|"Mighty" Melissa McMorrow and the will to fight
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing (Aug 19, 2013)
At first glance, Melissa McMorrow hardly resembles a fighter with the nickname of “Mighty.”
Standing just under five feet tall and weighing a little over 100 pounds, a moniker like “tiny” seems more fitting until a quick search on YouTube locates some of her fights.
McMorrow, 32, is all action. She wastes no time getting into the grill of her opponents. She bobs and weaves and throws a copious amount of punches.
Some have compared her style to the late legend “Smokin” Joe Frazier. McMorrow is honored to be mentioned in the same breath as the former heavyweight champion.
For McMorrow really is “mighty” – she’s the reigning WBO, WBA and WIBF flyweight champion of the world while, at the same time, building a successful career as an architect.
Her trainer Eddie Croft explains what makes McMorrow (9-3, 1 KO) such a good fighter.
“Melissa is the most determined and relentless fighter I know,” said Croft.” Her relentlessness without fail makes everyone fight her fight. That willingness to engage in combat at close quarters hides the fact that she is a very skillful fighter.”
In a wide ranging interview, conducted on the phone a few weeks ago, McMorrow discusses how her unlikely boxing career began, her determination to succeed, and her dream fight with WBC flyweight champion Ava Knight.
John J. Raspanti: How did you gravitate to boxing as a career?
Melissa McMorrow: Well, I went to something called a fight party. I didn’t want to go. That’s not my scene, but I was told, ‘Hey just go, and if you don’t like it, leave.’ So, I thought ok. I decided to go with them. The people weren’t that nice to me, but there was place to sign up and fight somebody. I did just that. I tried it out and had a lot of fun. I thought maybe I should go to a boxing gym to get a workout. I just liked it.
JJR: You worked out at Kings Gym. Great place isn’t it?
MM: Yeah, it is. I went on the Internet to find a gym, but a lot of places don’t really have pages for the gyms. So, I called around, but nobody answered the phone. Or, they had no experience. I ended up at King’s Gym because it was closest to my house.
JJR: Did you follow boxing as a little girl?
MM: No, I didn’t grow up around boxing. I grew up without a TV so I didn’t have a venue to even see fights. I have boxers I like now, but when I was young I didn’t have any role models.
JJR: Ok, so who are your favorite fighters?
MM: I really like Canelo, (Alvarez) but mostly because I feel like we have similar styles. I like some female fighters as well, like Yesica Bopp. I like action fighters like Jackie Nava also. I guess I like fighters that fight like me (laughing).
JJR: You started boxing as in amateur 2005. A year later you were the third ranked flyweight in the nation. You were also an All-American soccer player. Would you call yourself a natural athlete?
MM: I’ve always been very athletic. I started playing soccer when I was eight. Athleticism comes very natural to me. I do feel like there’s a lot of things about boxing that are natural for me. I was never afraid to get hit. That’s what my trainer always says. When people come into the gym and say they want to fight, he always throws them in the ring right away to see what their natural tendencies are. I’m not afraid to get hit or take risks. I’ve always had a lot of endurance. I’m lucky that way.
JJR: You turned professional in 2008. Was that a difficult or easy decision?
MM: Well, it was an easy decision. The reason was because there really wasn’t anything else for me. I had gone to the nationals in two thousand seven in the one hundred six-pound division. I lost to Marlen Esparza by one point. It was really a close fight. But, because I didn’t get the national team spot that year, I couldn’t find any more fights. I fought every woman in the Bay Area. I was an adult and there wasn’t much else I could do. I knew I could get fights as a pro. There wasn’t anything left for me to do in the amateurs. I fought Marlen again and lost by a wider margin. I knew I had to do something to improve. I was afraid I’d become stagnant. Things are different now. When I spar with Marlen today, it’s very close. I don’t think I’d be in the game today if I hadn’t turned pro.
JJR: That must have made you feel pretty wonderful to have your style compared to Joe Frazier.
MM: I’ve heard that comparison. I’m really honored. I’m an action fighter. I don’t want to walk out of there and think I could have been more. I just feel like anybody that gets in there with me, I’m going to make it hard for you. That’s pretty much it.
JJR: You always give away the height and reach in your fights, right?
MM: I’m not even five feet tall. I’ve fought from anywhere from one hundred five to one hundred and twelve pounds. Even at one hundred five pounds, I’m still a few inches shorter. I don’t have the reach to do a bunch of boxing. To me, it’s easier. The game plan is always the same. I’ll always come forward. It’s really important to realize your strengths and weaknesses and use them to your advantage.
JJR: Your first loss was to Jolene Blackshear. Did you learn anything from that loss?
MM: Yeah, I did. I got into trouble. Jolene hits really hard. She knocked me down three times. I really didn’t know what to do. I learned a lot about tactics. I had seen fights on TV where fighters get knocked down. My immediate instinct was to keep fighting. But, looking back in retrospect, it would have helped to know a little bit more about surviving. Those kinds of things are beneficial to learn. I wasn’t intelligent on how I reacted. I’ve learned a lot from that. If I ever get into a similar situation, it’ll be different. I went through a period of growth after that fight.
JJR: You have three draws on her record. How frustrating is that?
MM: Yeah it is, (frustrating) but a lot of it, until I won some titles recently – I’ve never had any promotional representation. I’ve never had a promoter on my side. So, I’d be rushing all the over the place. Two of those draws where in the hometown of somebody else, where they didn’t want them to lose.
JJR: Unfortunately, bad decisions happen a lot in boxing.
MM: Yeah, I feel like it happens all the time, but as much as those times it didn’t go in my favor, then sometimes it (the decision) has gone in my favor. It is what it is.
JJR: You defeated Keisher McLeod Wells in a rematch, lost a razor thin decision to Arely Mucino and then ventured to Germany to face undefeated Susi Kenitikian. You won that fight and the WBO female flyweight title. Do you remember how you felt when you heard your name was announced as the winner?
MM: (Chuckles) The announcer actually announced the decision in German so I didn’t know right away that I had won. I could see Eddie’s face (trainer Croft). I felt like I had won the fight. I also felt like I beat Mucino in Mexico, but I lost that one. This girl (in Germany) had won twenty-nine straight fights so I felt like that could happen again. When they announced I had won, it was amazing. I thought, oh my God.
JJR: As a world champion, do you feel any different?
MM: Well after I won the title I felt pretty much the same. I think, with women, there’s not as much glamour that goes with winning a title. Some things are different though. Now I feel like I can have a conversation and people are more trusting of what I say. Before I won the title, with my crazy record, people didn’t respond the same as they do now. There’s an extra weight that goes with the title. It feels nice. It (the victory) will always be in the books somewhere – it really happened. That’s pretty cool.
JJR: Your next fight was supposed to be August nineteenth, right?
MM: They were talking about a fight in Puerto Rico, but as far I can tell it’s not happening. I don’t know what will be coming up after that. It’s really tough sometimes. They like to attach my fights to other (male) title bouts. If the other fights don’t happen, my fight won’t go forward.
JJR: Many want to see you square off with the other flyweight champion, Ava Knight. Do you want fight her?
MM: I’d really like to fight her. We’ve been trying to get that fight. We have two different promoters. We’ve been urging her promoter to get together with our promoter, but it doesn’t seem to be happening yet. That’s the one fight I want the most.
JJR: It was a pleasure speaking with you, Melissa.
MM: Same here. Thank you, John.
John J. Raspanti responds to all his emails. Please send all questions and comments to John at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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