Shelly Vincent: A Survivor, Back in the Ring
By Felipe Leon.
When it comes to a sport, there can’t be anything more difficult than professional boxing. Yes there is baseball where you have to hit a 100 mile-per-hour fastball within a split second and there is football where if you have the ball over-sized men are trying to get you down by any means necessary, but boxing is even more difficult.
Mentally you need to climb into a squared circle where the sole purpose of your opponent is to knock you unconscious. That is a simple fact.
For super bantamweight Shelly Vincent (21-1, 1KO) of Providence, Rhode Island, that might be the easiest thing she has ever done.
The 39-year-old Vincent is a sexual abuse survivor and by her own admission has been in and out of prison, has overcome drugs and alcohol problems and the death of her mother at an early age.
Boxing was always there to pull her out of the pit.
“When I got into boxing, I was sexually abused as a child. I was getting abused along with my mother by my stepfather but my sister wasn’t. I got into the boxing for the therapeutic side of it. I used to hit the bag and get my anger and frustrations out,” Vincent stated. “During all that time I was going to kill myself, I was suicidal, drinking, trying to kill myself with drugs; I was trying to commit suicide. For the most part I didn’t like who I was, I didn’t understand why things happened to me.”
I was a straight A student in school, everything was good and then my life went downhill after all that stuff happened,” she continued. “I used the boxing to be therapeutic and to get that stuff out. I was in and out of prison, my life was totally different before and after I decided that I was good at this, with all that stuff that was going on, the last time I was in prison, I decided to turn pro and I am going to be a world champion. At that point I turned my life around here is where I am. I never planned in fighting, it was to channel my anger and all the frustration.”
Vincent lost her mother as a teenager, when her mother was 37 years old but one of the last things her mother did for her was to find her a gym where she could get the anger out and learn the sport which would be her way out of the life she was leading.
“I don’t even know what age because I blocked out a lot of stuff out of my head, I tried to forget it,” Vincent answered when asked at what age her boxing journey began. “I remember always asking my mother when I was sick and boxing would come in late, I would always watch boxing so I would tell her I wanted to box. She put me in karate but I didn’t really like karate. I am not to sure how old I was, I was older. Maybe 16 or 17. My mom found a gym here because I wanted to go to New York because that is all I wanted to do. It might have been a bit older than that because my mom died before she got to see me fight in the amateurs. She died about two days before I was going to have my first fight.”
For openly gay fighter, boxing was not only a way to stay in shape, learn to defend herself or keep her off the streets, it was a way to battle against the demons in her head.
“I felt like I was fighting back for the things that I didn’t fight for when I was young,” she explained. “I was too young to understand or do something about it. Now that I am older, I wish I had done things different at that age when they were happening. I wish I would have talked to somebody, talked to a counselor, talked to a friend but I was too embarrassed that people were going to find out. The boxing was the only time I wasn’t depressed or I wasn’t upset and that is the reason why I kept going back.”
Vincent is conscious if it wasn’t for boxing, her life would be very different or actually done.
“I say it all the time, boxing saved my life,” she states. “If it wasn’t for boxing I would be dead or in jail, probably be dead. Boxing definitely turned my life around and now it helps me live life and be more positive. It helps me speak to the all kinds and be a voice and do the things that I want to do.”
After a very short amateur career, Vincent went professional in 2011 stringing along 18 straight wins before suffering her only loss. Wins over the tough Nydia Feliciano twice, Angel Gladney, Jackie Trivilino and Christina Ruiz twice led to the fight that has marked her career since.
Fate of female boxing
In August of 2016 live on NBC Sports Network, which at the time was the first female fight televised in this latest wave of female boxing in the United States, Vincent fought a back and forth war against Brooklyn’s Heather Hardy.
No love lost inside or outside of the ring, the women put on a show with the fate of female boxing on TV in the United States on their shoulders and they exceeded expectations. At the end Hardy was awarded a majority decision.
A decision Vincent disputes to this day.
“Heather doesn’t hit hard, she ran from me the whole night,” Vincent stated decisively. “She stepped to me at first and then she ran after she felt my power. She thought I didn’t have any, nobody thinks I can punch, I just don’t have knockout power. I would land three or four shots and she would land one and even the commentators would comment on her shot.”
Vincent feels she was the one that brought the fight to Hardy but being in New York, Hardy got the benefit of the doubt in the exchanges. “My back never touched the ropes, I was always moving forward but I know how that is especially being in New York. I think I won that fight six rounds to four. Two rounds she clearly beat me and two round could have gone either way but I dominated six rounds.”
The importance of the fight is not lost on Vincent and she is grateful for getting the opportunity to perform on television and be the pioneer for this new wave of female boxing in the United States. “That part meant a lot because I am an openly gay athlete and I got that spot. To have all that put on us, this is hit and miss, you guys have to perform because if you guys fail women’s boxing is not going to be on TV. It felt good just knowing that I got to that point and I got there with my skill, being myself and true to who I am and hard work. “
“It felt great to be one of those women.,” she continued. “I know Heather, besides what I feel about her, she busts her ass to many different spots selling tickets, it is harder for us because we have to do triple of what the men do. It was an honor I was one of those women and Heather and I will be always remembered for that.”
Vincent states she wants the rematch with Hardy more than any other fight out there for her including a world title shot.
“Of course because that is a blemish on my record,” she said. “I don’t think that I lost that fight and most people don’t think I lost that fight. I don’t let it get to me but I was promised a rematch and that is what I want. Of course that is the fight that I want, who wouldn’t? If that is the only one on my record, of course I want that.”
First she must get past veteran Edina Kiss in her next fight on May 5th at the Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut.
I haven’t seen anything, I know she is strong, she has the eight knockouts,” she said of the 16-6, 8KO, fighter. “I know Heather beat her twice and the Serrano sisters beat her. She has eight knockouts, I don’t know. I haven’t seen her, I have seen her fight with Amanda but Amanda is a monster and she wasn’t in there too long.”
Amanda Serrano stopped Kiss in three.
“I am just going to go in and handle my business and win,” Vincent said confidently. “Edina is getting kissed on the 5th. I know what I have to do.”
So how much longer do we have Vincent in the ring?
“I don’t feel 39, I don’t look 39, I feel good,” she said regarding the future. “As long as my body lets me do it, I am going to do it. Look at Bernard Hopkins, he did until he was way older than me so it is possible and I think women last a little bit longer, a little more durable.”
To listen to the complete interview, please visit BlogTalkRadio.com/2MinRound