Marlen Esparza Out-Speeds Samantha Salazar in Las Vegas

Marlen Esparza Out-Speeds Samantha Salazar in Las Vegas


By David A. Avila

LAS VEGAS-It wasn’t an historic moment but still important for Marlen Esparza in her quest for recognition as a force in female boxing.

Esparza (2-0) dominated Samantha Salazar (2-4-1) in a battle of Texans to win by unanimous decision at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday on the Golden Boy Promotions card. It was streamed by and also on HBO’s free streaming on

The former US Olympian who was the first American female to capture a bronze medal was hoping to make history by fighting in a three-minute round. When told it was already done many times before, it was thought to be a first in Nevada at least.

Nope. Layla McCarter fought a three-minute round fight many years ago. In fact, McCarter has accomplished the feat seven times in Nevada including multiple title fights. One bout, in 2007, was a 12-round affair at three-minute round intervals against Melissa Hernandez in Las Vegas. McCarter won by knockout that night.

Otherwise, Esparza brought back that tradition of three-minute rounds that McCarter started many years ago in Nevada. A further note on McCarter, who is considered the best female fighter pound for pound in the world, is she recently fought last week in Las Vegas and won by knockout.

But on Saturday, against Salazar, the former US Olympian Esparza was able to showcase her skills that include speedy combinations, defense and agility. She was much more composed and effective against a better opponent than in her pro debut in March.

“I plan on staying at three minutes and not going back to two minutes, so I know we will need to be strategic about how I train and fight,” Esparza, 27, said.

Esparza was very precise in her punches and moved around deftly as the veteran Salazar attempted to counter.

“I loved having the extra minute. When I only had two minutes, I felt like my punches were reactive than being proactive,” Esparza said. “The extra minute gave me time to think, and be more thoughtful and strategic in my punches. It felt like a board game, where I could be able to plan and be able to go four steps ahead.”

The former Olympian’s quickness was too much for Salazar to get a bead on. Though Salazar tried many times to mount an attack Esparza would simply move out of range. Esparza was very accurate with her blows. But unlike the first fight she engaged as a pro, the former amateur star looked  much more comfortable and professional.

“Once I have another fight that I am happy with, I want to start calling out other fighters so I can start to make it in the rankings. I want to stay at three minute rounds, and increase my next fight to six rounds and stay there for a bit,” she said.

For boxing fans, the female flyweights are one of the most talented divisions in the world. Of all the former Olympians fighting currently in the pro ranks, Esparza has the deepest weight division in terms of talent pool. She can stay in the U.S. and fight numerous American flyweights or venture to Mexico where flyweights are a fact of life.

It was an important first step for Esparza on Saturday.


(Photo by Al Applerose)