If there is a mold for a female boxer, Marlen Esparza took one look and broke it.
Esparza has been blazing her own trail since falling in love with boxing at the age of 17. She was the first woman signed with Golden Boy Boxing, the first American woman to qualify for the Olympics in 2012 when the sport made its Olympic debut (she flew home with a bronze medal), and the first woman to fight a three-minute round after pushing hard against the World Boxing Organization to do so.
The world championship title holder is also a wife and mom to adorable nine-month-old Saint.
The question is, what hasn’t Esparza done? Her eyes are now set on the World Boxing Association’s Interim World Title on November 3rd in Las Vegas. At just 5’3”, Houston native Esparza fights in the flyweight division and prides herself on breaking barriers for women.
We sat down with Esparza to talk about her life as a role model and her love for her sport.
You are such a trailblazer for so many young women – Latina, Olympian, first woman to be signed with Golden Boy Boxing, etc. Do you ever reflect on what you’ve accomplished?
I try not to look back too much, honestly. I am extremely proud of my accomplishments but always want to look ahead to the future and continue to create a voice through my sport… Boxing has always been a man’s sport, so everything we do as female boxers we have to do for ourselves. There aren’t women’s boxing shoes or comfortable chest protection, but I am working to change that for other female boxers.
How did you become interested in boxing?
My Dad was always a huge boxing fan and that was how we spent our time together. He wanted my brothers to box, and instead I was the one who fell in love with the sport.
When you began your career, did you ever dream you would break so many barriers?
It was definitely my dream. Everyone told me women’s boxing in the Olympics was “crazy.” Look at it now! No dream or goal is too crazy if you believe it.
In a male-dominated sport, how have you managed to maintain your femininity?
Maintaining my femininity is not something I have to try to do, I am just being myself. I love to get my nails done and have my hair fixed just like a lot of other women athletes.
Has becoming a wife and a mom changed your view about boxing?
Being a mom has given me even more motivation. Looking at my husband and my son just gives me extra drive.
You are about to fight for the WBO Interim World Title. Tell us a about your training regimen and how you prepare mentally.
I spend 5+ hours a day training. Some days I am sparring with a partner, other days I am working with my coach. I work with a trainer, physical therapist and nutritionist outside of the boxing gym.
After your upcoming fight – what are your goals?
Keep fighting and win more titles and belts of course!
Cover photo Erik Paul Pictures
Gabi De la Rosa lives in Houston with her husband and three children. You can usually find her at a great local restaurant or out exploring HTX with her family. Visit her on Instagram @gabioftheroses_htx