Influential Houston Hispanics: Marlen Esparza, boxer turned scholar
Marlen Esparza’s passion for boxing began at a young age. At 12 years old, she would spend three hours a day working out with no difficulties since she loved the sport. Esparza and her parents of Mexican descent were born in Juarez, Mexico, and soon thereafter moved to Houston, Texas. Her parents were always supportive, and as a middle-class family, Esparza set out to support them in any way she could as well.
“I’ve always wanted to make money to support my family just so money would not have to be an issue but I never thought I would do that through boxing. Boxing is just what I love to do” Esparza said.
It soon became a full-time career for her in Pasadena at the age of 16, but the beginning stage was difficult since she had to convince people to believe. “People will never like everything about you. You can be the most beautiful peach, ripe and perfect, but there will always be someone who doesn’t like peaches. I ignore what people think about me unless they believe in me” Esparza said. The doors opened up for Esparza in 2012 when she was able to participate in the first-ever Women’s Olympic boxing tournament.
“All I wanted was to get a medal at the Olympics. I had to always defend my choice as a woman boxer until about 2010. After we were allowed in the games I got a lot more respect,” Esparza said, “I feel great, blessed, and proud. The sport is in me and I am the sport. I feel like I fulfilled something in me by being a part of it.”
Endorsement deals such as Nike, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, Cover Girl, and PETA have kept Esparza busy. Her goals are to go to the games and finish school. “I’m going to start school and hopefully make a lot of progress in that part of my life,” Esparza said, “education is so important on so many levels.” Esparza leaves a positive message to aspiring sports females pursuing their dreams, “Your actions no matter what you do, is a reflection of the sport and you must represent yourself with pride. On the road to success we must think about our impact on the world. Everything you do is a reflection of how people will view you today and in the future.”