Posts Tagged ‘girls boxing

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.

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.

 

 

15
Nov
15

Thoughts on Rousey v Holm

Thoughts on Rousey v Holm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

02
Nov
15

Melissa St. Vil – Ready to Rumble

Melissa St. Vil – Ready to Rumble

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Boxer Melissa St. Vill by the “wall” at Brooklyn’s world famous Gleason’s Gym. Photo credit: Malissa Smith

Melissa St. Vil is a boxer with plans.

Her first plan is to win the UBF World Female Super Featherweight title on November 12th at Martin’s Valley Mansion in Cockeysville, MD. With her 6-1-3 record, she’ll be fighting the more experienced Jennifer Salinas (17-3-0, 4-KOs), in her backyard, but that doesn’t seem to worry St. Vil. With just seven fights to her credit, she defeated Sarah Kuhn to win the International Women’s Boxing Federation (IWBF) World Welterweight title in August of 2013. And while St. Vil has only had two fights since them (in 2014), she feels confident that she has what it takes to win.

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The Royal Six boxers, Ronica Jeffrey (l) and Melissa St. Vil at the recent Breast Cancer event at Gleason’s Gym. Photo Credit: Malissa Smith

As a member of The Royal Six, a group of New York based female boxing champions (Alicia Ashley, Ronica Jeffrey, Sonya Lamonakis, Keisher “Fire” Mcleod, and Alicia Napoleon), she is actively engaged in promoting the sport, raising money for charity and helping to put together an all female boxing card in the spring.

Winning world championships and promoting female boxing arent’s her only plans. She also wants to give back. To make a place of safety and sanctuary for girls and women to overcome violence and to find a place for themselves in the world. With her infectious laugh, it is hard to imagine that St. Vil would have ever known pain or violence–but she did. As with many of us the world over, it’s the fighting back to take possession of one’s own life that is the biggest challenge.

Melissa was kind enough to take time from her training with Leon “Cat” Taylor and Juan Guzman to speak with Girlboxing readers about her upcoming fight. We didn’t touch upon the dark stuff at all–just talked about boxing, moving on in life and her passion for the sport.

Here’s what she had to say:

05
Sep
15

We only have each other … women’s boxing

We only have each other … women’s boxing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what everyone had to say:

04
Sep
14

Ahead of her 9/5/14 bout, Eileen “The Hawaiian Mongoose” Olszewski Exclusive Q & A

Ahead of her 9/5/14 bout at Brooklyn’s Masonic Temple, Eileen “The Hawaiian Mongoose” Olszewski Exclusive Q & A

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Flyweight Boxing champion Eileen “The Hawaiian Mongoose” Olszewski (9-5-2, 1-KO), 45 years of age, will be back in the ring on Friday, September 5, 2014.

She will be fighting an eight-round, Main Event bout at the famed Brooklyn Masonic Temple taking on Christina Fuentes, (3-6-4), 22 years of age, from Laredo, Texas.  Fuentes is well-known to New York City boxing fans having fought Heather “The Heat” Hardy in a tough contest back in February. Olszewski, though is no stranger to tough competitive fights and will be bringing her “A” game to Friday’s contest. (For ticket information call: 646-831-9233.)

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Eileen Olszewski came to boxing with a long pursued martial arts pedigree. After a highly successful amateur career, she turned pro in 2006, having “aged-out” of the amateurs. In a division with a lot of quality fighters, she continues to holdher  own with the best of them and is currently ranked number two in the United States and in the top ten world side by Box Rec. She is also part of a growing group of highly talented female boxers who remain active competitors well into there 40s.

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Eileen Olszweski’s boxing belts. In her native Hawaii, she is the most decorated boxer in the state.

In between her busy schedule preparing for her fight, Eileen took the time email Girlboxing with a series of Q & A responses. A special thanks to her for sharing her thoughts on her upcoming fight, boxing in general and the things that are important to her in the sport.  Here’s what she had to say.

1. Coming off your successful win over Jodie Esquibel (6-7-1, 2-KOs) for the Universal Boxing Federation female flyweight title back in January, you will be taking on Christina Fuentes whose (3-6-4) record belies a tough, hard-hitting, scrappy fighter who has consistently pushed herself against tough opponents on September 5th at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple. Tell us about the fight and what your game plan is as your ready for the bout?  

There are many tough and formidable boxers whose records don’t belie their talent. The numbers can never convey the dynamics and circumstances of each fight. You need to look at whom and where they have fought primarily. For Fuentes, I look at her as I do with every opponent I step in the ring with. I underestimate no one.

2. Given that Christina is 22 years old and you will be turning 46 in September, how are you going about preparing for the swarming energy of a fighter half your age who has given such fighters a Heather Hardy a very hard-fought contest that some would arguably say she fought at least to a draw, if not an out-and-out win.

This is nothing new to me. Since I began in the amateurs the girls were always pretty close to half my age with more experience. It’s always bugged me when a reporter who hadn’t done their research labeled me “the veteran” because they just looked at the ages and assumed I was the more experienced fighter. I am fortunate to have a great coach in Matthew my husband that knows how to train me physically and mentally despite my age.

eileen013. You are listed in the #2 spot on the Box Rec list of top ten female fighters in the Flyweight division in the US and #10 in the World. Assuming a win against Christina Fuentes, what is next for you?

I never look past the fight I have in front of me at the moment. I focus on each fight as they come. I let my coach and manager handle the fights for me.

4.  Before you turned pro you had a successful three-year career in the amateurs. How did you get started in boxing? What made you decide to turn professional?

I began competing in boxing after training with Matthew in his fighting style, which combines western boxing, kickboxing, traditional Karate, Judo and Jiu Jitsu. He described it as a hybrid, which combines all the fighting arts necessary to be a complete fighter.  This was before the name “MMA” was even coined. After a year, he registered me with USA Boxing to give my training an application, as it was the most organized branch of combat with regular competitions. I just love boxing so after I exceeded the age limit for amateur boxing I wanted to continue.  It took three years to get my first fight and that’s where David Selwyn my manager saw me and the three of us have been together ever since.

 

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Eileen Olszweski landing a left hook against Anastasia Toktaulova in Miami, Florida, in their 8-round GBU and WIBA Flyweight Title Flight on 12/17/2010. Photo courtesy of Eileen Olszweski.

5.  Having watched you fight when you won the UBF title, it amazes me to think that you are turning 46. On the subject of age, with a respectable pro record of 9-5-1 that stretches back to 2006 and an amateur career that began in 2000, what is it that motivates you to continue boxing? Are they still the same things that brought you into the ring in the first place? If not, what has changed?

What motivates me is that I honestly feel I’m still improving and getting better despite my age. If I could look back at myself at any point of my boxing career and say “I was better back then”, then I guess it’s time to step back and enjoy another chapter in my life.

6.  You boxed for many years before female boxing entered the world stage as an Olympic sport, what effect do you think that is having on the sport?

The Women in Olympic boxing is a great step in the progression of our sport. However, the corruption in that arena keeps the mainstream audience from embracing it, male or female.

As for the pro arena, as long as the grossly mismatched Title fights continue, our sport will never be respected.

7.  As you well know, the only way to watch female boxing in the United States is as a video stream, on certain local cable channels (very rarely live) and on YouTube. Meanwhile, fights are routinely broadcast from Argentina to Mexico and from Germany to Japan. What is it going to take to get the networks to “wake up” and start putting female fights back on television?

The American public has not been exposed much to the great competitive fights as other countries have.  Perhaps if there was a T.V. Show that showcased good female bouts like [Ana] Torres vs. [Jackie] Nava for example, the respect and interest would grow.

8.  While you’ll likely keep boxing for some time to come – when you do finally “hang-up” the gloves, will you stay in the boxing world in some capacity? In other words, what is next for you?

I like to keep my hopes and dreams close to my heart.  In my Hawaiian culture we don’t speak of it out loud.  I can say though, that my passion is always my path.

>>>Check out Eileen Olszewski’s March, 2014, interview on Hawaiian television

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.

 




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