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Mary McGee and Maureen Shea: Two for the Show
by Bernie McCoy
February 2, 2009


(FEB 2)  Two female fighters who burst on the boxing scene with a great deal of publicity and expectations, seem, at first glance, to have lived up to those high hopes. Mary McGee and Maureen Shea debuted within three months of each other in 2005; McGee from the fight-rich town of Gary, IN and Shea bearing the mantle of a fighter, with an Irish name, in New York City. Since their debuts, the two boxers have, cumulatively, compiled a record of 29 wins, without a loss. In any other individual sport, including the sport of Women's boxing, Shea (13-0-1NC) and McGee (16-0-1NC) would be at or near the top of their sport. However, mention the name of either fighter in arenas, gyms or among boxing fans of the women's sport and, shortly, the conversation heads in the direction: "when is she going to fight somebody, good." And, at the very least, it's a fair question.

And it's also fair to parse the two unblemished records when the "somebody, good" comment arises. In Mary McGee's sixteen and Maureen Shea's thirteen wins, over the three years they have competed as professional fighters, each boxer has won three bouts against opponents with winning records. To be fair, most fighters begin their professional careers with "easy" match-ups and yet it's difficult to arrive at any conclusion other than that, over a period of three plus years and almost thirty professional bouts, Mary McGee and Maureen Shea have been handled, "very carefully."

Is this a major cause of the decline of the sport of Women's boxing over the past several years? Of course not. For that, there's a litany of irresponsible boxing groups, officials and, yes, even some leading fighters, who have contributed, substantially, to the malaise that has surrounded the sport almost from the turn of the last century. But, it is a fact that two fighters, who have already had lengthy careers in the sport of Women's boxing, have yet to compete, consistently, on a level commensurate with their experience and records. Put it this way: Mary McGee and Maureen Shea, despite twenty-nine professional wins between them, have not been in the forefront of advancing the cause or the reputation of Women's boxing. There are only a limited number of Holly Holmes, Ann Marie Saccuratoes, Sophie Ann Mathises, Chevelle Hallbackes and Melissa Hernandezes. Their bouts, the vast majority of which are against quality opposition, sometimes against each other, regularly provide a clear indication of just how good the sport of Women's boxing can be. Watch the recent Holm/Lemare or Menzer/Schouten bouts for text book examples. But these fighters, and those bouts, are examples of an elite minority of talented female boxers who have fought their way to the top of their sport, by taking tough fights and winning against tough opponents.

And, for the sport to have any chance of long term success, it falls to the remaining professional female fighters, who, today, represent the deepest talent pool in the history of Women's boxing, to advance the sport by emulating that "tough fight, tough opponent" strategy. Because, make no mistake, it is that vast majority of female boxers, whose biggest struggle is gaining a modicum of acceptance, in the overall sport of boxing, vis-a-vis their male professional counterparts. And that struggle is not aided when two of those ostensibly talented female fighters spend too large a part of their three year careers competing against overmatched opposition. This widens, rather than narrows the gap between male and female boxing and positions the entire sport of Women's boxing at a comparative disadvantage.

Are Mary McGee and Maureen Shea talented fighters? It's practically impossible to determine the answer from the quality of their opposition. But in boxing, one thing has always been true: as in any other entertainment or sports business, smart people seldom waste their time with untalented performers. It doesn't pay and boxing has always been about payoffs. Both McGee and Shea have the support of smart boxing people. McGee is backed by Octavius James, head of the "One in A Million" organization in Indiana. Shea is guided by Luigi Olcese, a highly respected New York fight guy. It's fair to assume that James and Olcese can tell, within the space of time it takes to watch a couple of workouts in a gym, whether a fighter has a future in the sport. And, thus far, for the length of both the McGee and Shea careers, these smart fight guys have stayed with the two fighters. That's conjecture, of course, and the answer to the talent question has to come in the ring, in tough fights against tough opponents. And, thus far, it hasn't come for either McGee or Shea.

There have been hopeful signs, teases. In November 2006, Mary McGee, 7-0 at the time, stepped in with a highly regarded Chicago fighter, Rita Figueroa, unbeaten in nine bouts. A clash of heads in the third round stopped the fight with McGee slightly ahead on the judges' cards. The bout ended a "No Contest." Figueroa fought once more, a year later, winning a MD over a 2-5 fighter and has not fought since. In July 2007, in Reno, NV, Maureen Shea won a six round decision over Olivia Gerula, in a bout that garnered high praise, for Shea, from most ringsiders. Gerula is a veteran fighter and has been in the ring with some of the top fighters in the lightweight division: Jelena Mrdjenovich, Jessica Rakoczy and Melissa Del Valle. She is scheduled to fight Fujin Raika in Japan in March. In that 2007 bout in Reno, Shea came within one round on one judge's card of a shutout, unanimous decision. Since that fight, Shea has had two bouts, a two round and a one round TKO win against overmatched opposition. Since the Figueroa fight, McGee has had nine bouts, seven against opposition with losing records. So much for hopeful signs.

Fighters fight whomever is put in front of them. It's not up to the fighters to go looking for tough fights, that's the job of the people guiding those boxers' careers. That's Octavius James and Luigi Oclese. Maybe James and Olcese don't believe McGee or Shea have the talent to step up with the top fighters in the sport. I doubt it. These smart boxing guys would have bailed out long before now if that was the case. The talent may be there, but it has yet to be showcased for either fighter and the fact remains that the talent level of Mary McGee and Maureen Shea will remain in question unless and until their careers take a significantly different direction from what has transpired over their first twenty-nine bouts.

McGee is coming off a two round workout with Jessica Mohs a week ago. She, currently, has no future bouts scheduled. Shea has a six round date in Madison Square Garden on February 21, underneath Cotto/Jennings. As is standard with the Shea management, the opponent has yet to named. One can hope that, given the "mecca" platform of the Garden, this might be the anticipated "step up" bout for Shea. In her two previous Garden appearances, Shea has wins over boxers with 4-6 and 1-5 records.

In baseball, as noted repeatedly throughout the somewhat overpraised movie, "Bull Durham," the major leagues are often referred to as "the show." Moving up from the minor leagues to the majors is, in turn, known as "getting to the show." It's quite possible, maybe even probable, that Mary McGee and Maureen Shea have the talent to "get to the show" in Women's boxing. I hope so, because the sport desperately needs talented fighters competing at a high, competitive level. But to date, neither fighter has competed, consistently, on anything approaching that level. Both fighters compete at 130-140 pounds and it is a weight level stocked with a number of quality female fighters. The match-ups are out there for these two fighters or, more properly, the match-ups are out there for Octavius James and Luigi Olcese. Or, possibly, looking for bold strokes and major headlines, James and Olcese might consider matching their fighters with each other. Such a bout, at the very least, would answer a number of questions about Mary McGee and Maureen Shea. It might also be a very good fight. Two unbeaten fighters; two, as yet, largely untested talents in the sport of Women's boxing: Mary McGee and Maureen Shea: Two for the Show.

Bernie McCoy

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