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Maureen Shea: Act Two, Once More
by Bernie McCoy
May 19, 2010
Photo: Mary Ann Owen

     
   
   
   
   

(MAY 19)  Francis Scott Fitzgerald famously intoned, "There are no second acts in American lives." Maureen Shea, the well publicized female featherweight boxer, gave lie to that statement last Friday night at the once stately Paradise Theater located on a once majestic avenue called the Grand Concourse in the borough of the Bronx in the city of New York. Shea, who has been a professional boxer for nearly five years, began her own Act Two, for the second time, following an eight month hiatus from the professional boxing ring, with an overwhelming three round dismantling of Norma Faris in a scheduled six round bout on the under-card of promoter Joe DeGuardia's six bout card.

Once before, in September 2008, following a year's absence from the ring, Shea, likewise, returned to the sport, in a venue close by the site of her Friday night bout; specifically, a few miles north of the Paradise Theater, the distinctly less grand, Yonkers PAL, scoring a one round TKO over Ellsha Cleffman. Geography was not the only common factor in the both of Shea's Act Two re-entries into the sport. Both Norma Faris and Ellsha Cleffman were ideal opponents for a boxer who had been inactive for an extended period of time. Although Cleffman (3-1) and Faris (3-2) had winning records going into the Shea bout, Faris had never had a win over a fighter with a positive record and Cleffman's lone win over a winning fighter came against a 1-0 boxer. To be fair, any fighter who has been out of the ring for any length of time, as Maureen Shea had, does not return to the ring against the elite fighters in her division and, for accuracy, Cleffman and Faris qualify for non-elite status.

Following the 2008 Cleffman fight, Shea did, however, "move up in class," being matched with Kina Malpartida, in Madison Square Garden, in February 2009, for the vacant WBA super featherweight title. Starting quickly in that bout, Shea scored a first round knockdown of the taller Malpartida with a picture perfect left hook which seemed to justify promoter Bob Arum's feeling that Maureen Shea might be the fighter to prompt Arum's return involvement in the sport of Women's boxing. Unfortunately, for both Shea and Arum, Malpartida regrouped and controlled the remaining nine rounds of the bout, and led by a wide margin on all three score cards, before she TKO'd Shea, shortly before the final bell in the tenth round.

Arum subsequently dropped any plans he might have entertained for females in his sport, while Maureen Shea was subsequently matched with a tough, heavy handed Canadian featherweight, Lindsay Garbatt in August 2009. Garbatt dominated Shea from the opening bell before stopping her in the seventh round at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. Scorecards showed Garbatt winning every round. Following the Garbatt bout, Shea self imposed a hiatus from the ring, changed management, and relocated her training base to the Global Gym in North Bergen, NJ. And that was the somewhat circuitous path that led the Bronx fighter back to her home borough and the Paradise Theater last Friday night to once more take a place in the bright lights spotlighting a professional boxing ring.

Maureen Shea is never more comfortable than when the lights are bright. The fighter has been a magnet for publicity since she first strapped on gloves and head gear in the NY Daily News Golden Gloves near the turn of the century. Her well publicized involvement in Clint Eastwood's Academy Award winning movie about Women's boxing not only provided Shea with name recognition but provided a nickname, "The Real Million Dollar Baby." And, outside the ring, she has utilized every one of her impressive media-centric attributes: articulateness, intelligence and graciousness, to take full advantage of the offered publicity opportunities. But boxing, even more so than all other sports, is about what happens once the peripheral activities of the sport cease and the bell rings. And, inside the ropes, Maureen Shea has, from the outset of her professional career, been brought along very carefully. With the exception of a win over Olivia Gerula, the current WBC super featherweight title holder, in July 2007, the vast majority of Shea's victories, over her nearly five year career, have been against fighters on the lower rungs of the featherweight division, one of the deepest and talent laden in the sport. Her two losses, to Malpartida and Garbatt, came against fighters who, while deserving of the label, "quality fighters," do not approach elite status in the talent choked female featherweight ranks.

And that brings one to the most interesting aspect of Maureen Shea's rerun of Act Two. While her win at the Paradise Theater on Friday night contravened Mr. Fitzgerald's words, a much more intriguing aspect of this Act Two is yet to unfold, to wit: where does Maureen Shea go from here, inside the ring? Does she revert to the earlier strategy of picking off the "low hanging fruit" of minor opposition or does she, as she did following her initial return, choose to look up the rankings for the quality opponents that are, surely, out there in the featherweight class? Repeat Act Twos are a lot for anyone. Maureen Shea has the opportunity to make her second one memorable.

Bernie McCoy

 
     
     
   
 
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