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Maureen Shea and "Potential"
By Bernie McCoy
September 15, 2008
Photo: Mary Ann Owen


"Potential" is one of those wonderful words in our language that can mean much to many but can also be flipped at the turn of a phrase. "Potential," as defined by Webster, is often used to distinguish someone for whom the future looms bright. The word is often preceded by the adjective "unlimited," and, nearly as often, followed, closely, by reference to the sky. Eddie Dillon was our neighborhood cynic, a rare Flatbush native who disdained the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was Dillon who set me straight on the word "potential" one night when we were waiting, in front of the candy store, for the next morning's edition of the NY Daily News: "potential," Dillon sneered, "it just means you ain't done anything, yet."

I thought of Eddie Dillon the other night as I was walking down a Yonkers, NY hill towards the train station. I had just watched Maureen Shea TKO a fighter named Elisa Cleffman, inside two minutes, at the local PAL Gym; a fight that had an outside shot at giving a bad name to "mismatch." In fairness, Shea was coming off a twelve month hiatus from the ring; in her words, "doing some non-boxing related things" on MTV and working with a nutrition company. She said she had been back in the gym "regularly since April." And, in reality, a professional fighter doesn't take twelve months off from competition and come back looking, right away, for a top contender. Unfortunately, over her thirteen pro fights, top contenders have been noticeably missing from Shea's list of opponents. But, overall, I think it's fair to say the word, "potential" still fully applies to Maureen Shea, in both Mr. Webster's dictionary sense and, possibly, at the same time, in the words of Mr. Eddie Dillon of Flatbush.

Maureen Shea turned professional in August 2005 with a :39 second stoppage of Camille Casson, a 0-4 fighter, at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY. This followed a successful amateur career in both the National and New York Golden Gloves. The fighter turned professional under the tutelage of Luigi Olcese and Hector Roca, highly regarded New York trainers, an alliance that continues to the present time. Roca and Olcese have brought Shea along the professional path very carefully. Of her thirteen wins, only three (one other fighter had a 1-1 record) have been against fighters with winning records. The cumulative winning percentage of those thirteen opponents is slightly over 40%.

By far, the highlight of Shea's professional career occurred in July 2007, when she won a decisive six round decision over veteran Olivia Gerula, in Reno, NV. From any standpoint, this bout ranks as a good win. Gerula had been in the ring with some of the best boxers in the sport, including Jelena Mrdjenovich and Jessica Rakoczy, and Shea, according to ringsiders, came very close to achieving a shutout against a quality, veteran fighter. It was cautiously hoped that the win over Gerula might signal, in Shea's future, more competitive match-ups. Two months later, Shea returned to New York for a two round TKO of Jessica Mohs, a 7-15 boxer. The twelve month hiatus followed, ending last Wednesday evening at the PAL in Yonkers.

The shelf life of "potential" usually expires after a year or so in the ring. By then a fighter has, conventionally, faced increasingly competitive opposition and a clear image of the future begins to emerge. Maureen Shea has been different. While, she has won every bout against every fighter who has been put in front of her (there was a "no decision" against Kim Colbert in May 2006 when Colbert failed a post-fight drug test after, originally, being awarded a decision), it remains the quality of the opposition that gives an observer of Shea's career pause. Excepting Gurela, Shea has not been in with the type of fighter usually associated with a thirteen bout career in the sport of Women's boxing (Melissa Hernandez, by comparison, has had 12 bouts). Shea, when asked, adamantly makes the valid point that she does not pick her opponents; few, if any, boxers who have trainers with the qualifications of Olcese and Roca, do. It is those trainers who have the best insight into what Maureen Shea is capable of in the ring and, to date, they have opted for what can be labeled "safe" fights.

The bout in Yonkers was, to some degree, understandable; a bridge back to competition after a year out of the ring. That's a fact. Here's another: if Maureen Shea wants to establish credibility in the sport of Women's boxing, which, from a competitive standpoint, she has yet to do, she, quite simply, has to go up the scale in quality opposition. Thirteen wins against, for the most part, inferior fighters, is not the way to realize the type of professional ring potential that Shea's amateur career seemed to portend.

In the future, we may be told now that Maureen Shea "is back" she is going to continue her winning ways in the ring against top fighters; it's something that has talked about in the past and, frankly, it's a laudable goal, both for Shea and for the sport of Women's boxing. But, this time, those "winning ways" need to come against quality fighters with winning records, fighters who have "been there, done that." Those fighters aren't hard to find in the weight classes in which Maureen Shea has thus far competed. The featherweight and lightweight female divisions are among the most talent rich in the sport. And, if Shea chooses to remain at a heavier weight (she was 138 in Yonkers), quality opposition is out there and those fighters will probably need little encouragement to say yes if, and when, Shea's management calls. Those type of quality fighters are the competitive steps Maureen Shea needs to take to turn her acknowledged potential into the reality of a top fighter in the sport of Women's boxing. It's those fighters and those fights that will determine what the real definition of potential is as it applies to Maureen Shea. When and if that time comes, I sincerely hope we have to go with Mr. Webster on that one.

Bernie McCoy

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