Marlen Esparza Wins NABO Flyweight Title in Southern Calif.
By David A. Avila
INDIO, Calif.-Dressed in bright red robes and trunks, Marlen Esparza marched in with her team closely behind into the boxing ring. A year had passed since her last bout, but the former Olympic bronze medalist emerged the winner by decision and the new NABO flyweight titlist on Thursday.
Esparza (6-0, 1 KO) showed the more than 1,000 fans at Fantasy Springs Casino that despite time off due to pregnancy she was ready to hand Ecuador’s Jhosep Vizcaino (9-9) a defeat on the Golden Boy Promotions show.
“I felt strong,” said Esparza, 29, after dealing eight rounds of right hand blasts.
It had been exactly one year and two weeks since her last fight. Back then, she was ramping up for a showdown with East L.A.’s Seniesa Estrada and Southern California boxing fans were excited for the match. But when it was revealed that Esparza was pregnant and expecting a baby the anticipation quickly deflated like a punctured tire.
Many in the crowd at Fantasy Springs wore the same red shirts emblazoned with the same icon worn by Esparza and when the fight ignited on Thursday night the Texas flyweight attacked with overhand right bombs. She didn’t seem to care whether it was predictable or not she was firing bombs and everyone take cover.
“I’ve been working on it a lot with my old coach,” said Esparza who lives in Pasadena, Texas. “I’m working a lot on my power.”
One of the biggest adjustments in Esparza’s game has been making the transition from amateur boxing style to the professionally preferred power punching mode. It showed in her constant attack against Vizcaino who is no pushover.
“I’m so used to using my speed but I felt so strong that it was hard to land my punches,” said Esparza. “I kept missing because I felt too strong.”
Also, instead of returning to action in a four round bout she accepted an eight round title fight and seemed to need only slight adjustments.
“It’s all mental,” said Esparza. “I worked hard when I was off. I never stopped.”
As the rounds mounted, about the fourth round, Vizcaino made a stand and began countering Esparza’s overhand rights with her own lead rights. She connected many times but not with the same force as the former Olympian. It was simple but solid tactic and stalled Esparza’s overwhelming attack.
In the sixth round Esparza slowed a tick and that opened up the door for Vizcaino who connected with a strong counter left hook that snapped Esparza’s head back but did not hurt her. Vizcaino later timed Esparza’s charges and fired lead rights that connected solidly. It was the Ecuadorian’s best round.
Esparza rebooted her attack in the seventh and eighth round with more foot movement and kept Vizcaino thinking and not punching. After eight rounds all three judges scored it 80-72 for Esparza who now has the NABO title. It’s her first title as a professional.
Fans cheered the new titlist from Texas who won bronze at the 2012 Olympics in London and was the first American female to win a medal in boxing. Later, her teammate Claressa Shields would win the gold medal in the same Olympics. We all know her story as well.
Esparza brought several dozen fans from Texas and from the East Coast. Among them was former Team USA member and current super middleweight world champion Franchon Crews-Dezurn.
“I came to support my old teammate and show her some love,” said Crews who holds the WBC super middleweight world title. “We met before the 2012 Olympics and we are still friends.”
Once again the former members of Team USA’s strong boxing team are making waves.
(Photo by Alonzo Coston)