London 2012: 10 Things You Need to Know About U.S. Boxer Marlen Esparza
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Since the Olympics have become a mainstream sporting event, the games itself have a way of creating stars in an amazing fashion.
One of the brightest new stars is American boxer Marlen Esparza.
Esparza was raised in Houston and her rise to stardom began during her early teens inside the dusty gym of Rudy Silva.
Silva was a very reputable trainer, but he only trained men at the time. The skills he saw in Esparza were eventually enough for Silva to take the future champion under his wing.
Esparza is well on her way to becoming one of the more popular faces of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Here are some facts to help you get acquainted with the champ.
She Is Making History
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Esparza is the first American woman to qualify for the London games in boxing.
A 1902 women's bout was held at the Olympic Games in Athens, but the sport has been outlawed by many countries since then.
This summer, women's boxing is making its full debut, and Esparza will look to make even more history by bringing home some hardware.
Esparza Is a Natural Athete
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The Texas native is not just an accomplished boxer. Esparza competed in a number of sports growing up including volleyball, track, basketball and swimming.
Esparza also runs to keep her cardio up for her training.
She Used Boxing as an Outlet
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When Esparza starting acting out in grade school, she found her way into a boxing gym.
The gym of trainer Rudy Silva is where Esparza began her career, and it is also where she got her act together, too.
Esparza was always a good student, but when she found boxing her grades skyrocketed and she even became her high school class president.
She Is Battle-Tested
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Esparza has been fighting for many years, and she has fought the best in the world during her illustrious career.
She is the reigning six-time USA boxing women's champion and she has become well regarded in boxing circles.
Recently, Esparza disposed of teenage phenom Thi Duyen during the second round of the 2012 AIBA World Championships to earn her Olympic berth.
Esparza May Be America's Only Hope
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The other two American women who are attempting to join Esparza in London suffered setbacks during the World Championships earlier this month.
Quanitta Underwood and Claressa Shields failed in their attempts to qualify for the 2012 games, and now they must count on an international commission that selects the final 12 competitors.
Shields is only 17, and Underwood is one of the most highly-touted amateur boxers in the country. However, if they fail to qualify, it will be up to Esparza to bring home gold for America.
Esparza Serves as a Role Model for Mexicans and Americans
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Being born to Mexican immigrants, Esparza is a living example of the American dream.
Esparza was raised in Houston, and she overcame modest beginnings and anger issues in her childhood to receive an invitation to Rice University.
She attended community college instead so she could focus on her career. As Monica Rohr of Fox News Latino reports, boxing is life for Esparza:
“Boxing has made me who I am, completely who I am. It shaped me.”
Esparza wears an American flag bandana under her headgear, and she is a safe bet to become one of the faces of the 2012 games.
Esparza Has a Ton of Heart
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When she was forced to go to alternative school during her early teens, Esparza bounced back and ended up becoming a model student at her high school.
She also dealt with her parents' divorce during the same time frame and eventually found boxing as a way to channel her aggression.
Rudy Silva said he wouldn't train a woman, and it took constant pestering from Esparza to get the respected trainer to work with her.
She has made her living by being persistent and by being a fighter. Esparza will need that toughness to bring home a medal this July.
She Is Not Just Brawn
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Even though Esparza didn't attend public school for a couple years because of her fighting nature, she ended up graduating near the top of her class when she completed high school.
She is more than just a pretty face, lightning quick hands and a mean hook-- Esparza is the total package.
She is thoughtful, well-spoken and truly an American ambassador to this summer's Olympics.
A Tough Test Awaits Her
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The flyweight division of this year's games should be tightly contested, and it will be tough for Esparza to navigate her way to the top podium.
British fighter Savannah Marshall won gold during the 2012 World Championships and looks to be one of the favorites.
Also included in the list of potential opponents is Ren Cancan, who defeated Esparza during the recent World Championships.
Esparza Just May Be the Face of Women's Boxing
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Before this year, Men's Boxing was one of the few Olympic sports remaining that lacked a women's division.
That is all changing, and with Esparza leading the way the sport is in very capable hands.
Esparza is sponsored by both Coke and Nike, and her marketability is off the charts.
With the talent to back up the hype, Esparza has a golden ticket to Olympic prominence.