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The Return of Jolene Blackshear
Interviewed by
Bob Marovitz
May 27, 2009


When you speak of the talented female boxers of the 90's
Jolene Blackshear was one of the best pound-for-pound
flyweights. She fought Yvonne Trevino, Anissa Zamarron
and Margaret Siderhoff in toe-to-toe fights in her career.

Jolene came out of a nine-year retirement to fight up and
coming Melissa McMorrow in San Jose in May and won
that bout. In the following interview Jolene talks about
the retirement, her decision to return, her new team, the
state of the sport, what's next for her and what drives this
dynamic woman.

Q: When you retired in 2000, did you feel like you had accomplished what you set out to do in your career or did the warrior in you feel that you needed to compete again?

JB: In 2000, I was not planning to retire at that time. I was trying to regain control of my life and put myself in a place where I wanted to be; and, I anticipated that boxing would still be a part of it. Some very unfortunate turn of events transpired and my boxing career came to an abrupt halt. I was very disappointed and could never let go of the dream or hope that I would compete again.

Q: What factors went into your decision to return to boxing?

JB: Even without the expectation of ever competing again, I continued to train as if it could happen at any moment. The funny thing is, once I finally started to accept that I’d never fight again and started to let go of the notion altogether, circumstances changed and I found myself readying for a fight. I started to pay more attention to who was out there, who was ranked, and how they fought; and, I thought, “I can beat them”.

Q: How did you assess your fight against Melissa McMorrow in May? How did this particular bout come together?

JB: This bout was not intended for me. For the past year and a half, my primary training partner has been 6-time National Champ, Cheryl Houlihan, who has been preparing for her pro-debut. Unfortunately, this fight fell through for her, so I took her place on last minute’s notice. From the get-go, the McMorrow team felt I would be “less dangerous”, so they accepted the fight and so did I.

Q: Who comprises Team Blackshear now? What is your training regiment?

JB: My coach, trainer, and manager of the past 8 years is Kalina Fernandez; and, I will never train under anyone else, as this is the perfect combination. For the first 5 years together, we trained out of North County Boxing, until the gym eventually closed. We are now at Unleashed Boxing in San Diego. The former head coach of North County Boxing, Tony Contreras, is acting as the second man in the corner for me. My training regiment is what is always has been—the fully disciplined and conditioned lifestyle of a serious, high performance athlete. My aerobic and anaerobic endurance is always excellent, the sprint speed is still there; and, now that I have more experience, we are able to fine tune certain techniques. Although I had not been competing, I was training with boxers who were; and, I always kept myself motivated to be in fighting shape since we were training and sparring together.

Q: What has changed about you as a person and boxer since you began boxing?

JB: I have grown and matured immeasurably. When I first began boxing, my spiritual growth catapulted as I began to realize the strengths and weaknesses within me; and, what I needed to accept in order to reach my full potential as an athlete and competitor. Boxing has kept me humble and kind outside of the ring; and, as a much older warrior, I have greater confidence in myself and what I have to offer those around me in the form of encouragement, motivation and wisdom.

Q: In 1997, you and Anissa Zamarron staged the "Fight of the Year" in the entire boxing community. You won that decision. What do you recall about that fight at that point in your career?

JB:  I was still very new to boxing and did not have a great deal of experience; but, I had ability and heart. This was when the IFBA was first forming and we were battling for the first IFBA flyweight world title belt. Leading up to this bout, although it showed up as a loss on my record, I had a good showing against Yvonne Trevino to get me in the running for a shot at the title; but, there was a minor setback leading up to the fight with Anissa. The fight was initially scheduled for the summer; but, I broke my wrist during training, requiring surgery to fix the break. The first day after my release from the hospital, I was in the gym, training with one arm, determined to get ready for this fight. We fought a toe-to-toe battle in October and I ended up winning. For the next 3 years I was the flyweight champ. Since I lacked a lot of experience, I had to learn fast and learned against some veteran boxers, like Anissa.

Q: In 2000 you fought Margaret Siderhoff, who has retired. That was your final fight before you retired. Did you still feel on top of your game at that time? What went into your decision to step away from boxing at that time?

JB: By the time I fought Margaret, I had been struggling with the events in my life and boxing altogether. My team at the time did not completely nor accurately reflect how I was as a person; and, that had been pulling on my psyche for years. There was too great of a difference in lifestyles and values; and, it was time for me to regain control of my own life. I didn’t want to be a part of any of it anymore, so I didn’t have the same desire as in my previous fights. Margaret is a very talented boxer and athlete. All excuses aside, she wanted it more than I did, she performed well, and she deserved the win. We spoke briefly in the dressing room after the fight; and, something just prompted me to wish her well and that I hoped she enjoyed that championship belt. Although I did feel that the fight was closer than how it was judged, I think our fight was a great performance on both sides.

Q: In the 90's, women's boxing was more frequent on television and PPV. Now we are lucky to see a women's bout on an undercard. As a boxing veteran, how do you assess where women's boxing is currently as compared to where it was in mid-late 90's? What do you think the sport needs to enhance itself?

JB:  It seems to me that women’s professional boxing is missing three critical points, (1) respecting that this is a sport and a sport should be comprised of athletes first; (2) as athletes, the skills and experience required for a boxer to be taken seriously and given credibility must be developed in the amateur ranks. Now that the women’s amateur program is more developed, female participants must be willing to make the same commitment to the program as males; and, (3) there is a lack of true warrior spirit and mentality. Certainly, there are a rare handful of competitors that shine as athletes and champions; but they are outnumbered by a sea of participants that seem to spend more time on glamour shot portraits and websites than they do training as elite athletes. I feel that graceful movement, stunning power and an eloquent display of the art of boxing is far more beautiful and worthy than any staged portrait.

Q: When considering the current crop of female boxers, who impresses you?

JB:  I am most impressed by my coach, Kalina Fernandez, who is an outstanding boxer; and, I admire and respect her the most. Also, I am delighted to be training with someone like Cheryl Houlihan, who has the experience, talent, athletic ability and work ethic to be a world champion for a long time. However, these two are not part of the current crop of professional female boxers.

Q: Outside of the ring, what are some things you enjoy?

JB:  I’m really a down to earth person, so I enjoy great conversation and laughter, spending time with nature and just being with my family, friends and pets. I usually spend my free time running, playing recreational softball, practicing yoga, working in the yard, and reading.

Q: What does the future hold for you and who would you like to fight in the future?

JB: The future will hold whatever I desire. At this point, I can either find closure in my career; or, take advantage of the fact that I still have a lot of fight left in me. I’ve never backed down from a fight and I’ve always had great competition. I’ll fight anyone who is put in front of me, just like old times.

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