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
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
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
Q: What has changed about you as a person and boxer since you
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
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
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
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
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.