Have you ever listened to someone talk about their life, their
goals and felt: "perfect fit?" That was my thought, last week,
speaking by phone, with Shelly "Shelito's Way" Vincent, from her
training base at the Striking Beauties Boxing Gym for Women in
North Attleboro, MA. Vincent is a 9-0 professional boxer who, in
May, won the WIBA Women's International super bantamweight title
with an eight round unanimous decision over Angel Gladney. It's
not just Vincent's unbeaten record or her recent title win that,
from the first sound of her voice, sends a "this is a fighter
I'm talking to" vibe over the wire. It's also about how her
words come at you in a cadence remarkably like that of a speed
bag being hit by someone very familiar with that craft. Looking
around for a fighter? Shelly Vincent fits perfectly.
Let's deal with the nickname. I ask if it's a homage to Al
Pacino's 1993 movie (Carlito's Way). "Well, maybe a bit,"
Vincent replies, "but 'Shelito' comes from my first coach in the
sport. It was his way of putting a Spanish ring on 'Little
Shelly'. It evolved into 'Sheilto's Way' to keep my focus on the
fact that in this sport, with all the ups and downs, I need to
stay committed to heading, 'every which way but down.' "
And thus far, the nickname has relevance. Boxing under contract
with CES Boxing, Vincent began her professional career in
October 2011 with a four round UD over Karen Dulin. Fighting
solely in the New England area, under the auspices of manager
Mary del Pino Morgan and veteran trainer Peter Manfredo Sr.,
Vincent reeled off seven more decision wins (five four rounders
and two sixes) against a conventional starter's kit of
competition for a boxer deemed to project a promising future.
The WIBA title fight was, clearly, a step up in competition and
the fact that Vincent won 23 of the 24 scorecard rounds against
Gladney, who has been in with the likes of Kaliesha West, Ana
Julaton, Cindy Serrano and Jennifer Salinas, indicates that
other such steps may be imminent.
Asked what's next in terms of competition, Vincent reverts to
the standard, "I'll leave that up to my management to decide
when and where my next fight will be, " but just as quickly, she
spins out of that conversational corner and adds, "I want a
world title. I want to face the best fighters out there at my
weight. I went to 122 for the Gladney fight and that's probably
as high as I want to go. I feel comfortable anywhere between '18
and 22' . There are some very good fighters at that weight and a
lot of them are on the West Coast and in Mexico, but that's the
level of competition I'm looking for." Vincent notes that
negotiations are currently under way for a Fall bout against a
yet to be finalized opponent, possibly at one of the Connecticut
casinos where she has fought four times in the past.
And then there's Heather Hardy. Hardy is a rising, unbeaten New
York City super bantamweight (6-0) and anyone familiar with you
tube has probably seen some of Vincent's efforts to get the
Brooklyn fighter in the ring. "Hardy says I've had more
experience and," Vincent adds, "that's true from a professional
standpoint. But her amateur experience is far greater than mine.
I was 11-4 in the amateurs and during that time I was in and out
of the sport, given some personal situations outside the ring.
In terms of experience, amateur and pro, she (Hardy) has, by
far, a lot more experience. Look, I have nothing personal
against Heather Hardy, she's a good fighter, so am I. She's New
York, I'm New England. It's the Red Sox and Yankees. It would be
a mega fight in this area. We both have large fan bases. It
would be good for both of us, as fighters, and it would be great
for the sport of Women's boxing. Big fights are what the sport
is all about."
Vincent is right, a Vincent/Hardy bout would be a compelling
bout. Both fighters are on the cusp of completing the nascent
stage of what could, conceivably, be two successful careers in a
sport in which both fighters have begun to attract attention
within the boxing community along with sizable fan followings.
And both Vincent and Hardy are as comfortable in front of a
camera or microphone as they are inside the ropes.
But whomever Shelly Vincent steps in with next or the following
bout or the one after that, one thing is fairly certain: it will
be an action bout and Shelly Vincent will be giving up a couple
inches in height. "I'm five foot, period," Vincent states, "and
in every bout, I have to work hard to get inside. I try to cut
the ring, get close and land punches. And, if I do say so
myself, I'm a brutal body puncher. It makes for fast paced
Vincent's "getting inside" technique is on display, at it's
best, on the tape of the Gladney bout. She gets inside early and
stays there and dominates all eight rounds. She's done it, and
done it well, thus far in nine bouts. But the bouts will get
tougher from now on for Shelly Vincent and heading "every which
way but down" will get harder with each fight against each more
talented opponent. But listening to Shelly Vincent talk about
her sport and her place in it, you get the impression she's
looking forward to that challenge and, at this point, she's
exactly where she wants to be: in the ring and looking for a
"Way" to the top.