Posts Tagged ‘Shelly Vincent

25
Oct
18

Shelly Vincent: Fighting For The Positive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

02
Jun
13

The Accidental Boxing Manager: Mary del Pino Morgan

The Accidental Boxing Manager: Mary del Pino Morgan

Mary del Pino Morgan

As a boxing manager, Mary del Pino Morgan is pretty unlikely.

She first walked into the Striking Beauties all-women’s boxing gym in North Attleboro, Massachusetts nearly four years ago wanting to lose weight. She’d been a boxing fan and remembers watching fights with her Argentinean father. One of her uncles was a champion boxer as well, “so, it’s in my blood,” she said in a recent interview with Girlboxing, “if not one way, than another.”

Still, during her first forays in training, Mary did not envision herself as the boxing manager for Shelly “Shelito’s Way” Vincent, a rising star in the East Coast professional women’s boxing world, whose perfect 9-0 record and most recent win against boxer Angel Gladney have netted Shelito the Women’s International Boxing Association (WIBA) super bantamweight title and a fan base that seems to grow exponentially with every foray into the ring.

The latter, Shelito’s fan base though has a lot to do with her manager, and friend Mary del Pino Morgan.

Shelito Vincent, February 2013, Credit: Mary del Pino Morgan

As Mary tells it, her growing love of boxing and dedication to the sport and the women who practice it led her down a path she never expected.

“I was there [at Striking Beauties] all the time and got to know everyone. It was more like a club than a gym and pretty intimate. At first I volunteered there,” she said, wanting women coming into the gym for the first time to “feel comfortable especially with losing weight.” She felt good about introducing them to an environment that was really safe and supportive no matter what their body type or skill level.

Mary, in her “other” life as a personal chef and wedding cake designer was so good at customer service that she the owner of the gym, Dena Paolino, offered her a job managing Striking Beauties. With several National champions, including two 2010 National Golden Gloves title holders coming out of the gym, Mary became pretty excited about the sport and the possibilities for women. It also brought her to the fights and an awareness of Shelito Vincent who was making a name for herself as an amateur boxer in the New England area. This led Mary to strike up a casual friendship with her on Facebook.

Mary del Pino Morgan and Shelito Vincent. Credit: Mary del Pino MorganOne fateful night, Shelito wrote a post on Facebook that struck a chord with Mary. “She put up a message that said she was in a car accident and stuck. And it was like, January and raining and at night. I checked back in a few minutes to see if anyone was helping her and Shelly had put another message on that said her car was dead and her phone was almost out and I thought, that’s it.

“I wrote ‘You’re in Connecticut right?’ and she wrote back, ‘No. I’m in Providence.’ And then I wrote her to say I’d get in my car to pick her up. A couple of minutes later she got back to me and said, ‘somebody is right down the street, so I’m okay, but I have your back now. You were going to come get me and you don’t even know me!’ and I thought, wow, Shelito Vincent’s got my back.” By then Shelito had won her October 2011 debut match by decision against Karen Dulin and was looking forward to a rematch in March 2012.

Shortly before that fight Mary and Shelito finally met at a boxing match that had women on the card. “We were sitting behind a couple of gentlemen who were having a great time.” After a lot of banter back and forth Mary said, “You need to see one of her fights, she’s really great.”

Of the meeting Mary said, “It really blew his mind that she was a woman and a professional boxer.” At the end of the night, Mary took his email address and she wrote him to let him know the particulars of Shelito’s upcoming bout. As Mary tells it, “He bought a whole bunch of tickets and the night of the fight Shelly said, ‘you’re my manager now,’ and I thought, ‘what does that mean,’ and said yes.”

Mary del Pino Morgan and Shelito Vincent, Credit: Mary del Pino Morgan

Pretty immediately it meant helping Shelito set up for her upcoming fights. Shelito had already inked her deal with CES Boxing (Classic Entertainment Sports) (where she is one of two female fighters on their roster), guaranteeing her five fights a year for each of three years for 4-6-8 and 10 round bouts, though most of her nine fights to date have been four- and six-rounders with the exception of her eight-round title fight this past May. It has also meant working full-time helping to keep Shelito in the public’s eye.

Shelito Vincent Victory Bash 7/28/2012Mary spends hours and hours drumming up publicity for Shelito’s fights working closely with CES. She sifts through speaking engagements, interviews and photo shoots, and lots of press relations with local papers, regional television and radio news outlets, and boxing websites and bloggers–not to mention her forays on social media such as her active Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. Mary is also a one woman machine getting fans to pep rallies, pre-fight and post-fight victory parties, as well as keeping Shelito on track with her motivational speaking appearances with school kids which are a true labor of love. The combination of activities can bite into her gym time with famed boxing trainer Peter Manfredo, Sr. and her hours as a trainer at Striking Beauties, but between Mary and Shelito, they make it work.

Peter Manfredo, Sr. and Shelito Vincent, May 17, 2013, Credit: Kelly McDonaldIt has also meant gaining sponsorships for Shelito to help defray the costs, which include the $20 and more in gas money a day needed for Shelito to get back and forth from training and to her various appointments. Mary’s success at that has been phenomenal, having landed several sponsorship deals including the well-known Havoc Boxing who custom make all of Shelito’s boxing trunks, tops and robes for her fights. In the scheme of things when considering paychecks such as Floyd Mayweather’s recent $32 million dollar guarantee for fighting Robert Guerrero this may not seem like a lot, but in the world of women’s boxing where the margins are that close, it is the difference between being able to pursue a professional career and being shut out completely.Havoc Boxing with Shelito Vincent and Mary del Pino Morgan, Credit: Mary del Pino Morgan

But for all of that Mary sees her main job as ensuring that Shelito’s best interests are always in focus.

“I help her negotiate … I have to look out for her. That is my motivation. It is not for anything else. Not for money, it is all for Shelly.” Mary also feels that the other important component is “having a loving trusting relationship with your team,” saying further “that trust has to be there so she knows we are not going to take advantage of her.” That team is Mary, Peter Manfredo Sr. and his trainers, and the folks at CES Boxing who have come through for her at every turn.

As for the frustrations, probably one of the biggest is the lack of exposure for women’s boxing on broadcast and cable television. Mary put it this way, “I don’t know why and I don’t know how to fix it, but I am getting her out there in front of people. CES has been great getting her on their bigger cards on ESPN, Friday Night Fights and NBC’s Main Event, but we haven’t gotten on television yet. It’s really disappointing. We’re all just going to have to find the right people to try to push the envelope. Probably the next generation of girls because they really work hard and women are definitely gaining respect. The Olympics is helping too and bringing new girls up.”

Being a boxing manager who happens to be a woman also has its downside. “I wasn’t getting taken very seriously … they see what we’re doing and see that we’re professional … and then there’s that whole thing about being a woman around all these guys … it happens all the time.”

Still she has garnered respect where it matters, and when it comes to Shelito is most proud of being told that “I was good for boxing because I really took care of my fighter.”




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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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