Marlen Esparza has big plans in store for 2021, though willing to risk it for the sake of furthering a greater cause.
The aspiring flyweight contender will appear on the undercard of an all-female Pay-Per-View show this Friday, headiined by her 2012 U.S. Olympic teammate and current pound-for-pound queen Claressa Shields. For her part, Esparza will face Toronto’s Shelly Barnett (4-3-2, 0KOs) in a scheduled six-round bout Friday evening at Dort Federal Event Center in Shields’ hometown of Flint, Michigan.
“I'm excited to be fighting on this historic all-women’s card around International Women’s Day and to be reunited with my 2012 Olympic teammate Claressa Shields,” said Esparza. “I'm looking forward to representing all female fighters on March 5 and putting on a great performance.
“This is a great night for women’s boxing and I’m grateful to be a part of it.”
The bout comes roughly four months after Houston’s Esparza (8-1, 1KO) picked up the biggest win of her career to date, an eight-round decision over unbeaten Sulem Urbina in their Oct. 30th DAZN-streamed clash at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.
The feat came nearly a full year after suffering a technical decision defeat to longtime rival Seniesa Estrada in Nov. 2019. Estrada (19-0, 8KOs) will go on to face reigning junior flyweight titlist Anabel Ortiz on March 20, live on DAZN from Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.
Esparza is now poised to enter her first career title fight as well. The 2012 Olympic Bronze medalist is the number-one contender to long-reigning WBC flyweight titlist Ibeth Zamora, with that bout targeted to take place later this year.
First up for the 31-year old flyweight contender, however, is the opportunity to be a part of an event honoring the upcoming International Women’s Day. Her bout with Barnett is one of five on the all-female PPV lineup, topped by Shields (10-0, 2KOs)—a two-time Olympic Gold medalist and three-division champ who aims to become the undisputed junior middleweight queen in a four-belt clash with unbeaten Marie Eve Dicarie (17-0, 0KOs).
“We are incredibly excited to see Marlen Esparza back in the ring, especially on an all-female card marking International Women’s Day,” Oscar De La Hoya, Esparza’s promoter and chairman/CEO of Golden Boy Promotions told BoxingScene.com. “On March 5, she will demonstrate why she is next in line for the WBC title and why she is considered one of the most gifted talents in women’s boxing.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox