By Ryan Maquiñana
Marlen Esparza, who made history as the first American woman to win an Olympic boxing medal when she captured bronze at London 2012, recently posed nude in ESPN the Magazine’s latest “Body Issue,” which hit stores Friday.
Esparza sat down with BoxingScene.com/CSNBayArea.com and broke down the photo shoot, what she hoped to accomplish with her participation, and how her family reacted to her decision to disrobe for the cameras.
ON WHY SHE CHOSE TO POSE FOR THE “BODY ISSUE”:
“Ever since I started boxing as a kid, I would cover up in the gym to where I wouldn’t even be seen in a sports bra or shorts—even today. But I don’t think I’m going to pose nude ever again, and the ‘Body Issue’ does a good job in the way it’s shown, so why not? It’s about the celebration of the athlete’s body.”
ON COMPARING HER PHOTO SHOOT WITH COVERGIRL LAST YEAR AND THIS ONE WITH ESPN:
“The CoverGirl shoot was a 16-hour day, and this one was just six. They were actually similar in that both had the same elements of mixing being dainty with being fierce. It’s just that the ESPN shoot wanted me to show more of that pop—more of that strength—while CoverGirl was the other way around in that it had both things but it wanted to emphasize being feminine more.”
ON FACING HER FEARS OF BARING IT ALL:
“At first, I was worried about disrobing, but once I saw that the crew was more worried about just getting the lighting right and the photographer getting the perfect shot, I kind of forgot what was going on. It actually got a little tedious for everyone when I had to throw an uppercut over and over again until they got the angle they wanted.”
ON HOW HER STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING WORK WITH VICTOR CONTE HELPED HER CONFIDENCE:
“My body, especially my back, arms, and legs, are definitely more defined now than when I was in the Olympics. My back is like a ‘V’ now. People have different opinions on what is pretty, but I really think we need to make girls feel pretty no matter what they might look like.”
ON HOW HER BOYFRIEND REACTED TO HER DECISION TO POSE:
“My boyfriend was fine with it at first, but it wasn’t until people started talking about it after it came out that I’m not so sure anymore.” (Laughs)
ON HOW HER FAMILY REACTED TO HER DECISION TO POSE:
“My dad usually can’t wait to go to the store to buy a magazine when I’m in it. But for this one, when he asked me if it came out, and I said, ‘Yeah,’ he just paused and said, ‘OK.’ And that was that. This one won’t be one of his favorites. But my mom, my sister, and everyone else is super-excited about it.”
ON THE TWO PICTURES THAT WERE EVENTUALLY CHOSEN FOR THE SPREAD:
“The one where I’m hitting the bag is actually my favorite one, but I also liked the other one where I’m in the ring, even though it was a surprise to me that they chose it. In fact, everyone looked good, even the golfer [77-year-old Gary Player]. But I think [San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin] Kaepernick was definitely the hottest.”
ON THE IMPACT SHE THINKS THE PICTURES WILL HAVE ON WOMEN’S BOXING WITH A MAINSTREAM AUDIENCE:
“I know a lot of people aren’t going to like what I did or disagree with the idea of it, but I think it shines a good light on the sport, because I want to show you can be feminine and strong. It’s funny. A lot of people don’t know about my bronze medal, but I bet those same people know more about the chick hitting the bag now because of the magazine.”
Ryan Maquiñana was the boxing producer for NBCOlympics.com during London 2012 and writes a weekly column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Ratings Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at [email protected] , check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.