Alicia Napoleon-Espinosa Ends The Debate On Women’s Boxing
By: Hans Themistode
There’s nothing more you can say about women’s boxing. Well, there probably is but it doesn’t matter at this point. They have effectively ended the misconception of their sport.
Women’s boxing has constantly taken a backseat. The narrative surrounding them is that they can’t sell tickets, no one tunes into their fights on television and the fights itself just isn’t exciting. None of those statements are true .
On Friday January 10th, at the Ocean Resort Casino, in Atlantic City, history was made. Or rather, HERstory. Claressa Shields defeated Ivana Habazin to secure the vacant WBC and WBO Jr Middleweight world titles. With the win, Shields became the fastest boxer regardless of gender to win titles in three different weight classes.
Also featured on the card was Alicia Napoleon-Espinoza and Elin Cederroos. The two women turned in the absolute fight of the night as Cederroos defeated Napoleon-Espinosa via razor thin unanimous decision. Each judge watching the bout scored the contest 95-94 in favor of Cederroos.
When two fighters produce such a classic battle, it has become cliche to say that neither person loses. In this case, it fits the circumstances perfectly.
Since the very beginning, Napoleon-Espinosa has been an advocate for women’s boxing. The outrageously low pay coupled with the minimum amount of exposure was something that she just wouldn’t stand for.
Napoleon-Espinosa wasn’t asking for a handout. She was simply asking for an opportunity to prove her worth. Well, at the Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City, she showed why women’s boxing is undervalued.
For much of the night, the combatants who entered the ring gave a good account of themselves. The crowd cheered and applauded for the efforts of everyone that was given. Yet, something seemed to be missing. The crowd was engaged but the energy wasn’t quite at the level that it needed to be. Both Alicia Napoleon-Espinosa and Elin Cederroos quickly changed that.
From the moment the bell rang, both women met each other in the middle of the ring and threw heavy leather. Cederroos gained the upper hand early. It wasn’t surprising. She did after all possess a five inch height and two inch reach advantage. Cederroos used her physical edge to bully the smaller Napoleon. That narrative however, was short lived.
After getting buzzed by a series of hard shots in the first and second rounds, Napoleon-Espinosa came roaring back. Somehow she forced her much bigger opponent back and landed her huge shots all night long. The crowd in attendance stood on its feet for much of the contest. This is exactly the sort of excitement they were looking for.
Once the bout was over, the air in the arena was slightly flat. That’s not to say that the men who followed their contest didn’t put on a show, because they did, but something was missing. Cederroos and Napoleon-Espinosa gave us a war for ten rounds. A performance like that just isn’t easy to follow up.
If a fighters paycheck was determined by their actual performance, then Napoleon-Espinosa should easily have been the highest paid fighter on the night, but she wasn’t. It wasn’t even close.
The always loquacious Napoleon-Espinosa seemed reluctant to state her case yet again for women’s boxing, but for she felt compelled to anyways.
“I’m just going to let my fighting do the talking but God has a plan,” said Napoleon-Espinoza shortly after the fight. “I’m in God’s hands. All of us women in this sport are in God’s hands. I see the hearts changing. I’m getting paid more but not where I want to be. I’m not where the men are getting paid at but I know it’s going to come. By me not quitting and continuing to do this and fight the way I fight, take the opportunities and push and break open those doors and keep being a voice saying we need to get paid, then it’s going to change. All my blood, sweat and tears are for the women now and the women that are going to come up after us. I’m doing this for all of us. I’m just going to keep performing and keep putting my heart on the line and I will reign and be champion again.”
After a war like that, the stock of Napoleon-Espinosa should be on its way up but her weight on the other hand, could be on its way down after fighting such a huge opponent.
“We’re just going to have to regroup, comeback stronger and better, probably drop down in weight because I walk around at 168 tops. We were successful there for two years but now it’s time to drop back to where I really should be at 154 maybe 160 tops. I can even get down as low as 147.”
Whether it’s 168, 160, 154, 147 or hell if she can make it down to 140 than so be it. The fans just want to see her back in the ring as soon as possible.
Women’s boxing is still a long way from getting the recognition and respect that the men do, but with women like Alicia Napoleon-Espinosa stealing headlines and putting butts in the seats, their time might be coming sooner than you think.
Alicia Napoleon is On The Cusp Of What She’s Been Asking For
By: Hans Themistode
It’s been a long time coming for women’s boxing in terms of recognition. Too many times have they been swept to the side while the men steal all of the shine and spotlight.
This Friday night on January 10th, at the Ocean Resort Casino, in Atlantic City, Claressa Shields will headline the first boxing card of the year on the Showtime network. It isn’t exactly out of the ordinary to see a woman on the televised portion of a boxing card, but to see two fights that will be aired live is certainly abnormal.
Some of the most recognizable names in the sport of women’s boxing have advocated for women to get their fair shake in terms of recognition and pay. Although they haven’t exactly turned the corner just yet, they are getting close.
“For us women to have this opportunity, I mean it’s hard to find words to describe it,” said Alicia Napoleon. “We finally got here. I just want to thank God, I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for these opportunities and for these doors to open. For the hearts to change and turn, to view women’s boxing as equal. We’re getting there.”
For Napoleon (12-1, 7 KOs) she currently holds the WBA Super Middleweight world title and hasn’t tasted defeat since 2016. Her opponent on the night, Elin Cederroos (7-0, 4 KOs) is a champion in her own right as she holds the IBF strap. To call this the most difficult contest in the career of Napoleon wouldn’t be hyperbole. With that being said however, Napoleon doesn’t seem to be fazed by that statement in the slightest. Not only does she see herself as the victor come Friday night, but she also has eyes set on who many believe is the best female fighter in the world, who just so happens to be fighting on the same card.
“This is a fabulous opportunity and I am overjoyed to be here. I am so grateful to just show out and put on a great performance. Grab those titles and continue to move forward and face Shields.”
Shields and Napoleon have a bit of history between them. During the infancy stages of the career of Shields, Napoleon was offered a fight with the two time Olympic gold medalist. The WBA Super Middleweight champion turned down the opportunity. Although it may seem as though Napoleon wanted no parts of Shields in the ring, that is far from the truth.
“I did not avoid her but I want to get paid. I want to make decent money. I want to eventually get paid as well as the men are getting paid in this sport. When Claressa first started they weren’t offering the sort of money that there offering now but that money still needs to be more, sorry, but it does. It needs to change. Women offer just as much as the men. But no, I did not avoid Claressa.”
For those on the outside looking in, it may seem as though Napoleon is completely looking past her opponent. Discussing a future contest with Shields would lead to the belief that Napoleon is convinced that she will walk through Cederroos without many issues. Yet, that just isn’t the case. The realization of a dream coming true has brung her excitement to unparalleled heights.
“When I started boxing I always said that I would love to be a world champion one day. My goal was to get at least one belt but now that I am here and unifying, I want more.”
Napoleon’s desire for more money, recognition and fame could be just within her reach. Provided of course, she gets through Elin Cederroos on January 10th.