By Karl Hegman
Flyweight hopeful Marlen Esparza failed to live up to her expectations amidst a tidal wave of media coverage as she lost a 10-8 decision to Ren Cancan of China in the semifinals of Women’s Olympic Boxing Tuesday at the XXX Olympiad in London. Esparza boxed jittery and tentative against the reigning World Champion and blew the opportunity of a lifetime as she lost a highly controversial decision to the slow footed Ren, who appeared to be mired in cement throughout much of the course of four boring two minute rounds. For the record, folks: Marlen won the fight as she landed more punches, but all of the running she did evidently did not sit well with the officials who voted against her.
Esparza failed to go forward and capture the fight and I was disappointed in her performance, as I know that she is capable of doing so much more inside the confines of the squared circle. She goes home with the Bronze Medal which is quite an accomplishment in and of itself, but not the end result neither she nor her legions of fans were expecting. Ultimately, Marlen is going to have to be held accountable for her actions, or rather non-actions that cost her the biggest fight of her life. She resembled nothing of the fearless and attacking boxer/puncher that I saw in action late of 2010. I just can’t figure how she can force back and hammer such a talented and powerful fighter as Ashley Alvarado, and then box afraid like she did in London against an inferior opponent in Ren Cancan or Cancan Ren, whatever her name is.
The less said about the fight the better, folks. It was an exercise in futility as Marlen came out dancing and running at the opening bell as Ren trudged slowly forward, occasionally shooting looping right hooks and straight lefts. Marlen would be far out of the strike zone, wanting nothing to do with Ren, as she looked and fought defeated from the start. Marlen would sometimes jump in with wild, amateurish right hands which occasionally landed, but she failed to follow through with her shots. Marlen never once worked her way in behind the jab nor set up her shots uptop by first going to the body to Cancan, who was wide open up the middle.
Esparza would flutter around the ring like a moth with much wasted motion, to the point that the referee (who did an absolutely atrocious job) had to warn the less than dynamic duo to start fighting on one occasion. Marlen won the fight with a big fourth round, or big by the standards of this boring match that is, but the judges failed to give her credit for the punches she landed on the sleepwalking Ren. I had personally warned Marlen on several occasions about the anti-American sentiment out there and had told her that in the event of a close fight, she was most likely not going to get the benefit of a decision and she did not.
Marlen has a habit of winging a nice looking right underneath but instead of following it with a hook upstairs, she slides out to her right side and then gets out of the pocket altogether, and the only time in this fight she did shoot the right hand to the body and follow through with a hook to the head, the combination did land in the first round. I can recall 8 years ago when a then 20 year-old Juan Diaz looked me straight in the eye and told me he was going to capture a world title and he did come through with that promise when he took the measure of tough Lakva Sim in Houston. Marlen made a similar vow to me last year, but she failed to deliver as she either choked or picked the worst time to have a bad day in the ring when it counted the most.
No one has been a bigger fan or supported Marlen and Rudy Silva more than myself throughout the course of the last couple of years, and she has stated that she is going to retire. That is a good idea. I simply cannot just let her gloss over the fact that she failed to deliver on her promises to a lot of people by saying that she won a Bronze Medal and let it go at that. That stuff may work on media types that have not boxed before, but it won’t work on us former fighters out there who have supported her. Rudy Silva is IMO the best boxing coach in Houston, and he gave all that he had and then some by running his stable of fighters and developing Esparza through twelve long years, so it is not his fault his fighter squandered the opportunity for greatness.
I like Marlen a lot and I know she must be very disappointed, but she has only herself to blame for this particular failure. There will not be a day in her life that she will not look back on this with at least a tinge of regret, but she’ll pick up and move on like the fighter that she is and no doubt experience a lot of success in her future life endeavors. Marlen has accomplished a great deal for women’s boxing and she should be commended for that, and she made history by becoming the first Women’s United States boxer to win a medal, and there is a lot to be said for that, but she can never join the Immortals of the Olympics in terms of greatness. I can just see Rudy Silva back at work in the Fighter Nation Gym training his next Olympian in the near future, as he has a stable of very talented amateurs — among them Marc Torres, who is a sensational young flyweight boxing machine.
God’s speed, Marlen. I sincerely hope that you have a great and prosperous life, as you were one of the purest fighters whom this boxer/writer has ever encountered, and you have set boxing records that may never be broken. Strictly speaking in historical terms, you will be remembered as a very good, though not a great fighter. You always carried yourself well and were an inspiration to others in this unforgiving, dog eat dog world that is boxing that only so very few have the courage to venture in, and even fewer have the talent and drive to make it to the Olympics. I know of no requiem for this particular flyweight.
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**Note: The staff and management of the CBZ will like to take this opportunity to thank Marlen Esparza and Rudy Silva for allowing us to “Walk through the doors.”