Posts Tagged ‘Gleason’s Gym



11
Apr
15

Q and A with Boxer Federica Bianco

Q & A With Boxer Federica Bianco

Federica Bianco

Boxer Federica Bianco is making her pro debut on April 25, 2015 in Richmond, CA, Photo Credit: Shelly Vinson

On April 25, 2015 at the Richmond Auditorium in Richmond, California, a Bay area town near San Francisco, Federica Bianco will be making her pro debut at the age of 36 against a fighter named Laura Deanovic. They’ll be fighting on Squarevision Entertainment’s Night of Glory II, card with the top contenders in the Bay Area fighting for the new GBO belt. (And by the way, the promoters will also be donating a dollar from every ticket to the Race to Erase MS (multiple sclerosis research) charity—so if you’re in the Bay Area, you should think about supporting a worthy cause.) Federica came to boxing from the world of Brazilian capoeira. She got good enough to teach it, but started to get intrigued with boxing and switched over completely a few years ago. I got to know Federica in and around Gleason’s Gym, though her true boxing home is at Manhattan’s Church Street Gym. She’s been competing as an amateur with fights in and around New York City, and as far afield on Beautiful Brawlers’ cards and at Bonnie Canino’s 2014 National Golden Gloves tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where I got to Federica bang, and bang hard. As a boxer and someone who has developed a love affair with the sport, Federica helped arrange to bring IWBHOF hall of famer and boxing champion Lucia Rijker to Church Street Gym this past February. Rijker spent two days training and motivating participants in boxing and kickboxing in her unique style—prompting Federica to commit even more to the sport she loves. I had the opportunity to speak with Federica recently, and then through a series of emails, we ironed out a Q & A for Girlboxing readers. Here’s what Federica had to say.

  1. You have your first professional fight coming up at the end of the month?  What can you tell Girlboxing readers about the fight?  

I have been cuddling with the idea of going pro for some time, and I am really excited that this is happening! We’ve been trying to find a match for about a year. It is not easy: there is no money behind women’s boxing, so its hard to get an opponent from afar, or finding a promotion company that is willing to fly a debuting fighter out, and no local matches were coming up. My opponent has more experience, and is a bit bigger than me. But I saw her boxing and I think she has a style that will suite me well.

Federica Bianco

Federica Bianco getting ready for an amateur bout, Photo Credit: J. J. Ignotz

  1. In discussions we’ve had, you’ve stated that you are “not so young.” At 36, what is prompting you to step into the ring for the first time as a pro–at an age, when on the one hand many fighters are stepping out of the ring and on the other, when it comes to female boxers, many are still finding great success.

That’s right: I am no spring chicken! I am 36, and I only started competing a few years ago.  But, honestly, I am in the best shape of my life. Boxing is physical, but also very mental, so I think age helps: I know how to pace myself better than I would have 10 years ago, I am a more experienced athlete, I know how my body is feeling through training camp, I know what diets work for me to make weight responsibly, and I know how to control my emotions way better. So much more is known about sports medicine, and how to train responsibly, that the peak athletic age has definitely shifted ahead. In fact about a year ago I was looking at statistics about title holders: the mean age for boxing title holders for males, as well as for the WBC women title holders, is over 31! Two years ago the age cut for the amateurs was 35, and as I was approaching it, with such few chances for women to compete in the master division, it became clear that I would either have to hang the gloves, or turn pro. I could not keep up the level of intensity in the training that I am used to without a goal in sight (and I am not one to do things half way…). So “pro or couch?” was the question buzzing in my head. And I feel physically great, and mentally ever so eager to continue training and learning, and fighting. So the couch is not really an option – yet. Even as they increased the age limit to 40 for the amateurs, the thought of going pro was in my head. I am ambitious, I want to continue challenging myself, and so it is time to bring it to the next level, and turn pro. In addition to that, there are some things that were frustrating about the amateurs. There are a lot of tournaments I cannot do, either because they have different age cuts (like the New York Daily News Golden Gloves which tops out fighters at 35) or because I am not a citizen. I am Italian, (I am a permanent resident in the USA), and finding matches outside of tournaments was getting harder and harder: with so few women, we all know and have fought each other in each weight class.

  1. Having started out in capoeira, the Brazilian martial arts form with roots that go back centuries, you’ve brought a background of a pretty tough form into the ring.  What prompted the switch to boxing and what adjustments have you made between the two styles?   

I got to capoeira through dance and dance-theater, and then capoeira brought me to boxing – a pretty winding path. There are many different styles of capoeira, and a few years back I had to move from Boston to Santa Barbara for work, and my school of capoeira was not represented in SB. I started teaching classes, but of course that meant I was not getting the same workouts that I was used to training every day in a large and competitive group in Boston, so I picked up boxing for the conditioning (choosing boxing over other martial arts cause I did not want to try a style that would mess with my capoeira kicks). And it stole my heart. As a capoeirista, my best assets were aggression and fearlessness, and the same goes for boxing. I love capoeira; it is such a rich art, with profound cultural depth. I love the ritual, the instruments, and the sense of community. But ultimately, it is the competition, and the confrontation swayed me, and that is on another level in boxing – you are in the corner, looking at your opponent, and she is surrounded by all her own demons. Everything about boxing is clear and plain. Unlike most martial arts, the technique is simple: there are only a few punches! So the name of the game becomes perfecting them. You get in the ring, and in most cases it is clear who is getting the better of the other. Plain and simple. I love that about boxing. And every time you step into the ring, you face yourself. As for the adjustments, I remember going to my boxing coach in California and telling him my capoeira Mestre was complaining my capoeira started to look like boxing, and him saying “well, that’s weird, cause I am still waiting for your boxing to stop looking like capoeira!.” Of course they are very different forms, but it is interesting that among all martial arts and combat sports, both capoeira and boxing put a lot of emphasis on avoiding getting hit, rather than blocking, so they are end up being more ‘fluid’ so to speak, than other martial arts. Coming from a different athletic background in general helps at the beginning, then gets in your way for a while, and only later you start being able to integrate your diverse background in your new style.

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Federica Bianco stunning her opponent with a hard right, Photo Credit, Anthony B. Geathers

  1. You’ve been a trainer and with your boxing have switched more and more into a role as a fighter?  What has this given you in terms of your understanding of the sport, and more importantly, your feelings as you commit yourself to competing on the professional level?

I love teaching and training, but I love being a student best. For me it is really all about improving and learning, that is what I like to do: I am a student for life! Of course though, looking through a coach’s eyes helps tremendously as a fighter! I enjoy every opportunity I have to coach and corner fighters, it sharpens my eye and my brain, so that I can become a smarter, and more tactical fighter! The feelings of a fighter though are always hard to deal with, and I am not sure that seeing them from the other side helps at all. Being conscious of the process does not always make it easier: as a fighter you really just want to rely on your coach for emotional guidance, and a good coach will know how to work your energy to keep emotions in control. And then again, as hard as fighting is emotionally, it is that fear, that uneasy sensation, and the fact that it dissolves as the bell rings, that draws us to fighting. 10421272_871329859575991_920216048370414717_n

  1. You had the chance to work with Lucia Rijker having helped set up her training seminars this past February at Church Street Gym in New York City. Please share your experiences and how it has affected your boxing as you look towards your first pro fight?

Meeting and working with Lucia has been one of the best things that boxing brought into my life! I met her in California for a few training sessions when I still lived there: a present from my husband. Of course I knew her from her fame – my first coach handed me Shadow Boxers [the 1999 film by Katya Bankowsky] the moment I expressed interest in competing – and my expectations were oh so high in meeting her. Well, she fulfilled and exceeded them all. Her coaching is great, but better than her boxing coaching is her vision of the sport, and of a fighter’s experience. She obviously witnessed her own journey in a very conscious way, and has such terrific heritage to share. That is why I really wanted to bring her to NYC and share her with my teammates! She taps into the kinesiological and the spiritual aspects alike. And again, boxing is mental, at least as much as it is physical. Each time I worked with her I was reinvigorated, empowered, and more focused and centered than before. I consider her a friend and her positive energy and encouragement (her motto “be your best self”) mean so much to me!

  1. As with many female boxers you also have a entire life outside of the ring?  What are your other passions and how do you integrate them with your training and the competitions you participate in?

Well in my “other life” I am a scientist – an astrophysicist. I am a postdoctoral fellow at NYU [New York University], and mostly I study exploding stars. It’s a lot of fun: I get paid to do research, which in a way means I get paid to play around and solve puzzles to improve our understanding of the Universe! Of course it is a demanding job, so juggling that with boxing is not easy – I don’t get a lot of hours of sleep, but if you really want to do something you will find the time and way to do it. Luckily my job affords me a flexible schedule and the possibility to travel, as I need to for boxing. It is interesting that both my careers are in male dominated, very competitive fields. I guess I like the challenge.

  1. Having watched you fight last year at the National Golden Gloves, I know how tough you are in the ring and have a good chin. What is your fighting style and what do you expect of your performance in your pro bout?

I do have a good chin and I am a stalker in the ring. I like working inside in phone-booth, toe-to-toe fights. I am excited to fight with smaller gloves, and no headgear: together with a good chin I have good power, and the pro style suites me better than the Olympic style of touch-and-go.

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Federica Bianco working her opponent towards the ropes. Photo Credit: J. J. Ignotz

  1. For readers who may not yet have sparred or fought competitively, what advise can you offer as they embark upon their journeys into boxing?

Keep an open mind, and if you are eager to improve yourself, there is no better environment! I have seen many people stepping into the gym thinking they will be professional fighters, and just hating it in the ring – either hating getting hit, or hating hitting the opponent. And I have seen people that were reluctant to exchange leather, only to find out they loved it and could no longer live without it!  Sparring and fighting are truly nothing like one would guess not having done it. There is no rage, it is not emotional – at least for me, it is very rational in the fight, I find myself as lucid and focused as I ever am.

  1. Once your down with boxing professionally — say ten years from now 🙂 — what’s next for you in the sport?

I enjoy the ride, it is hard for me to think ahead by years: my life keeps surprising me! But I love teaching and coaching, and I especially love how I see boxing empowers women. I would love to be involved in raising some women fighters. For ticket information to attend Federica’s pro debut, please click on the link: SquareWarriors.com

12
Jan
15

Day by day by day … je suis humaine

Day by day by day … je suis humaine

Summer 2014, Harrison, Maine. Photo: Malissa Smith

I’ve been attempting to work through the recent terrorist attack at Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newsweekly—and thereby attempt, in some small way to write about it.

For the French, the three days of carnage beginning with the horrific murder of 12 staff members, including four renowned cartoonists at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, by Said and Cherif Kouachi, has been an agonizing period of anxiety and pain. In all, 17 people were horribly murdered including a young policewoman, a jogger and four shoppers in a Kosher supermarket who were all apparently gunned down by another in the Kouachi brother’s “terrorist cell,” Amedy Coulibaly.

For those of us in New York who lived through the experience of the World Trade Center terror attack on September 11, 2001, there is an acute understanding of the almost out-of-body dissociation one can feel living through the moment-by-moment experiences of that sort of horror. We are, after all, merely ordinary, perhaps showing courage in our daily lives, and perhaps not, but certainly not prepared for the kind of terror that a Kalashnikov wielding “crazy” brings.

New York City street sceneIf I am being disingenuous at all, it is in the sense that we people who live in cities do come to understand that there are those intangibles: Cars that suddenly veer off and cause havoc and death in a restaurant storefront, or the running gun play of teens that may careen in through a window, putting a small child in harms way. Not to mention, the daily violence in families that spill out into “social services” pretty much unnoticed except for the truly horrific ones that end up on the covers of the tabloids. Still, those truly terrifying experiences do not seem to equate with the other kind of sudden violence in the cocoon of our western democracies—and go against our sense of decency, right and wrong, and collectively at least, if not individually, our sense that such things as cartoons that satirize religion and politics, are just this side of “okay” in the scheme of things, even if they tend to be on the edge or even over the line of distasteful. What they are not, are killing offenses by self-proclaimed executioners in the name of one ideological or religious belief or another.

What I keep asking myself is this. Are our beliefs really that tenuous? Are they that uncertain, that a cartoon, really, a cartoon can be so offensive as to warrant the murder of 12 people?

I write that having figured that if what I believe is strong and certain, I, me, the individual, can well afford to be magnanimous in accepting that others may not agree or share my point of view. Thus I would never consider that the words of another would so shake me to the core of my being that I would jump at the chance to “right” the perceived “wrong” by choosing to kill as many nonbelievers as I could as I made my way to whatever Valhalla I figured I was entitled to for my “acts.”

The giant, “ugh” aside—at any given moment on our beautiful earth, just such things occur day by day by day in both religious and sectarian struggles all the in the name of a greater something or other. Or, to bring down to the ground, even to the level of a power struggle between two partners where one feels the right to bash the other senseless in the name of being “right.”

Paris march, January 11, 2015, Credit: Time MagazineAnd while it was heartening to know that 3.7 million persons marched in Paris yesterday in solidarity to reaffirm the principles of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (Liberty, Freedom and Fraternity), I am fearful of the backlash to terrorism that can just as easily sweep through to give us yet more examples of the ugliness of revenge on the ordinary, the “us” that is not quite us that devolves into further violence and extremism.

It is the misadventure of well-intentioned reactions that scares me just as much as the acts of terrorism themselves. And having lived through the daily miasma of misery inflicted on ordinary citizens caught in the cross fire of acts for and against terrorism, I remain fearful—and perhaps the tiniest bit cynical about what the future will bring.

My best self, however, knows that just such ideals as freedom and peace and love live on anyway.

After all, in the midst of acts of terror the world over, two-alarm fires, police slowdowns, and the kind of cold that almost demands that one turn over after the alarm goes off to burrow that much deeper under the covers, by 10:30 AM this past Saturday morning, Gleason’s Gym was full of men and women in varying stages of their workouts. A quick glance showed the Give A Kid A Dream youngsters shadowboxing alongside boxing professionals in front of the mirror, amateur fighters putting in rounds ahead of the Golden Gloves, and fighters sparring in all of Gleason’s four boxing rings.

For me, sweaty from five great rounds sparring with my trainer Lennox Blackmoore, the scary fever dreams of terror were suitably buried in one recess of my mind or another. And while I have shed tears for the victims, and will likely go to Synagogue this Friday in solidarity with the French victims at the kosher supermarket in Paris, I will try hard to push forward with a smile, with little thought given to the crazies with Kalashnikovs. They are, despite their seeming out-sized appearances, a really, really tiny portion of the world, which is mostly occupied by persons going about their day in the struggles that define us.

Leastways, that is what I hope for, even if the blue meanies hit me square in the nose sometimes with darker thoughts. Oh well. Je suis humaine.

 

25
Jun
14

Here’s to the ladies who punch …

Here’s to the ladies who punch …

A History Of Women's Boxing

Today’s my big day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gussie Freeman

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

Dixie Dugan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links to purchase the book:

Barnes and Noble.com 

Amazon.com

26
May
14

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

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

Elisa "The Bomb" Collaro

Elisa “The Bomb” Collaro

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

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

Elisa "The Bomb" Collaro

Elisa “The Bomb” Collaro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

America = New York = Gleason’s Gym.

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

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

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

Elisa Collaro training with Buddy McGirt at Gleason's Gym

Elisa Collaro training with Buddy McGirt at Gleason’s Gym

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

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

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

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

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

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

9.  What do you wish for the future?

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

19
May
14

Alicia “Slick” Ashley “Q and A” ahead of her 5/21/2014 Bout!

Alicia “Slick” Ashley, “Q and A” ahead of her 5/21/2014 Bout!

Alicia "Slick" Ashley fighting on May 21, 2014

Alicia “Slick”Ashley (20-9-1) is a four-time world champion and current reigning WBC Female Super Bantamweight Title holder.  At 46 years of age she’s also a phenomenon in the ring who consistently out-points and out-maneuvers  her opponents, some of whom are more than half her age.  She’ll be facing Nohime Dennisson (5-3-2) in a six-round non-title fight on Uprising Promotions’ Future Stars fight card, Wednesday, May 21st, 2014 at the Five Star Banquet Hall in Long Island City, Queens.  A last-minute addition to the card includes a super featherweight bout between Amanda “The Real Deal” Serrano (20-1-1) versus Belinda “Brown Sugar” Laracuente (26-28-3) in what is certain to be an exciting bout.

Ahead of her fight, Alicia kindly agreed to a Q&A session with Girlboxing. Here’s what she had to say:

1.  At 46, you are the WBC female super bantamweight title holder and still going very, very strong! Tell us about your upcoming fight on Thursday, May 21st at the Five Star Banquet in Long Island City, NY.

I am fighting Nohime Dennisson, a woman 12 years my junior. This for me is a chance to get back into the ring and stay busy. That in no way means that this is an easy fight. Nohime has an unconventional style that sometimes confuses her opponents. I’m planning on utilizing my experience to maintain control in the ring.

Alicia "Slick" Ashley, Tijuana, Mexico, October 2013

Alicia “Slick” Ashley handily defeated Zenny Sotomayor in Tijuana, Mexico, October 2013

 2.  In your last outing, you defended your WBC title against Zenny Sotomayor in Tijuana winning by TKO in the 5th round. Given that she was so much younger, what was your key to staying on top?

At this junction due to my age my opponents tend to be a decade or two younger than I am. With that in mind, my experience in the ring is the key. The phrase ‘youth is wasted on the young’ always comes to mind whenever I step into the ring. Other than my opponents being more energetic, I believe that I’m more well-rounded in my boxing ability. They might be more energetic but it doesn’t mean they have more stamina or are as smart.

3. Having turned pro in 1999, and having fought such superstar female boxers as Bonnie Canino (who is about to be inducted into the first class of the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame), Laura Serrano, Layla McCarter and Argentina’s Marcela Elena Acuna with whom you have a 2-1 record–in Argentina, what would you say are the changes you’ve experienced in the sport.

For me, the caliber of boxers have gotten better only in the sense that more women are taking advantage of the amateurs to hone their skills. Currently boxers turning pro have more amateur fights than I have amateur and pro fights combined! Its great seeing the influx of females in the gym and the fact that coaches take them seriously, which was a big problem when I started boxing.

Alicia "Slick" Ashley moves out of range against Elena Reid, Photo Credit: Mary Ann Owen

Alicia “Slick” Ashley moves out of range against Elena Reid, March 23, 2005. Photo Credit: Mary Ann Owen

4.  Your known as “Slick” in the ring — and watching you fight is truly a clinic in the art of defensive boxing. What have been the keys to your longevity in the sport?

Exactly that, my defense. I’ve spent years honing my defense with over 238 rounds boxed and never knocked down. Earlier in my career my legs was my focal point but now its body movement and efficiency. 

5.  Your career has spanned a generation of female fighting and more, and yet the promise of female boxing as a staple of ESPN, Showtime and HBO has fallen off the map–even as it has gained in popularity and visibility in places like Mexico, Argentina and Germany.  In your view what accounts for this disparity and what has to happen to elevate the sport in the US.

It is simple. Promoters have to realize that there is money to be made and add women to the card. All the other countries that feature women on their television cards reap the benefits. The fights are generally highly competitive match-ups and tend to be fight of the night. I’ve traveled the world to fight and those fights are usually the main event. Why is it that the USA, supposedly the most progressive country in the world, is so far behind other countries in supporting their female boxers? 

Alicia "Slick" Ashley

6. As a case in point, even though you first won your WBC super bantamweight title in the United States when you defeated Christina Ruiz by unanimous decision in 2011, your last three title defenses have been in Mexico, Panama and Mexico respectively.  What would you say are the biggest challenges to putting on a title defense in the United States?

The challenges will always be the people that put on the shows. If they don’t get behind the women boxers with money and coverage then there will be less defenses here. Not only am I the main event in those countries but I’m paid way better than if I fought in the US. So other than for my fans, why would I fight here? If I was male and a 4-time world champion I wouldn’t have to need a day job to survive. This continued disparity is holding the women back and its definitely time to change. 

7. Aside from your work as a professional boxer, you are one of the premier trainers at Gleason’s Gym teaching men and women the art of the sweet science.  If you do ever retire from the ring, will your life still revolve around the sport?

I definitely will continue to work in some capacity in boxing. I enjoy imparting my knowledge on the next generation of boxers be it competitors or individuals who just want to get the most enjoyment out of a workout.

8. What would you say are the biggest changes in the sport for women that you’ve seen — and do you have hope that more opportunities will open up? In other words, do you have any last inspiring words for young women who may have caught the boxing bug?  

I believe the biggest change was made on the amateur level. There are so many more opportunities for women to compete than when I first stepped into the sport. In fact, I am proud to say that I won the very first US Women’s National featherweight championship and now they finally include women in the Olympics. I always want women who express an interest in pursuing the sport to be aware that it can be the most exhilarating feeling to win but the defeats can also be gut wrenching. This sport is not just physical but mental and it builds or breaks individuals. This is a sport you cannot do halfheartedly. Make sure you enjoy it!  

 

15
Feb
14

Back in the saddle …

Back in the saddle …

Gleason's Gym - Lennox Blackmoore

After my ring melt down last week, not to mention two snowstorms and my left wrist going all carpal tunnel on me, I didn’t necessarily have high hopes for my return to sparring this morning with Lennox Blackmoore. To be honest, I was dreading it during the middle of the week, but by yesterday, my Pollyanna attitude took over and I started to think that I had a line on how to get respectably pummeled rather than the usual total pummeling!

Getting to the gym a little early, I spent four rounds in front of the mirror working on my stance before heading over the slip rope to do exactly that … slip.

My strategy was to sit lower and use my abs more to propel my legs and to hold my body taut. It also meant that my movements were smaller and I could get my hands back faster to cover up!

By the time Len came, I was very warmed up with a good sweat and when we entered the ring I felt more in control, with tighter punches and at least s-o-m-e slipping. When it came to the dreaded right hook (yep, he was fighting me southpaw again), I still didn’t know how to handle it. By the third one I just said, “let’s stop for a minute,” and asked Len what I should do.

What he recommended was that I weave under the punch to the left and set myself up to throw a left uppercut followed by a left hook.

Talk about a wow! Who knew that old bob-and-weave actually worked as a strategy in the ring! We practiced it a few times, taking us all the way through the bell, and then went back to sparring.  Admittedly I got tagged several more times with his right, but at least I tried to weave under it–and in so doing even surprised him with a few sneaky shots of my own.

By the end of five rounds I was tired, but armed with my new (old) defense, went on the uppercut bag to practice the move some more. The challenge there was timing the bag to duck under and then come up into position to set up throwing the uppercut-hook combination. It took a while, but I actually started to get it, and then used the bag to bob-and-weave on both sides. I also worked out using my “tweaked” stance to the point where my abs actually started to ache a bit by the end of my fourth round on the bag.

Old dog, new tricks … maybe, maybe not, but I certainly felt better about things. Thinking about it as I pounded on the speed bag to close out my workout, I did at least feel as if I’d pushed things along, just enough to sense that maybe, one day, I’ll look in the mirror and actually see a boxer looking back at me!

08
Feb
14

The spirit is willing the but the body’s not!

The spirit is willing the but the body’s not!

street_gymnasium_amateur_boxing_lessons

I had a bunch of things to do today (Saturday) — so I switched things around and trained yesterday (Friday), before going to work. The great thing was Len Blackmoore agreed to meet me early and after I warmed up with four rounds of shadowboxing, we hit the ring to spar.

Earlier in the week, I’d been at the gym working out on my own and quite frankly, was feeling pretty great: lots of rounds on the uppercut bag and four great rounds on the double-ended bag gave me a feeling of confidence that carried over as I readied to work out with Len.

Now I’m *not* saying that I was overly-confident or even mostly-confident, let’s just say, I felt as if I’d worked things out with my stance, with moving around in the ring and with slipping Len’s dreaded right hand.  Well as the saying goes, “the best laid plans …”

Right from the start I was able to throw punches, and even managed a few combinations, but nothing I seemed to be able to do defensively protected me from his punches. It’s not exactly as if I was frozen, not at all, but it became obvious that aside from deflecting jabs, no matter how I positioned myself, I was open to hooks and uppercuts.

It was only after my four rounds with Len when I observed him sparring with someone else–someone obviously more experienced in the ring–that I began to see how to work things through defensively by keeping my hands up higher and standing straighter in my stance. What I realized is that I was leaning forward, mistaking it for slipping a punch! Talk about an easy target–no wonder I was getting tagged at will from the right!

Thinking about it later I admit to feeling emotionally stung, as if all of the work I’ve been putting in has been wasted … but of course I know better.

I  just have to go back to basics.

Yep … its time to tweak the boxing stance.

So where to begin … again … grrrrr …. the MIRROR!




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© Malissa Smith and Girlboxing, 2010-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Malissa Smith and Girlboxing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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