As women’s boxing continues to evolve, a massive changing of the guard has come at the pro level.
Mexico’s two-division and reigning WBC flyweight titlist Ibeth Zamora (32-6, 12KOs) has observed as much, to the point where no stone has been left unturned in preparation of her upcoming title defense versus Marlen Esparza (9-1, 1KO). Their bout takes place this Saturday afternoon, as part of a four-fight DAZN telecast live from Don Haskins Center on the campus of The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).
Zamora, 32, attempts the third defense of her current reign, while entering her 17th title fight spanning three weight divisions. Still, she enters the bout—her first in the United States—to far less notoriety as Houston’s Esparza, a 2012 Olympic Bronze medalist who fights for her first major title as a pro.
“I’ve followed Marlen’s career ever since she won the Bronze medal and signed with Golden Boy,” Zamora told BoxingScene.com. “If I’m not mistaken, she’s the first female to sign with Golden Boy. It opened the door for women’s boxing to gain more notoriety in the United States and I have seen that it continues to grow.
“It’s great for my career that I get to take advantage of the current market. This was the right time for me to come to the U.S. for the first time in my career. It’s a tough test but I am ready for it.”
The scheduled ten-round contest is the only title fight on a show headlined by Zamora’s countryman, former WBO junior middleweight titlist Jaime Munguia (36-0, 29KOs) who faces Poland’s Kamil Szeremeta (21-1, 5KOs) in a twelve-round middleweight battle.
Zamora is a slight betting favorite according to BetMGM while DraftKings Sportsbook has the fight virtually even. Statistically, she is given a far better chance to emerge victorious than was the case for her countrywoman and former ring rival Anabel Ortiz, whose lengthy WBA strawweight title reign came to an emphatic close with a ten-round shutout defeat to the supremely talented Seniesa Estrada (20-0, 8KOs) this past March 20 in Fort Worth, Texas.
“I watched Anabel’s fight with Seniesa Estrada. It was sad to see her lose the title that way because Anabel was such a great champion and proudly represented Mexico for so long,” notes Zamora, who defeated Ortiz for the Mexico junior flyweight title back in 2008 when they were both unbeaten prospects. “I’ve always respected her, we’ve known each other a long time and fought early in our careers. I’m proud of what she has achieved.
“With female boxing now becoming more evolved in the amateurs and featured in the Olympics, there are even more styles to prepare for. Marlen is one of those fighters, she comes with a lot of speed and a lot of tools. I can’t speak to how well Anabel prepared for someone as highly skilled as Seniesa, but I know that I’m prepared for any tricks Marlen has in store.”
In addition to her wealth of experience, Zamora enters with something of a cheat sheet.
“Marlen is a tough fighter. She goes after it,” Mariana Caballero, Zamora’s manager—also a former boxer—told BoxingScene.com, reflecting on her own 2011 amateur fight with Esparza. “She has a lot of heart, a lot of experience and is fierce in the ring.
“Ibeth is a strong fighter, very heavy handed. She hits a lot harder than most other women at this weight. I truly believe Marlen is in for a tough fight.”
The onus is also on Zamora to prove that the old guard still has plenty of fight left. With the notable exception of record-setting seven-division and reigning WBC/WBO/IBO featherweight champion Amanda Serrano (40-1-1, 30KOs), the female side of the sport has experienced considerable turnover at the title level in recent years. The new wave is coming in with deeper amateur careers, claiming belts and quickly racing past their predecessors while also creating an atmosphere where there is more money than ever to be made on this side of the sport.
Zamora—a 14-year ring veteran who turned pro as a teenager—is out to show that there is still plenty of fight left in her career.
“Women’s boxing is gaining more and more attention,” notes Zamora. “I vow to do my part to ensure that people continue to watch and also to win on Saturday in order to bring the WBC back home to Mexico.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox