Marlen Esparza cruises to victory in pro debut
Flyweight Marlen Esparza, who claimed a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics but remained an amateur for the next four years, rolled to victory in her professional debut on Thursday night at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California.
Esparza (1-0) cruised to a shutout four-round decision -- 40-36 on all three scorecards -- against Rachel Sazoff (0-3) in the opening televised bout on the debut card of the new "Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN" series.
In December, Esparza, 27, of Houston, became the first female fighter signed by Golden Boy Promotions and came into her pro debut with a bundle of nerves, which she quickly worked out as she dominated Sazoff, who remained winless as a boxer after going 1-8 as an MMA fighter.
"This was such a big stage, and fighting in front of a crowd like this for the first time was something special," said Esparza, who was the 2016 U.S. Nationals flyweight silver medalist. "I'm glad we got the 'W,' but I was honestly looking to knock her out. I'm glad that I got this fight out of the way. I have a lot to grow. She was a tough fighter, and she took a lot of my punches."
Esparza, who is trained by 2011 Boxing Writers Association of America trainer of the year Virgil Hunter, was praised for her performance by Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya, the International Boxing Hall of Famer and 1992 Olympic gold medalist.
"I think she did wonderful," De La Hoya said. "A little nerves involved, but overall she did incredible. She's going to go a long way."
Sazoff, 26, of Hamilton Township, New Jersey, was never in any danger of going down but also was outclassed by Esparza.
"I'm so grateful for the opportunity to take part in this show," Sazoff said. "When I was approached by her camp for the fight, I couldn't say no. It was a great way to challenge myself, and I think that Marlen is a great fighter. I've been in combat sports since I was 5 -- I live for this stuff."