Catching up with boxer Marlen Esparza
November 28th, 2011
05:25 PM ET

Boxer Marlen Esparza's fight for Olympic glory

The 2012 Olympic games in London are still months away but boxer Marlen Esparza is fighting to increase her chances at making the U.S. national team.

Esparza, who was featured in CNN’s documentary “Latino in America: In Her Corner,” won a silver medal at the World Cup of Petroleum Countries held in Surgut, Russia, this weekend.

It wasn't what she was hoping for. “I really thought I had won,” she told her coach, Rudy Silva, over the phone. The judges favored local champion, Svetlana Gnevanova, by 10 points to eight.

The tournament hosted boxers from 15 countries, which gave Esparza the chance to fight some of the women she could face at next year’s world championships or the 2012 Olympics.

Before any of that happens though, Esparza will have to make the national team and defeat her opponents at the U.S. Olympic trials in February.

“All international fights are hard,” she told Silva, who asked questions on CNN’s behalf while Esparza is in Russia. “That level of fighting is more like a chess match and it makes you raise your fighting game up to another level.”

Since “Latino in America: In Her Corner,” aired in September, Esparza has barely taken a break from her grueling training schedule. At 112 pounds, the 22-year-old Mexican-American flyweight from Houston won the national championship in Colorado Springs in June. She became one of the only women to hold six national titles.

Now, she’s off to Ukraine to fight against the country’s top-ranked boxer on Saturday. She said she’s looking forward to meeting even more opponents that might preview her future.

“This competition is very important to me because it gives me the international experience that I very much need to keep up with other countries’ style of boxing,” Esparza said as she prepared to head overseas.

“I will be preparing for when it comes to getting ready for the Olympics.”

The opportunities for women boxers have grown since the sport was added to the Olympics. In 2009, women could box only at the Women's Continental Championships. In 2011 they’ve had eight competitions, most of them connected to tournaments where women’s boxing is making a debut, like the Pan American Games.

In the past two weeks, U.S. women boxers have been matched with opponents from Mexico, Russia, Poland and Germany. While Esparza is in Russia and Ukraine, some of her peers were in London.

Natural fighter vs. the world

“With the inclusion of women into the Olympic games, I think all countries have made it a priority to make women events scheduled within their own country or events were women can participate,” said Anthony Bartkowski, executive director of USA Boxing. “We’re starting to see more women and men competing at the same events.”

USA Boxing coach Gloria Peek traveled with the group that participated at the London Test Event, where countries who have Olympic boxing teams get a chance to match their athletes.

“It’s a dry run of the Olympics,” Peek said. “It is an opportunity to test the fighters on top who might be facing our fighters.”

For Esparza and 23 other women, the competitions are a chance to improve their style before facing each other at the U.S. Olympic trials, which start on February 13.

“The challenge now is just staying focused on my training and to continue to do what has made me successful in and out of the ring,” Esparza said. “The goal in my mind is of course making it to London and bringing back that gold medal for me, for my family, for all the Hispanic people in America and of course for everybody who has ever supported me.”

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Filed under: Documentaries • Latino in America • Who we are • Women
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Trojan38

    I would like to see females get more into the fighting sports!! I know that the UFC has a HUGE female following! Just go to any of their fights and you will see what I mean!
    I know that locally, all over this country, female fighters are huge in number at local "cage matches" and the crowds loves it to death!!

    February 17, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  2. JOSE0311USMC


    January 13, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. morfiliwr

    "The goal in my mind is of course making it to London and bringing back that gold medal for me, for my family, for all the Hispanic people in America and of course for everybody who has ever supported me.”

    But doesn't include bringing home the gold for her entire country, just the Latino ones in it. So, I'm guessing they should change the canned recording from "The Star-Spangled Banner" to any just any other jingle, perhaps one that her family or the Latinos of America composed since, in her own words, she competed on behalf of and for the benefit of the Latinos of America, not for America itself. How telling.

    Good luck, but with that sentiment, I'd rather root for the Canadian gal from Charlottetown, PEI – at least SHE'll remember which country SHE's fighting for, without restricting dedicating her win only to her own ethnic group (whatever that may be.)

    December 1, 2011 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
    • TheRealist

      How typical to hold onto every word as if it were written in stone.

      The next time you accomplish something, be sure to list everyone because there’s always someone out there that get’s butt hurt.

      December 22, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. John Smith

    Women were created by God to have children, take care of the family and submit to their husbands. As such, women should not engage in violent sports like boxing.

    November 30, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. UsmcJohn

    Wait until she gets knocked out, and then the lawsuits will fly!

    November 30, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kay

    Christina Cruz is the best, she won't beat Christina.

    November 30, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Pat

    Cruz will kick her butt as she has time and time again.

    November 30, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mike

    Nice....so no doctors, lawyers, CEO's , venture capitalist , entrepreneurs as role models in the community ?

    November 30, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Steven Brown

    Boxing is not a good sport. The object is to render the opponent unconscious by inflicting head trauma.

    November 30, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gloria Hovde

      Steve, so what does football and soccer do?

      November 30, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
      • Guest

        Gloria...... Soccer? What are you blabbering on about

        November 30, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Oh brother........

      November 30, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
      • Trojan38

        Do you know that "women's soccer" is the second major cause of concussions in this country????

        February 17, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  10. Rags

    The thing I've always wondered regarding female boxers is do they need to protect their breasts from punches? Would the force of a pinch maybe cause other problems? That is a very important gland.

    November 30, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Gloria Hovde

    Go Marlen!! My dad was a boxer and won the golden gloves in Minnesota many years ago. My family always watched boxing.

    Good luck to you!


    November 30, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • s

      Some of the wisest advice I've ever received from a living human being came from a great boxer, and I'm sure you and your family sort of understand what I'm talking about.

      There are people who care about her race, nationality, or gender, but above all, she is a boxer. Its a great sport. I, to repeat you, wish her the best of luck!

      November 30, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
      • Gloria Hovde

        K.O in 8!! 🙂

        November 30, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. iphonedude

    Hey buddy, Latino nor hispanic has nothing to do with race. It's a cultural thing. There are black, white, brown, yellow, mixed Latinos and hispanics. Wait, I get it. You are just a victim or our "American" educational system.

    November 30, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • iphonedude

      ... or our "American" educational system = ... of our "American" educational system

      November 30, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Latina

    most blacks & latinos are mixed, dude!

    November 30, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Acaraho

      Get a grip, mixed race are just that. Blacks and Latinos aren't necessarily mixed race. However, most people who have Native American blood are mixed race and have ancestry that also includes white, black, & Latino.

      November 30, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. dipstick

    What are blcks and latino's...non mixed race?

    November 30, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. DClark

    So is she American or Mexican? Need to pick a country and stick with it..

    November 30, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Latina

      American applies to everyone born on North or South American continent.

      I don't hear people complain when they have the Irish celebrations in chicago, ny, etc. Why don't they just have an American parade?

      November 30, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
      • cor

        They do... every 4th of July 😉

        November 30, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
      • Miguel Miami

        "American" overwhelmingly refers to citizens of the United States. And Esparza is one.

        November 30, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gloria Hovde

      Who cares what country she's from? We are becoming an international globe as far as sports are concerned. I come from a boxing family and we never cared before so why care now? The only thing is can they deliver a solid punch?

      November 30, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chavi

      Well if she is trying to make the US olimpic team I think it would be safe to say she is an American. Don't you agree?

      November 30, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  16. zoundsman

    Go Marlen! Boxing is still an art. You got the stamina, expertise, drive, and are an inspiration to not just women, but young
    and old who dream of achieving a goal. I'm (and thousands) am rooting for you. It's going to be a thrill to see you in an
    Olympic bout. Knock 'em, sock 'em ... dance circles around 'em.

    November 30, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Jose

    Can't wait for the Olympics or the 2014 World Cup. She's beautiful. =)

    November 29, 2011 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Reason & Logic

      She's so beautiful that I would hate to think of someone punching her lovely face. Hopefully, she wins and ends up unscathed.

      November 30, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Latina

      seriously, I hope she doesn't scar that pretty face!

      November 30, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Amateur level boxing is done in head pads and scored on a points system. Not perfect protection, but certainly helps to absorb the blows.

      November 30, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  18. blabla

    The Russian fighter is going to have her for breakfast.

    November 28, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |