do you feel the addition of women’s boxing to the Olympics in 2012, is having a positive impact on the sport?

I started fighting as a pro in 2008 but I did compete in the amateurs since 2005. The amateur scene is completely different now because there are a lot more fighters.  In addition, the program has been more formalized because of the path to the Olympics. In 2006 and 2007 it was confusing what the requirements were to even go to the National tournament.  The program lacked depth, so if you did not take the top spot at the Nationals there was nothing for you.  This caused people to quit or turn pro because they could not find fights otherwise.  There was a lot of turnover and, consequently, a lack of people really sticking with the games and really learning solid boxing skills.  This has all changed because of the Olympics. There is now a very good reason for girls to develop their boxing skills for a shot at the Olympics.  There are now a lot of young girls in the sport.  It is very exciting!

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Melissa McMorrow throwing a hard left to Susi Kentikian, in their WBO Female Flyweight title fight shown on German television. Photo Credit: Eroll Popova

8. One of the biggest frustrations for female boxers in the United States is the lack of media coverage of their fights. Just across the border from you in Mexico, women’s fights are routinely broadcast on Mexican television, sports channels and satellite outlets. What do you think has to happen to get the networks to “wake up” and start putting female fights back on television?

I think we need to find the right people at the networks to talk to.  When I tell people that I am a boxer, they are immediately excited about it. This issue is not that there is no market. The product just has not been brought to the market.  At this point, people are waiting for big promoters to sign female talent to showcase it. I think this would be very helpful, but creating contacts with TV outside of major promoters is also a viable option.

9. Whenever your name comes up in boxing circles, there’s a collective nod as if to say, “yep, she’s a real boxer.”  What do you hope to achieve in the sport – and where do you think it will take you once you do decide to hang up the gloves?

In order to compete in a sport like boxing, you have to love it. It is very difficult to train as I much as I do, and to look after your weight, etc. Sometimes I ask my self why it is so important to me. It sometimes seems really silly. But you can’t help what you love and sports of all kinds have always been that way to me.  Sports were always the thing I was best at and loved doing the most. I strive to be good at whatever I do and I hope that when I’m done boxing, a little piece of me will stay with the sport and people will remember who I was. I have no idea where it will take me when I hang up the gloves. Boxing has been a part of my life for the last 10 years so I don’t even remember my life without it, but I think I will always be a part of boxing in some way.

Melissa McMorrow’s battle against Mariana Juárez. You be the judge! (Fight starts about 12 minutes in – in Spanish)

25
Jun
14

Here’s to the ladies who punch …

Here’s to the ladies who punch …

A History Of Women's Boxing

Today’s my big day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gussie Freeman

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

Dixie Dugan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links to purchase the book:

Barnes and Noble.com 

Amazon.com

26
May
14

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

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

Elisa "The Bomb" Collaro

Elisa “The Bomb” Collaro

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

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

Elisa "The Bomb" Collaro

Elisa “The Bomb” Collaro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo6

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

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

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

America = New York = Gleason’s Gym.

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

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

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

Elisa Collaro training with Buddy McGirt at Gleason's Gym

Elisa Collaro training with Buddy McGirt at Gleason’s Gym

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

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

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

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

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

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

9.  What do you wish for the future?

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

30
Apr
14

K.O. Mequinonoag Reis: Exclusive Q & A Ahead Of Her May 3, 2014 Fight!

K.O. Mequinonoag Reis: Exclusive Q & A Ahead Of Her May 3, 2014 Fight!

Kali Reis fights on May 3, 2014 at the Irish Cultural Center in Canton, MA.

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.

Kali Reis, Photo Credit: Christopher Annino

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 the Striking 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
Kali Reis & Tori Nelson fight toe-to-toe during the ten-round WIBA title bout on November 7, 2013, Photo Credit: Mike Greenhill3.  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.
Kali Reis 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.




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