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Marlen Esparza

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Pack a Punch

By Miranda Proctor

Portrait by Michael Starghill Photography

03.26.18

Houston-native Marlen Esparza tears through the world of women’s boxing with her first headliner fight in Los Angeles.

As the first woman signed to Golden Boy Promotions—a boxing promotional firm—and one of the first women to win a medal in the 2012 Olympics, Houston native Marlen Esparza is charging through the world of women’s boxing. At just 11 years old, Esparza was in the ring throwing punches with—and at—the boys. She is a fiery, fearless and endearingly cocky fighter who lives life with a standard of excellence both in and out of the ring. After graduating in the top 5 percent of her class, Esparza was accepted to Rice University in 2007. “I had always wanted to go to Rice and am good friends with President Leebron and his wife now. But I realized I would have to pick between going to school and boxing,” says the 28-year-old. “I didn’t think it was that far-fetched to be the No. 1 ring boxer, but everyone thought I was crazy. My coach even told me there was no future in women’s boxing. But I followed my gut, and luckily I was right.”

Since then, she has created a voice for women’s sports and inspired young girls to go after their dreams as a CoverGirl ambassador, proving she has the brains, brawn and beauty. “When I started boxing as a young girl, I never in a million years thought I would be where I am now. I just wanted to win. Being a CoverGirl gave a lot of little girls hope that they could box too,” she says. “I’m really girly—I love dresses, I wear makeup to the gym and I like to look good. I think because of that, it’s changed the perspective about how girls have to look and act in a gym.”

Esparza heads into her first fight as a headliner live from Los Angeles April 6 on Estrella TV. “I’m finally starting to find myself and who I want to be as a professional fighter. By the end of the year, I want to get an entry belt and start fighting for a world title.”