by Peter Lim
A crosstown Houston female flyweight showdown is brewing in Spokane, WA, this week as the 2014 USA Boxing Nationals gets underway. 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Marlen Esparza of Houston will attempt to defend her title and become a nine-time champion.
Hot on Esparza's heels is Virginia Fuchs, the second-ranked 112-pounder in the country. Fuchs hails from Kemah, a touristy suburb on the Texas Gulf Coast spitting distance away from Houston.
Esparza, 24, defeated Fuchs, 25, twice last year, by razor-close decision at the 2013 USA Boxing finals and again in the semi-finals of the National PAL tournament. Both expect to have their hands raised in the aftermath of their highly-anticipated third showdown.
"I expect (the win) to be easier this time around," Esparza said
"That's what I hope to do at these nationals - take the number-one spot," Fuchs told The Houston Chronicle. "It was a split decision both times I fought her, so I'll try not to make it so close this time and make it an obvious win for me."
Outside the ring, the crosstown rivals are not on speaking terms.
Esparza has been prepping at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs under Pedro Rogue. Fuchs, a switch-hitting southpaw, is coached by Roy Alvarado at the Elite Boxing Gym in Houston.
Both boxers aspire to represent the United States at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.
"I very much believe that I'm going to Rio with the momentum I'm having," Fuchs told the Chronicle. "These nationals will definitely tell me if I'm on the right track."
Esparza expected to hang up her gloves for good after the London Games, but knowing that she fell two victories short of winning gold hindered her from moving on to the next chapter of her life. She decided to make a bid for Rio to take care of unfinished business.
"I'd die happy. I'd feel that I can rest, that I can breath," Esparza said. "I know that when I wake up I will feel free and then I will be able to process what's next. I can't really fathom what's next because I don't know what it will feel like to not wake up every morning wanting something so badly. It will just be the ability to live life without something nagging me in the back of my head."