Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

In the Ring With Alicia Slick Ashley

Written by Susannah Wexler
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Imagine running three to four miles a day six days a week, then jumping rope, punching a heavy bag, hitting mitts, and sparring.

Photos by Jason Rodgers

{mosimage width=650 height=550}Imagine running three to four miles a day six days a week, then jumping rope, punching a heavy bag, hitting mitts, and sparring.

Well, this is the life of a boxer. As a girl growing up in the 1980s and ’90s, outside of Rocky Balboa's hometown Philly, I did not know much about boxing beyond what was covered in pop culture news. I knew about Mike Tyson’s rape conviction, and had seen people pound their chests while imitating Rocky’s ascent up the art museum steps. Given these associations, boxing seemed like one of the most misogynistic sports a girl could get into (if she could get into it at all).

Boxing, however, embodies speed and strength, so a female who enters it, despite its predominantly male image, is probably one of the cooler people out there. And Alicia Slick Ashley has done this with confidence and grace. She began her career as a kickboxer in 1995 and was the New York City Golden Gloves Champion in 1996, 1997, and 1998. In 1999, she began her professional boxing career and, over the past decade, has defeated many, many opponents, making her one of the world’s most preeminent female boxers. She currently trains at Brooklyn’s renowned Gleason’s Gym, and has a few title fights coming her way.

Needless to say, when Ashley agreed to speak with Sadie, we were super psyched.

Susannah: Would you mind giving us a brief history of yourself? Where were you born? Where did you grow up? And where do you live now?
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Alicia: I was born on the beautiful island of Jamaica and moved to Brooklyn, New York when I was eleven years old. I grew up in Brownsville and currently live in Kensington. I love the energy of Brooklyn.

Susannah: Did you always want to box? If not, what did you think you were going to “be when you grew up”?

Alicia: I had no love for boxing growing up. In fact, I thought it was a brutal sport. From the age of six until twenty-one, I trained to be a dancer and even danced at the Apollo Theater. A knee injury ended my dance career but there is always a silver lining, and for me that was boxing.

Susannah: When did you start boxing, and how did you get into it?

Alicia: I started boxing at [the] age [of] twenty-eight just to get my hands better for my kickboxing competitions, and was pleasantly surprised at how important the mental aspect of boxing was…Once I started boxing, I viewed it like a chess game. You have to be able to control your opponent, move them [to] exactly where you want them to be to ensure you get the best shots and the win.

Susannah: What has your career as a boxer been like?

Alicia: There have been ups and downs. Wins and losses. But you must always persevere and believe in yourself. I've been a pioneer in women's boxing by winning the first USA Boxing National title as a featherweight, and I've won various world titles, but I've also lost close matches.

Susannah: What have been some of the highlights of your career?

Alicia: One highlight is winning my first world title. It was in Atlantic City and a very close match against an opponent that I've encountered as an amateur and as a pro.

Susannah: So, what have been some of the challenges?

Alicia: One challenge is getting enough fights as a female boxer. I would love to compete four times…[a] year, but a lot of the time I compete only once. Another challenge is getting comparable pay to the men in the sport. That is an ongoing battle that we hope will change in the near future.

Susannah: Would you mind telling us exactly what the pay discrepancy is?

Alicia: A male boxer competing for his first world championship title would get $75K minimum whereas a female might get $5K-$10K if she's lucky. The pay discrepancy vastly increases afterwards.

Susannah: Wow, that is crazy…So, how would you describe a day in the life of a female boxer?

Alicia: I like to think of myself as a boxer, not male or female. My training is the same as any guy’s training. I train six days per week…[This] includes running three to four miles, jumping rope, hitting the heavy bag, hitting the mitts, and my favorite, sparring.

Susannah: Wow, that is a lot! So, what is the female boxing scene like? How many professional female boxers are there, and what is the audience like?
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Alicia: I think the audience for female boxing is the best. Our matches are so exciting, and audience [members really] show their appreciation. There are a lot of professional female boxers in different weight classes; it’s very exciting to be a part of [the whole thing]. Also, with the inclusion of women boxers in the 2012 Summer Olympics, it will only get better.

Susannah: How would you describe the interaction between male and female boxers?

Alicia: I think male boxers have a lot of respect for the female boxers. This is a tough sport to be a part of, not only physically, but mentally. Once the guys see that the women take it seriously, they are very supportive. It’s like an exclusive club and it’s hard to become a member, but once you're in, you're always a member.

Susannah: Why do you think so many women shy away from boxing? And have you noticed an increase in female boxing throughout your time involved in the sport?

Alicia: I think many women [used to think], as I did before I entered the sport, that it was brutal. But with a couple of Academy winning movies, interest has grown. What started out [as simply] exercise for many women has changed into a drive to compete, and I'm very proud to be a part of that change.

Susannah: Who have some of your biggest influences been—both in boxing and in life?
Alicia: My grandmother was my biggest influence. She raised me while my mother came to America to make a better life for her children. And she instilled in me a desire and drive to be the best at whatever I did. My oldest brother Devon, who is also my trainer, is another inspiration in my life. He's supportive, a hard taskmaster, very technical, and a champion in his own right, so I look up to him.

Susannah: If you weren’t boxing, what would you be doing?

Alicia: I was forced to change my first career, dancing. I totally enjoy boxing and competing, but I also love teaching. I'm already training the next wave of female boxers, and it’s challenging, but I'm happy to pass on my knowledge to women who enjoy the sport.

Susannah: What advice might you give young girls who want to pursue boxing?
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Alicia: Boxing is a very hard sport, physically and mentally. Your wins and losses are your own, but it is extremely rewarding. It builds self-esteem, confidence, and strength. I believe every girl should try it.

Susannah: What are your plans for the next few months? The next few years?

Alicia: In the coming months, I have a few title fights. In January 2010, [I have] a match in NYC, which I'm very happy about because I don't get the chance to fight in my city a lot. I'm hoping to end my career with a few more titles.

Susannah: Is there anything else you think our readers should know about you or boxing?

Alicia: Boxing is a very interesting sport. It looks like it’s entirely physical, but it’s more mental. It becomes a part of you, and I couldn't imagine doing anything else.

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