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Maureen Shea - Boxer, Vegan


Interview: Outside the Ring With Boxer Maureen Shea

Written by Kelly Jad'on
June 11, 2007

She's a poet, a musician, a girly-girl, and a vegetarian: Maureen Shea is ranked by the WBA as the #1 Undefeated Super Featherweight boxer in the world. Her scorecard reads 10-0-5 KO's. Preparing for the upcoming Co-Main Event in Reno, Maureen Shea discusses the fascinating world of a female boxer.

Maureen, how did you get into boxing?

As a teenager, I was very rebellious ' kicked out of high school my junior year, staying out past curfew, and in fights. At age 19, I became involved with a man six years my senior. Ours was an abusive relationship. My boyfriend abused me both mentally and then physically, until I was 21 years old. He said I was fat. But at 112 lbs, I was anorexic. I had taken diet pills to look thin for him. This destroyed my gallbladder, and I had to have it removed.

I'd come to a fork in the road of my life, and I didn't know who I was anymore. When I was 19, by the grace of God, I walked into Omni Health and fitness gym. The gym kept my mind occupied and out of the house. I didn't want to be at home crying while my boyfriend was out cheating.

So I began the boxing life: I was either at school or in the gym. I had a lot of anger in me, but I was broken down, just the shell of a woman. Eventually, I fell out of love with my boyfriend and fell in love with the sport of boxing. Through boxing, I got myself back on track. It is the architect that rebuilt me. Boxing is almost like my child, I could turn to it, and I feel safer inside the ring rather than outside of it.

You were the sparring partner for Hilary Swank's preparation for Million Dollar Baby. Can you relate to Hilary Swank's character in Million Dollar Baby?

I shared my life with Hilary; she wanted to know what kind of person I was, what my struggle was, how I'd been hurt. I saw myself in Hilary's character. I'd moved out of my house, away from my family, and been in the gym on my birthday too. After filming the movie, she sent me a note thanking me for helping her become the character she portrayed.

Are you afraid in the ring?

I consider myself to be very spiritual. God is my higher power; I'm not afraid, I live in His image, and He protects me in the ring. I always bless myself and say the Serenity Prayer before I fight.

Where are you originally from?

My mom is Mexican and my father is Irish. I grew up in the Bronx. Dad is an ex-Marine and a retired cop, but Mom was an airline ticket agent, and regularly got us free tickets to Mexico. She took me home to visit, to submerge me in the Spanish language. I thank Mom every day for that, though I refused to speak it as a child. I was a pain in the butt.

I experienced a lot in Mexico; kids would be a little vicious. Because of my accent, they really couldn't tell where I was from ' but knew I was from the States. They called me a witch. This taught me a lot. I also have wonderful memories of Mexico. It's unfortunate that this racism I endured exists anywhere in the world.

My dad, being a retired Irish cop, let me learn the hard way. If I was out after curfew, Dad locked the door, then I'd sit in the backyard for the rest of the night. He practiced tough-love. And I marched to my own drummer, still do.

When you were a kid, did you think you'd grow up to become a boxer?

No ' I didn't know what boxing was. I was an athlete, and an award-winning fife player, but wasn't dedicated to anything. The first time I encountered boxing was at a friend's house, Mike Tyson was fighting Evander Holyfield on television. Tyson bit off Holyfield's ear. I was 14, and fascinated. What kind of sport would someone go to this extremity for, I wondered?

Maureen, what's your schedule like?

In the morning I'm usually up at 4:45 a.m. for a 4' mile run. Then I eat, take a bus and three different trains (1' hours) from the Bronx to Brooklyn.

At Gleason's Gym, under the watchful eye of my trainer Hector Roca, I'll spar a minimum of six rounds, complete shadow boxing (six rounds), and jump rope. Then I take the train again and relax at home.

How many days to you train like this?

It's a full-time job: it's six days of training. Two days a week I go to Scarsdale where I meet with two other trainers for strength and conditioning, plyometrics, calisthenics, speed and agility development.

How did you come to be a vegetarian?

My nutritionist is Robert Ferguson, and he is also a vegetarian. I've been a vegetarian for seven months. My body went this way after I had my gallbladder out. It just doesn't want red meat. I ate fish, chicken, and eggs. Slowly, I began steering away from turkey and chicken; and incorporated soy proteins. My digestion is better, my thinking is better, and I'm calmer, stronger, and lighter. It's also easier to make weight. I'm not cutting calories though. Last month I went completely vegan, I don't eat anything with a heartbeat.

My meal program (Every 3 hours), I eat:

' Breakfast: borage oil capsule before I run, and I drink water
' After running: three cups of veggies with 4oz protein
' After boxing: I eat a high concentration of carbs'oatmeal with protein powder and soy milk
' In the afternoon: snack (fruit)
' Three hours later: Ezekiel bread with a veggie burger and soy cheese

This is normally five meals a day. I am naturally a 125-pounder, but stay at 130 lbs and walk around at 132 lbs. My manager has me fighting heavy now.

How many years do you see yourself yet as a boxer?

I leave that in the hands of God or until Hector says I'm done.

Does boxing conflict with your personal life? (Do men see you in a negative light?)

I make sacrifices for boxing. For me it's okay, boxing has become my lifestyle, and I have a good group of friends around me. I love what I do, but it's hard to meet people. When the time is right, the right person will come to me. Men don't always approach me because they're intimidated with my dedication to boxing.

Recently, I met George Foreman and right now I'm reading his book God In My Corner: A Spiritual Memoir. He's phenomenal. He had a near death experience, and so had I. When I met George, I told him I've been there. George hugged me and I started to cry. That was two and a half weeks ago. Things are starting to make more sense and I'm learning how to apply my spirituality to my mind, body, soul.

What is your educational background?

I'm finishing up a BA in English. I write poetry, and have also been journaling my life. My favorite type of literature is Greek Mythology ' I named my cat Pandora.

Are you a Southpaw? (Lefty)

No, but I can switch to one. Technically, I fight orthodox.

What is your best move in the ring?

I've been known to have some pretty severe body shots, I can box and I can fight, Hector Roca (recently named the #1 Spanish trainer in the world), is a phenomenal trainer. I've been four years with him, he's like a father to me.

What is your most memorable accomplishment?

It happened outside of the ring. I fought in the finals for the Golden Gloves, and had to lose 40 lbs to get there. I had fallen into a depression, and was put on medication. This severely hindered my training, and my weight went up to 170 lbs. I struggled to lose that weight. Hilary Swank came to the fight, I had been under a lot of pressure. And, I lost. No one knew about my morbidly severe depression though. Hilary and I were headed down the hall to the locker room after the fight ' all the cameras were on us. Then I went into the locker room alone. Access Hollywood and other media were in there with me. Then someone asked, "How do you feel Maureen? You just lost?" I countered, "If I'm a loser, how come you're all in here with me. I won the fight of life. I'm a winner, I just don't have the accessories to go with it. I fought to get out of the depression, and I fought to lose the weight. And I fought for my life."

What advice can you offer to a woman who wants to learn fitness boxing?

Whenever I see someone new at the gym, I say, "Be patient, don't get frustrated, it's awkward, everything about boxing is backward, you'll learn so much if you stick with it." 95% of people who stay with boxing have been transformed outside the ring. Go to a fight and you'll understand after being in the gym.

What is your primary goal in life?

To learn to live more within my faith, strengthen it through boxing and touch someone in a positive way. Boxing is my vehicle; I do inspirational, motivational speaking, and have traveled to California for this. I try to help people through my life experience.

Do you have any upcoming bouts?

Yes, I'll be out in Reno, Nevada. I will be the co-main event on a Let's Get it On promotional card. I want to thank the Mills Lane family for believing in me and blessing me with this opportunity.

Though you have a tough reputation in the gym, I understand you're very feminine.

I get manicures, pedicures, and facials. I'm a real girly-girl.
In the ring though, I transform into a fighter or a boxer.

Because I have my own TV show and am in the media a lot, I'd like to a be a good role model for women ' I'm proud to be woman in sports. But the sport shouldn't be called women's boxing, it should just be boxing.

Kelly Jad'on is the OnLine Publisher of  the #1 Site for Author Interviews & Book Reviews related to Diet, Weight Loss, Nutrition, and Fitness.

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