Marlen Esparza is an American boxer. In May 2012, she qualified to compete at the 2012 Olympics, becoming the first American woman to qualify for the Olympics in the first year that women's boxing was an Olympic event. She won the bronze medal in the women's flyweight division at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Esparza was born in Houston, Texas and grew up in a family that adored the sport of boxing. Her introduction to the ring came at age 11, when she started babysitting her younger brother while he worked out at a local gym. Marlen was soon begging her father and the gym’s trainer to let her try the sport. They were hesitant, but soon gave in under one condition: She had to behave in school.
She kept her end of the bargain and by her senior year she was named class President and graduated with a 4.6 GPA. Although she had won two Women’s Boxing U.S. National Championships (2006, 2007) and captured bronze at the 2006 World Championships, Esparza was ready to quit the sport and go to Rice University, where she had been previously accepted.
All of that changed in 2009 when the International Olympic Committee announced that women’s boxing would debut at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Soon after this announcement, Nike, Coca-Cola, and CoverGirl signed Esparza to sponsorship deals. This was huge for Esparza because she was able to quit her job – she had been working as a dental assistant- and her focus on training became even more intense for the only title left for her to win.
Esparza went on to win the 2009, 2010, and 2011 U.S. National Championships and qualified to the Olympic Games at the World Championships in China. This would clinch her spot in history as the first ever American female boxer to ever compete in an Olympic Games. In the debut of women’s boxing at the 2012 London Olympic Games, Esparza brought home the bronze medal. Her original plan was to leave the sport after the Olympic Games, but after bringing home the bronze she realized she wasn’t quite finished with boxing. Esparza kept her U.S. National Championship winning streak alive by taking the title in 2013, 2014, and 2015. She also took home the Gold medal at the 2014 Women’s World Championships for the first time in her career.
In 2017, Esparza turned pro, signing with Golden Boy Promotions and becoming their first ever female boxer. She dominated her pro debut in March 2017 by a unanimous decision win on ESPN and is currently 5-0 in her professional career, as her third fight was a part of the Canelo vs. GGG undercard in Las Vegas. Esparza is also an avid runner and came in 49th place out of 25,000 at the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco.
Esparza married Frank Figueroa in June of 2018. She is passionate about creating a voice for women’s sports and inspiring young girls to go after their dreams, whatever they may be.
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