As a youngster Maureen Shea’s cousins in Guadalajara, Mexico called her “la traviesa” because of her fiery red hair and mischievousness.
Shea’s fiery red hair turned auburn as the years turned, but she still has that temperament that shows up in athletic endeavors. This Saturday she has an epic endeavor.
The New York City Irish-Mexican prizefighter Shea faces Peruvian Kina Malpartida (8-3) for the vacant WBA featherweight title at Madison Square Garden. It’s one of two world title bouts taking place in the famous arena that night.
“My dad told me when I was born I lifted my own head,” said Shea (13-0, 7 KOs) while training in Ventura, California recently. “Even now I push my body to the limit.”
Undefeated after four years as a pro, Shea does not worry about her opponents. She doesn’t know anything about her foe.
“I leave that up to my trainer,” said Shea, 28, who is trained by Hector Roca. “He tells me what to do and what to work on.”
The son of an Irish cop will be facing a five-foot, nine-inch jabbing machine.
Malpartida is a tall angular kind of boxer who uses her reach intelligently to fend off attacks to her thin frame. Though born in Peru, she lived in Australia for most of her life and now lives in Los Angeles.
“It was a surprise to get this fight,” said Malpartida, 28, who lost a very close decision to hard-charging Rhonda Luna last November. “I’m very excited to get this opportunity.”
Malpartida has a five-inch height advantage over Shea. In her last fight, she used a steady jab to keep Luna from blasting away. But a knockdown in the last round cost her a split-decision.
The tall brunette credits her trainer Charles Huerta and heavy sparring in talent-filled Los Angeles for a boost in her overall boxing skills.
“I actually watched one of her (Shea) fights in Texas,” said Malpartida who trains at Maywood Boxing Gym. “They may think I’m just an opponent.”
Malpartida has learned to adhere to a more technical style that utilizes her physical gifts. She’s had plenty of practice in the gym against fighters like Lissette Medel, Kaliesha West and others in the L.A. gyms.
On the opposite side of the country, Shea has worked diligently in New York’s Gleason’s Gym where she zones out while going through her day-to-day paces. She’s not expecting a gift.
“To beat Kina you have to be first. If you let her fight on the outside she can put together some good combinations,” said Kaliesha West, a ranked bantamweight who sparred Malpartida for this fight. “You have to be strong on the inside and not give her room to breathe.”
Strength is one of Shea’s assets.
“I do a lot of Olympic lifting,” says Shea. “My training is pretty intense.”
The atmosphere will be tense for both female prizefighters. It’s not often that they get to show off their talent in the most famous boxing venue in the world, “the Garden.”
“This is for the world title at the Garden,” says Shea as if the realization of the significance has finally hit her. “I live in the moment.”
No time for mischievousness.
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