The Mexican-American that made history as the first woman to qualify for the first ever U.S. women’s Olympic boxing team has her eyes set on a change in atmosphere post the 2012 Olympics. 22-year-old Marlen Esparza, who grew up admiring legendary Mexican boxer Julio Cesar Chavez and won her first championship at age 16, is now ready for the next match in her life: to be the first in her family to graduate from college. “I was taking classes but had to stop in the spring semester to prepare for the Olympic Trials,” she states, adding that she’s contemplating pursuing a medical degree to work with kids. “I’ve thought about going into anesthesiology but might look into another field too, I haven’t decided.”
But the change in atmosphere may not be difficult for Marlen to adjust to, after all, taking unexpected punches and holding her own is what she’s been trained to do. “It’s shaped me in every way,” states the Texas native. “Because of boxing I have become dedicated, determined and disciplined in order to accomplish my goals.” The young athlete has kept a daily routine of two to three mile runs, three hours in the gym and swimming or weight lifting every day in order to achieve her 97 percent winning percentage.
Even though she’s been under rigorous training most of her life, the flyweight U.S. boxer recalls having a “pretty normal” high school life juggling track and field, being active in her school’s debate team, maintaining a high G.P.A., being the class president, and training and traveling to boxing competitions. As for her dating life, Marlen confessed that the ring has kept her too busy to interact with guys “except for the ones I spar with”, she jokes.
Nonetheless, there are hints of her average young adultness that become visible during her free time, which she chooses to spend watching television or being with her family, to whom she will dedicate her gold medal if she prevails in London.
Then there’s the gold necklace with a boxing glove medallion that her dad gave her for her fifteenth birthday. Although she does not wear it, it was her version of the traditional Quinceañera necklace that is gifted to most Hispanic girls when they come of age.
With her college major still undecided, Marlen has no doubt about her next priority: winning gold and keeping her momentum going at the Olympics. “I want it so bad, more than I want to eat or sleep,” she confesses. She’s also keeping a close eye on the competition, particularly the girls from China and Russia. “They are the ones I am preparing to fight them the most.”
But regardless of whether or not she returns to her Pasadena, Texas home with a gold medal, Marlen will stop training and fighting after the Olympics to begin crossing things off her to-do list, which according to her, is a long list of places she wants to visit and things she wants to do and try.
When asked what advice she would give young Latinas who consider her a role model, Marlen Esparza highlighted the importance of believing in yourself. “Don’t let anyone make you feel like your happiness depends on them,” she advises. “No matter what anyone tells you, you are always worthy and deserving.” Words that she has learned to live by and that have landed her a spot as a 2012 London Olympics qualifier.