Posts Tagged ‘DiBella Entertainment

25
Oct
18

Shelly Vincent: Fighting For The Positive

Shelly “Shelito’s Way” Vincent is a force of nature. Sporting tattoos, colorful hair, and a personality to match, she has pushed the boundaries of gender norms in a sport that is unforgiving at best when it comes to female participation in the sport.

Standing all of five feet tall with a nearly perfect record of 23-1 save for her one loss to Heather “The Heat” Hardy (21-0), Vincent’s outsized personality and constant motion in the gym gives her the appearance of someone much larger.

I had the opportunity to spend much of the day with Vincent a couple of weeks ago in Cranston, Rhode Island as she was winding down training for what will be the biggest, toughest ring battle of her life as she squares off against Hardy.

Billed as Hardy-Vincent 2, the pair will open the show on HBO Boxing’s last regularly scheduled boxing broadcast – in itself a remarkable feat as their fight will be only the second bout featuring female boxers shown on HBO during its long history. A championship battle, they will fight for the WBO Female Featherweight title belt at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater on Saturday, October 27, 2018.

The pair last fought in an historical bout in Brooklyn in 2016. Later dubbed the female fight of the year, it was also the first bout contested by female boxers broadcast by Premier Boxing Champions. Coincidently, their fight was on the same day Claressa Shields won her second Olympic Gold medal, something not lost on either fighter as they continue to push for legitimacy in the sport.

For Vincent, however, the “road” to the fight itself had been hard fought—and in the best tradition of boxing’s outlandish rivalries, Vincent had been calling out Hardy for years on social media and in person at Hardy’s fights to not only take her on in the ring, but to help build up the profile of their eventual contest.

She’s also had to fight hard for the rematch something she said she’d been promised, but as it was not forthcoming, Vincent was not shy about pushing for it, even “crashing” one of Hardy’s MMA bouts to press her case for the rematch.

Hanging with Vincent and her trainer, the highly regarded Peter Manfredo Sr., who has been training Shelly and acting as her ring guide for the past several years—one got the sense that while Hardy is a nemesis of sorts, there was also a begrudging respect that had begun to form, not only as fighters, but as women pushing the boundaries of a sport that doesn’t really seem to want them in it.

Still, of the first fight, Vincent voiced a number of issues that she felt hamstrung both fighters—but more so, herself.

“We only had three weeks to get ready, which means we only sparred about—six times, if we sparred to the max.”  The shortened time frame made cutting weight that much harder, and with the need to sell tickets ever-present, a mainstay for women if they want any chance to fight on a card, the pressure was immense. Vincent also owned to a certain amount of chaos in her life at the time that made focusing difficult.

For this fight, she and Hardy have had plenty of time to have a “camp,” and while Vincent’s life has had its ups and downs since the first contest, she is quite alone now and able to stay focused for the work ahead of her.

“You’re going to get ten today,” Manfredo said, as Shelly nodded wrapping her hands with practiced competence,  “The is the last day for it, for so many rounds.”

Camp has been good, a mixture of highly focused work with Manfredo at the gym in Cranston, and a lot of work on her own at all hours at the Seven Beauties Gym in North Attleboro, Massachusetts.  “To tell you truth, I haven’t been focused on anything but training, I don’t care about the promotion, I don’t care about nothing this time, and usually I’m the opposite.”

“I just want to focus on winning,” she went on to say, “Because she’s not beating me. I mean, I know I won that [first] fight. I didn’t back up once, I was landing body shots, I was landing combinations. She hit me more than I’ve ever been hit, but she didn’t hurt me … and I hurt her a few times. I mean she was hitting me with pot shots.”

In speaking more about the upcoming bout I asked her what she thought of their promoter, Lou DiBella’s likening their upcoming battle to the famed Gatti-Ward fights.

“I remember those fights. And they’re laying up in their hospital beds next to each other after. But you know what, it’s not going to be Gatti-Ward no more, after this it’s going to be Vincent-Hardy. It’s going to be the girl thing, it doesn’t have to be Gatti-Ward – let it just be us. When you think about it … when I beat her, ‘cause I’m beating her, then when we have the trilogy, that’s the first visual to a female trilogy and we can be remembered with those great trilogies.”

The rhythm of our day together was to have included Vincent’s training and sparring, followed by an interview with Manfredo and then with Vincent herself, but as I was beginning to interview Manfredo, he received word that his father passed away. It was a terribly emotional moment and after he left, Vincent and I sat down to make sense of it all in a life, that for her has been filled with tragedy, abuse, self-destructive acts, and the hard work of redemption.

“Family gotta come first, that’s like my father for real … I know he cares about me, outside of the ring, you know.”

The last thing, Manfredo had said to me was, “Shelly is really focused for this fight, the most focused I’ve ever seen her.”

Sharing this with her, Vincent nodded, and said, “Wow, he said that, he’s my father for real.”

Her own father disappeared from her life early on, and over the last few years she has felt the strength to share the horrific abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepfather and the experience of being raped at the age of thirteen. That is not something one just gets over and looking back on it she said, “I always wished I had somebody to talk to and I could have expressed all that stuff, because I feel I could have been a different person. So I always said, if I ever — because I thought I was going to be dead, but if I wasn’t dead or whatever from drugs or alcohol, I wanted to be that person for as many kids as I could, so that’s really why I walk out with the kids, and I remember before a fight, why the fuck I’m doing this.”

This mantra of sorts has pushed her to activism and has led her to be a role model for young kids who might otherwise go down a destructive path. She herself has had stints in prison for drugs and fighting, and wonders at times how she ever survived it, but of everything she’s experienced in her life, she credits boxing for showing her a path towards recovery.

“I didn’t get into boxing to turn pro, to make no money, not even to fight. I got in it to channel my depression and anger, and everything I had built up inside of me because that was the only time I wasn’t depressed because I felt that I was fighting back. When I fight … that’s why I wear the straight jacket, because it’s to symbolize the way women are tied down in sports, and me trying to break free of my demons and finally fighting back.”

Vincent has not been shy about revealing her sexuality as a gay woman, nor being clear that her appearance is her way of expressing who she is—and while she feels strongly that being outside of the “norm” of how women should look has her hurt, she is adamant that her self-expression is an important symbol of fighting back.

That self-expression includes a myriad of tattoos on her body and around her neck. The tattoos mean everything to her and taken together are her life.

“The right side is the dark side, the middle is change your world, and the positive comes out on the the otherside … Everything has a meaning on me, it’s not just there to be there, it’s like telling a story, if I was to die or anything, you could tell, it’s like you would read a book.”

Her story includes her boxing heroes, Ali, Tyson and Marciano, her mother, girlfriends, her nieces and nephews, and around her neck, the story of coming to 10-0 and what it symbolized to her as a moment of breaking free.

Still, she fights through depression as an almost daily battle to be reckoned with – making the boxing itself the easiest part of her day. In focusing for this fight, she has worked hard to strip away things to their core even eschewing some of the heavy weight training she has done in the past to focus on speed, stamina, and a fighters acumen for knowing how to play out her upcoming ten rounds with Hardy in the ring.

Whatever else is happening in her life, even the suddenness of Manfredo’s father’s death; right now, the upcoming bout with Hardy remains her focus. She visualizes the WBO title belt around her waist, as well as a third battle to round out the trilogy—only this time in her backyard. She also understands that at 39 years of age she is fighting against time.

Vincent knows this is the fight of her life, and if there is such a thing as a sisterhood of the ring Vincent and Hardy have much to share, as survivors, as activists in the sport, and as individuals who have figured out the best way forward is to come at life on their own terms as fighters.

Will this be another fight of the year – yes absolutely, but win, lose, or draw, what we can be assured of is both Vincent and Hardy will leave it all in the ring.

 

28
Sep
18

Melissa St Vil – Refocused And Ready To Rumble

Stepping into the Joe Hand Boxing Gym on North 3rd Street in Philadelphia, on Saturday, the week before her co-main event fight at Kings Theater in Brooklyn, I knew I had arrived at the right place when I heard boxer Melissa St Vil exclaim, “heeeeyyyyyyyy” in her beautiful high-pitched voice.

She gave me a warm hug and then lit up with a smile that could melt the hardest of hearts. Dressed in lime green workout clothes, and sporting pink compression knee highs, she quickly turned back to the heavy bag and began circling with a succession of jabs and straight right combinations, high and low jabs, and heavy-handed body shots that landed with thudding precision.

Her manager and trainer, Brian Cohen stood by, with pads at the ready, as he called out, “Thirty seconds, Mel.”

Turning around from the bag to face him, St Vil threw punches in combination in response to his calls focusing on upper cuts and hooks to the imagined body of her opponent. Attacking each task with focus and force, St Vil, executed Cohen’s commands: “Power, Mel, power,” he said, before switching it up to “speed, speed.” St Vil, every bit the champion, continued to respond with precision as if she was on a seek-and-destroy mission.

At 35, Melissa St Vil (10-3-4), is Haiti’s first female boxing champion—along with being one of a rarefied group of Brooklyn’s professional female boxing champions sorority, a group that includes Alicia Ashley, Heather Hardy, Ronica Jeffrey, Amanda Serrano, and Alicia Napoleon. She’s also been a road warrior, fighting and winning in such places as Auckland, New Zealand, where she became the WBC Silver Female Super Featherweight champion, and Chengdu, China, where she not only retained her WBC title, but also added the International Boxing Union, World Super Featherweight Title over Katy Wilson (18-1 at the time of the battle).

Most recently she traveled to Kulttuuritalo, Helsinki, where she fought Eva Walhstrom for the WBC World Female Super Featherweight title. While she lost the fight 95-95, 97-93, 96-94, she was able to put her opponent on the deck (though ruled a slip by the referee), and otherwise showed grit and a fearsome barrage of fighting power against the long odds of battling a champion in her hometown.

In the current calculus of rankings, St Vil is ranked number one and according to her, Walhstrom has to be willing to fight her, “or they’re going to strip her.”

St Vil is no stranger to adversity or challenges. With a professional boxing career that began in 2007, she has not only fought against opponents in the ring, but against the changes in momentum and fortune that have beset female boxers in this era. She has also had to fight against her own demons of abuse and hardship, not to mention the notoriety of her experiences fighting and living in Las Vegas when she came into the orbit of the Mayweather family.

Her recent loss to Walhstrom also brought about some deep soul-searching, which has resulted in a renewed commitment to her boxing. As part of that process, she decided to take a break from her long time trainer, Leon “Cat” Taylor.

While still very close with Taylor, St Vil, sought out her former manager, Brian Cohen, to help refocus her career and bring her to the next level. That change has already brought about results with a new promotion deal with DiBella Entertainment—beginning this coming Saturday, September 29, 2018—not to mention her boxing debut in her hometown of Brooklyn, New York.

According to Brian Cohen, she has “done really well in ticket sales,” which, he feels will make Lou DiBella very happy.

“This is the first time she’s fighting in Brooklyn, the first time she’s selling tickets … so this is a big deal for her, and she’s such a road warrior, this is what she deserves and this is what she needs. And, I’m proud of her, she put in a tough camp … and I’m very happy to be back with her.”

Brian Cohen went on to speak about her upcoming bout saying, “What I hope to achieve, is the recognition and the respect she deserves. She’s been fighting her whole life and hasn’t gotten the breaks she so well deserves … what people are really going to see is what Melissa St Vil brings to the table.”

Cohen also brought out the fact the St Vil is rated number one for the WBC and is the mandatory for the IBF as well, which should mean a chance for even greater opportunities. “That, along with having the “horsepower” behind her of a promoter like Lou DiBella, something St Vil has not had in her career, should help propel her towards a title opportunity in the near future.”

Brian went back to working with St Vil as she completed her training circuit, and after lunch at a local diner, he drove us to his home in South Philly, a cozy split level with an outdoor space that looked out on an unobstructed view of the Phillies stadium. After a few minutes, Melissa St Vil and I went upstairs to talk in Brian Cohen’s office—the afternoon light soft through the windows. After settling in she began by speaking about her journey in the sport.

“Boxing was my savior,” she said, “I came up in an abusive household and when I found boxing, I knew, this is where I belong.” Taking a moment, she reflected, “Being in the gym, it took me to a different place and I just felt good in the gym.”

With eleven years of professional boxing behind her, St Vil is now looking forward to her next challenges. As she talked more I could see that she was not only feeling confident, but in heading to the relative quiet of Brian Cohen’s home and her hours at the gym every day, she’d had the chance to revel and delight in her boxing, away from the realities of her life in Brooklyn. The training regimen had also brought her a new understanding of her boxing. “Coming here,” she said, “being in a peaceful space, being around people with good energy, and staying focused has made a big difference.”

Her time in Philly has also given her the chance to go back to basics and under Brian’s careful tutelage; she’s been refining her boxing skills. “He corrects my feet, tells me when my hands are low, tells me how to turn the jab, and he’s even there when I hit the speed bag and when I do my sit ups,” she said.

Having that attention has allowed her to focus more on her boxing, but more importantly, she feels that he is there to support her when she’s in the ring.

“My sparring has been good work,” she said. And in speaking about Brian’s role she noted that he’s been helping her understand how to really engage with her opponent. “I’ve just been discovering my eyes and what it means to sit down on my punches in the ring. I’m discovering my jab and what my jab can do.”

St Vil has also been discovering how to relax in the ring. “Yes relax,” she said, “relax, use that jab, and realizing that everything’s coming.” She can also hear Brian telling her “don’t rush it … use that jab, sit down on your punches, and he’s right there watching everything, from my feet, to my hips, to my head movement, to my eyes … and telling me, ‘don’t go out there and waste punches, pick your shots and box, you fight when you want to fight, everything doesn’t have to be such a hard fight.’”

“My whole boxing journey was a bumpy road …” St Vil reflected, but now as she put it, “I’m fighting in Brooklyn for the first time, I have a promoter for the first time, so I feel like my time is now, and I’m ready.”

When I asked her what she saw for herself in the future, St Vil’s smile broadened and she said, “For right now I see myself going straight to the clouds, all the way up.”

As she spoke she raised her arms above her head and with exuberance said, “Because now we have a plan, I’m not just going out there, with people saying, ‘hey do you want to take a fight?’ Okay … ‘Who’s your manager?’ I don’t have one … and so on.”

After another moment she said, “I have always had faith in myself, because I know what I can do, if I have someone who can believe in me and show me and help me on the right path. I can do anything.”

When asked what the secret to success in the sport is, St Vil put it this way. “You have to have a good team that knows their stuff.”

The difference now, is that St Vil has a team.

 

 

21
May
18

Tiara Brown is a boxer

Tiara Brown is a boxer.

Super featherweight Tiara Brown signed with DiBella Entertainment on May 21, 2018.

Since she first put on the gloves at the age of 13, there isn’t a day that has gone by when she hasn’t thought about the sport of boxing. Now, at the age of 29 and after nearly 17 years in the sport, the former amateur USA Boxing National Champion and AIBA World Champion has a 4-0 professional record with two KOs. She is also on the cusp of making another leap forward in her boxing career.

Today, that next level will begin with the announcement that she has signed with DiBella Entertainment, joining such female boxing stars as Heather Hardy, Raquel Miller, Alicia Napoleon, Amanda Serrano, and Shelito Vincent.

Lou DiBella made the announcement on Twitter today.

A police officer with the Washington DC police force where she works in community policing, Brown also has new representation with Preeminent PR and has begun training with DC-based trainer Buddy Harrison to complete her transformation from an elite amateur fighter to that of a fearsome professional.

As she works with her new team, her first challenge will be her upcoming main event performance in a six-round battle against boxer Carla Torres (5-5 1-KO). Not only is Brown going up in weight from featherweight where Boxrec ranks her 6th in the USA, but in fighting Torres, she will be stepping up her competition to that of a boxer who has fought such fighters as Ronica Jeffrey, Olivia Geruda, and Amanda Serrano.

Brown is well aware of the challenges and as she works with her trainer on making adjustments to her fighting style to include the basics of old school fundamentals and learning how to read her opponent in the ring, she says, “I am here and I deserve to be here.”

And in stepping up in weight to super featherweight, she is also beginning an ascent that will eventuate in challenging fighters at lightweight.

More than anything, Brown is clear that a year from now she wants to say, “I am a 7-0 fighter with a title belt.”

Anxious to make a statement in boxing, she looks to such female boxers as Ann Wolfe, Katie Taylor, and her former USA Boxing teammate Raquel Miller for inspiration.  From Ann Wolfe, she is learning how to place her punches with precision and explosive power and from Katie Taylor, she is emulating her ability to use combinations and angles to cut off an opponent’s ability to answer back.  And from Raquel Miller, a true sister of the ring, she derives strength from watching Miller’s poise, balance, and strength.

When she isn’t fulfilling her duties as a police officer or her many extracurricular activities mentoring teens, Brown is in the gym, working alone or with a trainer. Back at home, she watches fights on YouTube or wherever she can find them, whether it’s figuring out how to adapt Lomachenko’s mastery of angles and footwork, or checking in on the competition as she looks to climb her way up to winning championship belts.

As she says, “I am a fighter,” and given her talent, her drive, and her spirit, she will meet the challenges ahead with fortitude and perseverance.

02
Jan
17

Women’s Boxing Circa 2017

Women’s Boxing Circa 2017

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Amanda Serrano defending title against Calixita Silgado, July 30, 2016. Photo Credit: Behind The Gloves

While women’s boxing has been around since “modern” boxing began in the 1720s, its place in American sports consciousness began with a trickle in the 1950s and grew to a steady flow by the late 1990s before petering back in the late 2000s.

Boxer Christy Martin’s bout against Irish fighter Deirdre Gogarty on the undercard of a Mike Tyson pay-per-view championship in 1996, put women’s boxing on the “map.” Not two weeks later Martin was on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine in her characteristic pink boxing attire, and for the likes of boxing impresarios Don King and Bob Arum, it was a race to find other female fighters to add to the undercard of boxing bouts.

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Such fighters as Lucia Rijker and Mia St. John, while not household names by any means, were becoming known in the boxing community—and even sported decent pay days that could be numbered in the thousands rather than the hundreds. At the same time, women’s boxing became a sanctioned amateur sport leading to the development of a national team in the late 1990s. The beginnings of international amateur competition began in 2001 coinciding with the legalization of the sport in countries across the world.

In the United States, the entry of Mohammad Ali’s daughter Leila Ali along with other boxing “daughters” such as Jacqui Frazier-Lyde, thrust the sport into the realm of popular culture including covers of TV Guide and a myriad of talk show appearances. With Leila Ali’s ascendency, however, other American female boxers of the period such as Ann Wolfe, Belinda Laracuente, and Layla McCarter, could not find traction on pay-per-view cards or on cable, despite excellent boxing skills (frankly much better than Ali’s) and by 2010, it was hard if not impossible to find female boxing on American television.

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At the same time, internationally at least, women’s boxing was in an ascendency in such places as Mexico, Argentina, South Korea, and Japan, not only with opportunities for decent fights, but reasonable paydays, and most importantly, fights which were broadcast on television—and continue to be to this day, with female bouts routinely marketed as the “main event.”

International amateur women’s boxing was also on the ascendency culminating in the inclusion of women’s boxing as an Olympic sport in the 2012 Games in London. For such European fighters as Ireland’s Katie Taylor and England’s Nicola Adams, winning gold medals became very important national achievements leading to endorsements and other opportunities, not the least of which was recognition of their place in history and as role models for younger women and girls. For America’s boxing phenomenon, Claressa Shields, who at 17 was the first American female to ever win a gold medal for boxing, the usual promise of Olympic gold endorsements never appeared, and any sense that the inclusion of women’s boxing in the Olympics would perhaps enable a resurgence of the sport in the United States did not materialize. The other American female medalist who won a bronze in the 2012 Games, Marlen Esparza, had slightly better luck in winning endorsements, with adds for Coca Cola and Cover Girl, and a certain amount of traction in the Hispanic community, but otherwise, her Bronze had little effect on the sport as a whole.

In fact, women’s professional boxing has remained virtually absent from the airways in the United States with very, very few exceptions over the past eight years—and in fact, with respect to national exposure, i.e., network television or nationally televised cable boxing programs (ESPN, et al), such instances can be counted on one hand between 2012 and 2016.

The exceptions have been certain local fight cards such as New York City-based promoter DiBella Entertainment’s Broadway Boxing series, which have promoted and televised female bouts on local cable television channels. The same was true of a few of boxing champion Holly Holm’s fights in her local New Mexico market.

Some women’s bouts are also available live from time to time on US or internationally based internet pay channels at anywhere from $10 to $50 a pop. Otherwise, the only other means of watching female bouts has been on YouTube and other video services, where promoters may upload fights days after the bout. Viewers have also come to rely on uploads from fans that record all or some portions of female bouts. The clips are uploaded to social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram and now Facebook Live, in addition to YouTube, Vimeo, et al. Additionally, it is possible to watch international female professional boxing bouts via satellite television. International amateur female boxing tournaments are also available on occasion for website viewing, and certainly women’s boxing in the 2012 and 2016 games were available on the NBC Sports website, albeit, after much searching.

Three of the handful of professional female bouts broadcast since the 2012 London Games included, boxing champion Amanda “The Real Deal” Serrano’s six-round bout which was televised on a CBS Sports boxing program on May 29, 2015, boxer Maureen “The Real Million Dollar Baby” Shea’s pay-per-view title bout on a Shane Mosley fight card broadcast in August 29, 2015, and the last nationally broadcast women’s bout on NBCSN, which pitted two highly popular local North East fighters Heather “The Heat” Hardy and Shelley “Shelito’s Way” Vincent for the vacant WBC international female featherweight title on August 21, 2016. This latter fight was the first female bout to be broadcast under the new upstart Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) promotion arm that has brought boxing back to broadcast television on NBC and CBS, as well as broadcasting on cable television outlets including Spike TV, NBCSN, and ESPN.

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Heather Hardy (R) defeated Shelito Vincent by MD in their ten round slug fest on August 21, 2016. Photo Credit: Ed Diller, DiBella Entertainment

Four months on from the PBC broadcast, with a second Olympic cycle resulting in Claressa Shields winning her second back-to-back gold medal at the 2016 Rio Games – the first American boxer, male or female to have won that distinction – the status of women’s boxing in the United States is at a crossroads of sorts.

Since 2012, mixed-martial arts (MMA) have made significant inroads across platforms on cable, broadcast and internet-based telecasts. Moreover, this increase in visibility has come at the detriment of boxing—with more and more advertising dollars being thrown towards MMA contests. Of significance, however, has been the increasing popularity of women’s MMA (WMMA)—especially since UFC, the premier MMA league added female MMA fighters to their roster. Beginning on February 23, 2013 (UFC157), UFC began broadcasting WMMA bouts.

With the announcer declaring it a “gigantic cultural moment,” Ronda Rousey, a former bronze winning Olympian in Judo, and the Strikeforce* bantamweight WMMA champion, easily defeated her opponent Liz Carmouche with a classic “arm bar” move and in so doing, established a new first for women’s martial sports. Rousey went on to capture the imagination of country with her girl-next-door looks, winning ways, and eventual appearance in films such as The Expendables 3 and Furious 7. This catapult of a female warrior in gloves (albeit not boxing gloves) to include being only the second female fighter to ever appear on the cover of Ring Magazine (to much consternation by the boxing community), did not, however, have any particular visible effect on the fortunes of female boxing, per se,

Her first loss, however, in UFC 193 on November 15, 2015, was to a female boxer turned MMA fighter, Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm. A highly experienced female boxing champion, Holm’s boxing career of (33-3-2, 9-KOs) while very impressive, never led to the kind of breakout name recognition or big dollar paydays that should have been her due, given her talents, and caliber of many of her opponents including bouts with such boxing royalty as Christy Martin and Mia St. John (albeit later in their careers), British boxing star Jane Couch who single-handedly created women’s boxing in England, and the truly fearsome French fighter, Anne Sophie Mathis. Ensconced in her hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Holm enjoyed a loyal following and excellent local coverage, and while she was a known quantity in the boxing community; it was only with her forays into MMA that she was able to break through to a larger audience and a chance at bigger paydays and television exposure.

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The irony of a Rousy’s loss to a boxer was not lost on the boxing community (nor has the fact that Rousey’s recent loss in UFC207 was due to her inability to defend against her opponents unrelenting boxing “strikes”). A growing number of boxing writers who have also begun to champion the place of women in the sport with such features as Ring Magazine‘s monthly feature by Thomas Gerbasi.

November 2016 brought a flurry of attention to women’s boxing. Claressa Shields appearance on the November 19th Sergey Kovalev-Andre Ward fighting a four-rounder against former foe and USA National champion in the amateurs, Franchon Crews not only ended in a unanimous win on the cards, but the chance to see the fight live as a free streaming event. Shields has been quoted as saying, “It’s definitely a big deal, and it’s a big deal for women’s boxing, period …We really wanted a fight where we could put on a show.”

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Claressa Shields delivering a straight right to Franchon Crews in their four round professional debut on November 19, 2016. Photo Credit: AP Photo/John Locher

Boxing writers and Shields herself have asked if this will be the launch point for women’s boxing—and with Claressa Shields recent appearance on the cover of Ring Magazine in celebration of her remarkable back-to-back Olympic gold medal appearances, she is certainly an important figure to be reckoned with as 2017 looms—not to mention her 77-1 boxing record in the amateurs.

Ireland’s Katie Taylor also be turned professional in England in early December, and quickly racked up to back-to-back wins with the second one also broadcast live on Showtime’s streaming online service.

Additionally, in late November, Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President at Showtime stated they intended to include female boxing on the network in 2017—a first since 2009. Espinoza has been flirting with the idea of putting a female bout back on the air for the last couple of years—and has paid keen interest in the success of DiBella Entertainment’s local fight cards that have included such female fighters as Amanda Serrano, Heather Hardy, and Shelito Vincent.

In an interview with The Sweet Science, Espinoza is quoted as saying; “It’s been on our to-do list for a couple of years. It’s really at its capacity. But we made a decision we are going to prioritize it.”

The first event is slated to be a WBO women’s world super bantamweight championship with the remarkably talented Amanda “The Real Deal” Serrano (30-1-1) set to fight Yazmin Rivas (35-9-1) in what promises to be a hard fought bout between two technically proficient warriors.

AIBAs (the world international amateur boxing association) rules change just this past week may be the most far-reaching. All women’s amateur elite bouts will now be contested with in three rounds of three minutes each. The parity of the rounds and number of minutes per round is a first in the amateur world—and while elite men will still contest without helmets, there is further discussion of this otherwise controversial rules change that took effect before the Olympics in 2016.

With respect to the number of minutes per round—the normalization of the three-minute round will, in my estimation put pressure on the pros to accept this change, especially as amateurs with experience in the changed format turn professional. Given that in MMA men and women contest using the name number of rounds and same number of minutes per round, there will certainly be more impetus to push through three minute boxing rounds for women. Some states allow this already—such as New York State, but there has been reluctance to push for fights using three rounds based on the perception that women will want more money. Given the pay equity issues that already exist, there may be somewhat of a case to be made, however, with the push to three minutes, that last claim of women’s boxing being “less” than men’s because of the number of minutes in a round will be pushed aside once and for all.

Showtime’s potential entry into broadcasting female boxing along with signs that boxing sanctioning organizations are beginning to put resources into the sport led by the World Boxing Council which has now held two consecutive WBC conventions devoted solely to women’s boxing may help further propel the sport back into a more prominent place in the United States—and in place such as the United Kingdom.

Time will tell whether this actually happens, but as always, I remain hopeful!

 

*Strikeforce was an MMA and kickboxing league operating out of California from 1985-2013. WMMA practitioners such as Mischa Tate and Ronda Rousey were important champions and helped prove the case for televising female MMA bouts. They were particularly popular draws on Showtime. Strikeforce was bought out in 2011 by Dana White and its roster eventually folded into UFC.

 

 

17
Feb
13

Exclusive Interview with Keisher “Fire” McLeod Wells ahead of her 2/21/13 fight!

UPDATE, 2/21/2013!!!

Keisher McLeod Wills with her 6th win on 2/21/13

Keisher McLeod Wells defeated Jacqui Park in their 6-round super flyweight bout by unanimous decision. The judges scored the fight 59-55, 58-56 and 58-56. Fire is now 6-2! Jacqui Park is 1-1.

 

Exclusive Interview with Keisher “Fire” McLeod Wells ahead of her 2/21/13 fight!

Kiesher McLeod Wells Fighting on 2/21/2013

Gleason’s own four-time New York Golden Gloves champion and professional boxer Keisher “Fire” McLeod Wells (5-2, 1-KO) will be boxing again on DiBella Entertainment’s Broadway Boxing card this coming Thursday, February 21st at the world-renowned Roseland Ballroom in the heart of New York City. Fire will be facing a former four-time Canadian National Amateur champion, 36-year-old, Jaqueline Park (1-0) in a six-round super flyweight showdown.

This will be Fire’s first fight since her controversal split-decision against Patricia Alcivar. She forcefully disputes the knockdown call at the end of the 6th round–and in viewing the tape, you’d have to say it did look like a slip.

As for fighter Jacqueline Park, her four-round debut professional fight resulted in a unanimous decision over Amanda Beaudin back in September.

Tickets are still available for the Ring of Fire event ranging from $45.00 – $125.00. Contract Gleason’s Gym (212) 787-2872 to purchase tickets.

Girlboxing had a chance to pose some Q & A to Fire ahead of upcoming bout, this is what she had to say.

Keisher McLeod Wells1.  You’ve got a fight coming up on February 21, 2013 on a DiBella Entertainment, Broadway Boxing Card at Roseland Ballroom in New York City.  What can you tell Girlboxing readers about your 6-round fight against Canadian national amateur champion Jacqueline Park?

Jacqueline ParkI don’t know much about her but I know she has a boxer style like my style. I’ve heard good things about her amateur career and that’s what I like to hear. I want to fight good fighters. That’s the only way I get better. It will be interesting to fight someone with a similar style to mine as opposed to the normal and obvious, my opponents usually comes straight forward non stop. I’m used to fighting brawlers and I’ve learned how to deal with them, so I’m excited to box a boxer. However, I won’t be surprised if she changes her style to brawler though because I’m taller. I’m prepared to take on both styles.

2.  The bout is being dedicated to your sister, Bronique, who was a recent innocent victim of gun violence. What do you hope to tell the world about your sister–and the cause of ending gun violence?

My sister was a very gentle and kindhearted individual. She was a great single mother of two young kids. She would come to my fights with support. She loved bragging about me to her friends about being a younger sister to a professional boxer. I am going to miss seeing her face in the audience cheering me on. This fight is being dedicated in her memory on my behalf. This will be my first fight since her death. I took some time off after her passing to cope with the lost of her with my family. This was the first loss my family has experienced, so it hit us really hard. What was more tragic is the way we lost her. Gun violence is so out of control. Using this fight in her memory with my popularity to the sport in NY, I’m hoping to bring more awareness in ending gun violence. 

Kiesher Mcleod Wells 3rd round knock down of Patricia Alcivar, Credit: Marty Rosengarten3.  It’s been 11 months since your last outing. You fought against Patricia “Boom Boom” Alcivar, in a tough battle that saw you knock her down in the 3rd and take a shot that was ruled a knock down in the 6th. Still you were triumphant with the judges giving you a split decision win, 57-55 x 2 and 55-57. What have you learned from that fight and what sort of adjustments in your game plan are you making as you head into head into the ring on the 21st?

First, I would like to say I never took a shot from her that landed me on the canvas. I slipped after dodging an unsuccessful punch that never landed by her. You can clearly see that after they replayed it in slow motion. Even the commentaries said it wasn’t a knock down. I was so confused when they started counting. That wasn’t the first time slipping in the ring for me in my boxing career. I can get a little wobbly and clumsy sometimes, but I never been counted out for that in the past. I was upset. I felt I won unanimously regardless of the 8 count. I fought tougher fights giving me unanimous decisions. So I couldn’t understand the split decision. The only adjustment I have for any fight after the one with Patricia Alcivar, is to try not to slip again. I’ve been working a lot on leg strength this time around. So hopefully I’m done with the wobbly legs.

4.  In an article that ran in the New York Times about you two years ago, in answer to a question about how the money side of the fight game doesn’t offer much to women, you said, “I think that’s why we fight harder, because we do this for the love of the sport. There’s no money really to be made.”  After all of the hoopla about women boxing for the first time in the 2012 Olympic Games do you see any changes or an opening up of opportunities for female boxers?
I’ve notice more females making a name for them in the sport. We are getting more exposure. I’m not sure if I would give the credit to 2012 Olympic Games. Promoters here in New York haven’t changed since the games. Maybe it has elsewhere. All I know is that we are still getting paid the same here.
Keisher Mcleod Wells lands an upper cut in the Golden Gloves5.  You’re a Golden Gloves Champion four times over as an amateur and bring a 5-2 record coming into your next professional fight. What can you tell up-and-coming fighters about the difference between fighting in the amateurs and fighting as a professional boxer?

The obvious difference is that professional fighters get paid, the headgear comes off and the gloves are smaller. The rounds become longer as well. Fights are more far in between too. However, I feel the reward is greater at the end because you are training for a war that is more brutal than amateur boxing. The training is more intense and so is the fight itself. There is a lot harder punches to be felt and give without the protection amateur boxing gives.

6. Your other love besides boxing is fashion. You’ve also started a jewelry line with wonderful creations that are beginning to adorn half the women in Brooklyn–or so it seems. How are you managing to fit your two love together: boxing and jewelry making?

Being a jewelry designer is what soothes my mind in between fights and training. Each piece I make is from my mind and heart. They’re unique one of kind pieces. It’s wearable art. I get in a zone when I paint (my jewelry). So when my mind and body is tired from training, I relax it by making jewelry. Also, I get a lot of down time when I’m working at Gleason’s on Sundays. So I create here sometimes while I’m here. Some are my items are boxing related, so I find inspiration from Gleason’s.

Keisher McLeod Wells7. Where do you see yourself going from here, Fire?

I would love to be some kind of TV personality or something in that nature relating to boxing after I decide I don’t want to compete any longer. I never look ahead in the future. I live my life pretty much from week to week. If I had children then I probably would have more sight of my future. Probably a bit irresponsible, but that is the way I’ve always lived my life. I am aiming for a World Title in the near future though, however it comes.

18
Jan
13

Heather Hardy Interview ahead of her January 23rd Fight at BB Kings!

Update!!!

Heather Hardy makes it a perfect 4-0 after defeating Canada’s own Peggy Maerz in a hard fought battle. Hardy won by unanimous decision:  40-36, 39-37, 39-37. Maerz will still fight for the Canadian flyweight title in April.

Heather Hardy & Peggy Maerz

 

Heather Hardy Interview ahead of her January 23rd Fight at BB Kings!

Heather Hardy @ BB Kings 1/23/2013

Heather “The Heat” Hardy (3-0) has been hard at work training at Gleason’s Gym.

She has an upcoming fight against Canadian boxer Peggy Maerz (2-2-1) on January 23, 2013 at B. B. Kings Blues Club & Grill in New York. Promoted by DiBella Entertainment as part of the Broadway Boxing series, Hardy will box Maerz in a four-rounder.

Tickets for her upcoming bout are available from Gleason’s Gym 718-797-2872 or from Nelly Spillanes 212-792-9672.

Also on the card are Yuri Foreman (28-2, 8-KOs) making his comeback appearance against Brandon Baue (12-8, 10-KOs) and Delen Parsely (9-0, 2 KOs) fighting Tyrone Selders (8-4, 6-KOs).

Recently, Hardy agreed to an interview with Girlboxing about her upcoming fight.

Here’s what she had to say.

Heather Hardy v. Ivana Coleman, 12/8/12. Photo Credit: Jason Shaltz

Heather Hardy v. Ivana Coleman, 12/8/12. Photo Credit: Jason Shaltz

Q1. Since turning pro in August you’ve racked up an impressive 3-0 record. In Peggy Maerz you’re fighting a boxer with a 2-2-1 record out of Canada. Maerz is known for her long reach and quick jabs. She also has had an impressive amateur career in Western Canada. What do you hope to show the boxing world in choosing Maerz as your next opponent.

I want to show that I’m ready, willing, and able to fight anyone that’s put in front of me. I work hard, I train hard and I fight even harder.

Q2. You’ve put a lot on the line to turn pro having made your mark on the amateur world with you Golden Gloves wins and appearance in the USA Nationals. What motivated you to turn professional when the odds are so tough against women in the sport — even after the great success of the debut of women’s boxing at the London Games in 2012?

I have faith, that one day the girls will get the same respect (and PAY) as the boys. You can’t put your heart and soul into something day in and day out and not expect to make a difference. I want to be the difference, and believe that I have the talent and work ethic to do so.

Heather Hardy & Melissa Hernandez, Gleason's Gym, December 2012, Credit: Malissa Smith

Heather Hardy & Melissa Hernandez, Gleason’s Gym, December 2012, Credit: Malissa Smith

Q3. Aside from boxing, you’re also a talented trainer with a wide range of clients with varying boxing abilities. What has your work as a trainer and mentor taught you about fighting and being successful in the ring?

It has definitely added to my success. I live boxing! I’m in the gym 15 hours a day! I see my girls walking the same path I did and I get to watch them make all the same mistakes. It’s so rewarding to be able to pass my passion onto those who share it. I love what I do.
Heather Hardy and Trainer, Devon Cormack, @ Gleason's Gym, December 2012

Heather Hardy and Trainer, Devon Cormack, @ Gleason’s Gym, December 2012, Credit: Heather Hardy

Q4. In a recent interview, you described boxing as more “training on the mind.”  Can you elaborate on how you prepare yourself mentally for a fight and for coping with the unexpected during a tense professional bout?

I know how to fight, so when I train it’s a matter of correcting bad habits and fixing parts of my game that aren’t quite perfect. Fine tuning, aligning my punches, stepping properly, etc. My coach always says there are only four punches, so learn how to throw each one perfect every time. You can only be the best when you make no mistakes.

Q5. You’ve made it no secret that you want to be a world champion. Given the crowded field in the bantamweight division, what is your strategy for gaining a title shot at one of the more prestigious world championship belts?

Keep winning! My plan is to stay focused and keep winning. Keep training and perfecting my game. Keep myself challenged. I’m ready for the road ahead of me. I’ve been on an uphill climb since the day I walked into this gym, since I started so late at 28.

Q6.  You turned pro days after Claressa Shields won gold in the Olympics, but considered turning pro long before the Olympics. Do you see any differences in how promoters approach booking and promoting female boxing matches or does it still seem more of the same?

Unfortunately, I do not see that it has made a difference in the professional sense. I am still making considerably less than my male counterparts and doing the exact same job.

Heather Hardy v. Ivana Coleman, 12/8/12. Photo Credit: Jason Shaltz

Heather Hardy v. Ivana Coleman, 12/8/12. Photo Credit: Jason Shaltz

Q7.  Finally, what should we expect to see in your fight against Peggy Maerz on January 23rd at BB Kings?

Expect the same as always 🙂

This will be a fight from bell to bell.

10
Jun
12

Exclusive Interview with Sonya Lamonakis set to fight on June 14th @ Roseland Ballroom!

Exclusive Interview with Sonya Lamonakis set to fight on June 14th @ Roseland Ballroom!

Gleason’s Gym’s own scholar and favorite female heavyweight Sonya Lamonakis (6-0-1) will be returning to Dibella Entertainment’s Broadway Boxing in a rousing six-round rematch against Tiffany Woodard (4-6-2) on June 14, 2012 at the storied Roseland Ballroom.

Lamonakis and Woodard have met twice before. While Lamonakis has won both fights, their last outing also under the Broadway Boxing banner at Mechanic’s Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts in August 2011 resulted in a split decision win.

Lamonakis and Woodard, August 2011

While Lamonakis has been hard at work prepping for this bout, she’s also been finishing up the school year at the Family Academy school in Harlem. In between her busy schedule, Sonya agreed to do an interview with Girlboxing.

1. You’ve got a fight coming up against Tiffany Woodard on June 14th as Roseland Ballroom in NYC as part of the Broadway Boxing series. Your last time out with Tiffany you won by a split-decision over six rounds. What is your game plan against her this time out?
This will be our trilogy. She is a tough opponent not to be taken lightly. We are both coming off a draw and want a win. I plan on working angles and combinations. I will be more active than the last time I fought her.
2. You are 6-0-1 now, that’s quite an achievement.  What are you looking to achieve with a win against Woodard?
A win! Again, I’m coming off a draw and I need to get that W and get ready for a title fight in the future.
3. What has your training been like for the fight?  I know your semester is winding down, but you are still working full-time as a teacher in Harlem. How are you able to make things work?
Training has been a little crazy.
I fired my trainers and will have Buddy McGirt in my corner. He worked with me about two months ago when he was here training a fighter for a big fight for about a month. Unfortunately, he went back to his home in Florida and I was lost without him. I attempted to work with “Blimp” Delon Parsley and Lennox Blackmore, but neither of them were to aggressive with my training and took it too lightly. I felt I was not being taken seriously enough and needed a change.
Work is winding down and the summer is here. I am delighted to greet it. I do my best to balance my career and my hobby. I always put my students first. One Saturday a month I set up a trip for my students to take them out of the city on a hike, or adventure so they can breathe some clean air and work on confidence, self-esteem, and finding themselves.
4. Kaliesha “Wild Wild” West issued a press release with her father and trainer Juan West stating that while women work as hard as men in the fight game, they are not catching any kind of breaks for fight promotions or TV air time. I know that you’ve had a great relationship with Lou DiBella and Broadway Boxing here in New York, but do you feel that Kaliesha has a point?  Are things really tough right now for female pro boxers trying to gain the experience, recognition and opportunity that comes with televised fights?
Unfortunately, women are not getting what they deserve. I have never been told or heard that my fights are boring or are not worthy of television. I dream of the day that I will fight on ESPN Friday Night Fights, or even Showbox, or HBO Boxing. For now, I am thankful that Lou allows me on his cards and always gives me TV time on SNY and MSG. It’s baby steps for women. Even as an amateur I had to fight against the odds to create a path for the women to get where they are today. I am proud to be part of the movement that opened up women’s boxing at the amateur and professional level.
5. You’ve only fought two fights since last April, one in August one in January–can you tell us what’s been going on in the women’s heavyweight division and why there seem to be so few fights?
Boxing is an expensive sport. The promoters want to make money. There is not a lot of money in women’s boxing. With the more wins I get the harder it is to find opponents. There are a lot more heavyweights but not ones that want to fight me. They ask for a lot of money and my promoter can only pay so much. It’s not like Lou is making $100,000 off my fight. I sell tickets to cover my purse and my opponents. I’m waiting for an offer from a woman on her card so I don’t have to worry about tickets and I can be the guest on a show.
6. Sonya, you are an inspiration to so many people not only as a boxer, but as a teacher and in your work against bullying. Your personal story is also one of redemption, hope and faith. Tell Girlboxing readers about your work in the community and how it is affecting the lives of young people?

Teaching school and guiding children is something I’m good at. I am positive role model for the children academically and personally. I attended colleges and received masters degrees and hold five different New York State Education Certifications in a variety of fields. I’m also an athlete and the students can relate to me. I love all my children and find the good in each of them. I do my best to instill values and morals in them that will lead to towards successful lives. I tell them that if they want to have choices when they are older they need to have an education. Without an education you have no choices to make. You have to take whatever job you can and do your best to survive. As an example, remember that episode on the Cosby’s when Bill gave his son fake money and had him pay bills until he ran out quickly. At that point he wanted more things, but he had no money left. So without an education, your choices will be limited, but with an education you can go anywhere.

7. One last question — with the debut of women’s boxing at the 2012 London Olympic Games, what do you feel most proud of?
I feel proud to be a part of the movement that accomplished this mission. I attended meetings, competed in the Nationals, signed petitions, advocated for the women and being an amateur boxer allowed me to be part of the debut of women’s boxing. I look forward to the Olympics and hope that it opens the doors for more women in the future of boxing.

Check out Sonya’s new sponsor website here!

For tickets to Sonya Lamonakis’ Broadway Boxing fight at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City contact Gleason’s Gym: 718-797-2872.  Tickets are: $45, $65 and $85.  The first bout is at 7:00 PM.




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